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24th September 2021

Marett Memorial Lecture 2021: Dr Christopher (Kit) Davis

Exeter College, in association with the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, present The Marett Memorial Lecture of 2021.

Dr Christopher (Kit) Davis, Emeritus Faculty at SOAS University of London, will deliver the lecture entitled, The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Ethnography and Empathy in the 21st Century, on 15 October at Cohen Quad’s FitzHugh Auditorium at 5 pm.

Her acclaimed monograph, Death in Abeyance: Therapies and Illness among the Tabwa of Zaire/Congo, was published by the International Africa Institute in 2000 and won the Wellcome Medal in 2002.

Ahead of the lecture, Dr Christopher (Kit) Davis reflects: “In the 18 months since I first visualised this lecture, the world has completely changed. Or we can, perhaps more accurately, say that the 21st Century has come into its own. We are presented with a barrage of devastating effects with complex and entangled causes that seem impossibly remote or inaccessible. These are crises that affect all forms of life. They exist and can be met only on a global or species-wide basis, the very basis on which they were and are created. It’s a disaster!

“We are clearly on the brink of a change in human consciousness, not in the neurological but in the social, moral, political, and economic senses of the term and the direction of the change is unpredictable. This is precisely the time when anthropology is most challenged and most needed. As practitioners, we are most challenged because ours is a slow-moving field science. Fieldwork just takes time. Yet, ethnography is most needed because it is a documentary art. As a genre, it links the specificity of individual lives, locations, and perspectives to the wider range of populations, policies, and principles.

“What I want to do in this lecture is make our most cherished and durable element – our method – into a mental base camp for a few forays into different social and intellectual locations. I take the view that our method itself is a disciplined empathy and, as such, is a type of political process; one operating at the most basic level, the level of everyday life.

“Since it comes from and returns to everyday life, the glory of our discipline is that everything new is somehow old, yet everything old is made new again by shifts in time, language & location. So, this will be both commemoration and commencement. My hope is that by the end of it, we’ll be ready to begin. Again.”

Attending the event

No booking is required, and a drinks reception will follow the lecture at 6 pm. Exeter College alumni, students, Fellows and staff are all most welcome to attend.

We would encourage all attendees to take a lateral flow test before the event and, whilst not mandatory, we recommend everyone wear a face covering during the lecture.

We would also encourage everyone to use the NHS Track and Trace service available at our Cohen Quad site on arrival.


Working with Muzombwe

Image Credit: ‘Working with Muzombwe’, Christopher Davis and Allen Roberts

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