The Network Inside Out
A fascinating study of institutional knowledge practices
"Networks" and other artifacts of institutional life, such as documents, funding proposals, newsletters, and organizational charts, are such ubiquitous aspects of the information age that they go unnoticed to most observers of late modern society. In this new kind of work in the ethnography of legality, Annelise Riles takes a sophisticated theoretical approach to the aesthetics of such artifacts by analyzing the experiences of a group of Fijian bureaucrats and activists preparing for and participating in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.
In describing and theorizing this aspect of transnational existence, Riles enacts a new ethnographic method for apprehending the network from the inside out. Working with the premise that anthropologists are inside the network—that they are producers, consumers, and aesthetes, not simply observers, of the artifacts of late modern institutional life—she produces a fascinating study of institutional knowledge practices and makes an important contribution to the anthropology of transnational phenomena.
Praise / Awards
"This book is an outstanding intellectual achievement and will be read for many years to come. . ."
—Margaret Taylor, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
"THE NETWORK INSIDE OUT [sic] is intriguing in its effort to reconceptualize networks by including the academic observer as an internal part of the system and emphasizing the process of network constitution through patterned interaction."
—Jamie Jacobs, The Law and Politics Book Review, Volume 11, No. 11 (2001)
". . . what is important about The Network Inside Out is what Riles illuminates about getting along in public. We are learning at this moment that our collective carelessness about the requirements of an engaged public life can lead to reduced capacities to assume the privilege of civilization. If all that is required of us is that we move blindly forward continuing to produce and consume material wealth all that we ignore will be in danger of being lost to us. Two of these things include the privilege of living together in peace and the freedom to have encounters with others that enhance our capacity as humans. . . . [W]hat Riles calls the 'aesthetics of forms', practiced in far-off island places and at distant conferences, there are methods in process, politically flawed as they may be, that broach the topic of how to live together."
—Helen Liggett, Cleveland State University, Planning Theory, Volume 1: No. 2 (2001)
"The book takes a close look at the role of information in generating social relations. . . . [A] valuable ''hinkpiece' for anyone involved in the theory and practice of advocacy and communication for development."
—Nicola Frost, Development in Practice, May 2001
". . . in bringing into our field socio-scientific notions and tools we have often either forgotten what does constitute fact, or neglected the precariousness of what constitutes reality. Having rethought the political aspects of many things regarded by previous generations as 'technical' and 'neutral', we now seem to underestimate, or pretend not to notice for the sake of our governance visions, the political-aesthetic dimension in the 'technicalities' which constitute, in effect, our milieu. That this book reminds us so is not the least important of its many contributions."
—Leiden Journal of International Law
Winner: American Society of International Law's 2001 Certificate of Merit
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