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Steven Sampson

Steven Sampson

Professor emeritus

Steven Sampson

Solidarity with the powerful? Fieldwork and Ethnography with Elites


  • Steven Sampson

Summary, in English

Anthropologists have a long history talking about what we should do when we research less powerful or subordinate groups. We build rapport, we give them voice, we describe their world to others, we show their problems and their solutions. We have a kind of solidarity with them. But more of us are now researching groups with autonomous resources and power. I myself have been with NGO elites, planners and consultants, global anti-bribery activists and most recently, compliance professionals promoting business ethics. None of these people are ‘subaltern’. Our project is to ‘tell their story’, but their project is to make sure their story is a good one. While we do not simply want to ‘expose’ them, we want to tell the truth about how powerful groups operate. What kind of ethical obligations and methodological issues arise doing research with elites? What kind of solidarity should we have with them?


  • Social Anthropology

Publishing year






Document type

Conference paper


  • Social Anthropology


  • social anthropology
  • elites
  • fieldwork
  • ethnography
  • ethnographic methods

Conference name

Swedish Anthropology Association (SANT) årsmøte

Conference date