In this paper, we examine the value of ethnographic research for developing a critical area studies approach that promotes cosmopolitan scholarship and contributes to the decentring of universal knowledge claims. We focus on the potential of ethnographic research on postsocialist change to form part of such a re-envisaged, critical area studies. The paper seeks to demonstrate to what extent ethnographic research not only offers a better understanding of the social and cultural practices through which postsocialist transformations are lived and negotiated, but also produces new conceptual insights on the basis of engaging with empirical complexity. Problems of researcher positionality, the politics of representation, methodology and ethics are discussed in relation to recent critiques of anthropological writing and research. We draw on Massey's (2005) concept of space-time and Robinson's (2003) and Gibson-Graham's (2004) proposals for a postcolonial, critical area studies to identify ways of reimagining ethnography as a mode of engagement rather than observation and of producing rather than surveying difference.
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