Geography Guest Lecture: Sasha Antohin

Sasha Antohin
Stewart Hall 216/Virtual Event

Ethnography outside Academia Land: Reflections on Community-Engaged Research 


Ethnography, while a largely scholastic concept, has gradually emerged as a popular tool of participatory engagement for understanding local social dynamics, complex histories, and issues of identity and belonging. Its adoption by business and technology sectors as a viable research method has further built up its purchase as a practical art of documenting lived experience. This rebranding of a historically fraught practice has generated new perceptions of an attractive framework to achieve political and restorative goals: to track and demonstrate social impact, remedy power dynamics, address race, gender, class, and disability bias, and encourage dialogue and healing. This presentation will reflect on how the world outside academic training and thinking composes its own vocabulary and expectations for “community-engaged research”, drawing from examples of oral history and ethnographic interview projects in Vermont’s cultural and educational sectors. As this trend shifts trained ethnographers from the role of the researcher to the facilitator, what are the lasting implications of the methodology and notions of ethnographic authority? The discussion seeks to spark questions about how researchers recalibrate their tools of inquiry in response to an increased desire and aspiration for ethical and inclusive studies of local life and values.


Alexandra Antohin is an anthropologist with over ten years of experience leading and supporting ethnographic fieldwork projects. She is committed to supporting educators and cultural institutions to engage in community-based, qualitative research. As the Vermont Folklife Center’s Director of Education, she helps design and delivers learning materials for undergraduate and secondary school students and the general public on the application of ethnographic methods as a foundational approach to inquiry and ethical representation. Previously, she worked as the Research and Program Director (2017-2020) for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Avoice Virtual Library Project, a digital archive dedicated to capturing Black legislative behavior in the United States Congress. Antohin completed her doctorate in Social Anthropology at University College London and has taught at George Washington University and Westchester Community College. She has conducted fieldwork in the Russian Far East, north-central Ethiopia, and the Washington D.C. area.