productive encounter (def.):

a designed encounter that creates knowledge about social phenomena


realized designed encounters as tool for ethnographic research

214 Sq. Ft.

a full-scale recreation of a motel room as inhabited by a fictional family of six

Trade is Sublime

a three-channel video installation at the World Trade Organization

Our Latest Blog Post

Exploring “Human-centered” processes in Finland.

Luke Cantarella
November 10, 2016

Last month we had the great pleasure of traveling to the University of Jyvaskyla in central Finland to lead a Productive Encounters workshop with a research group studying elder care facilities led by Sari Pietikäinen, Sanna Lehtonen, and Anne Mäntynen. […]

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workshops and theoretical projects informed by design-based thinking

Debt: The Exhibit

An unauthorized, speculative museum exhibit design for the AMNH

Central Banks and Central Bankers

a design workshop focus on the writings of anthropologist Douglas R. Holmes

Marshall v. Stern Archive

exploring the way wealth is made and maintained in the United States

Productive Encounters is project led by Anthropologists George Marcus and Christine Hegel and designer Luke Cantarella and involving numerous collaborators from the worlds of art, dance, theater and social science.

Christine Hegel

Christine Hegel

Christine Hegel is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Western Connecticut State University. She received her Ph.D. from CUNY Graduate Center and was affiliated with the Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion (IMTFI) at UC Irvine. Her work has been focused on questions of contemporary legal subjectivity in the Middle East, which she examined through ethnographic research on contracting, litigation, and documentary regimes in Egypt. This research has formed the basis of essays in Anthropology of the Middle East and North Africa Into the New Millennium (Indiana University Press), Family Law in the Muslim World (I.B. Tauris) and Law, Culture, and Humanities Journal. Since 2011, Hegel has been collaborating with George E. Marcus and Luke Cantarella on projects that explore intersections between design and ethnography. They have co-designed installation pieces 214 Sq. Ft. and Trade is Sublime and currently are preparing a book manuscript on design modalities for ethnographic inquiry.

Luke Cantarella

Luke Cantarella is an Associate Professor of Design at Pace University. He has designed over one hundred productions including work for the theater, opera, dance, film, television and commercial design. Theaters he has worked at include the Atlantic Theater Company, American Repertory Theater, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Yale Rep, Prince Music Theater, Northlight Theater, Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Rozentheater (Amsterdam), Lyric Theater of Oklahoma, Berkshire Theater Festival, Barrington Stage Company, Adirondack Theater Festival, CITY Theater, Synapse Productions, New World Stages, and many others. He has designed operas for Wolftrap, Curtis, Peabody and the New England Conservatory of Music.. His paper Originality, Autonomy & Control was presented at the Prague Quadrennial 2011 as part of the IFTR Scenography Working Group. Luke received his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama in 2000. He completed his undergraduate work at Northwestern University, where he earned a B.S. in Speech in 1994.

George Marcus

George Marcus

George E. Marcus is Chancellor’s Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, since 2005 and previously served as Joseph D. Jamail Professor (2001–2006) and chair (1980–2005) in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. Marcus served as the founding editor of Cultural Anthropology, Journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. His text Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography (coedited with James Clifford, 1986) is considered one of the most influential works of contemporary anthropology, marking a shift in its diversity and range of research styles. In the same year, he published Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences (with Michael M. J. Fischer). Marcus’s more recent research has focused on the ethnography of institutions of global power, and how they reach into ordinary, everyday, diverse lives. Recent volumes include Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary (with Paul Rabinow and others), and Fieldwork Is Not What It Used To Be (co-edited with James Faubion).



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