An Ethnographic Inventory

Tomás Criado

Tomás Criado is Ramón y Cajal Senior Research Fellow at the Open University of Catalonia’s CareNet-IN3 group. His ethnographic and public engagement work focuses on different instances of relational, knowledge and material politics in a wide variety of settings where care is invoked as a mode of intervention: be it as a practice of articulating more or less enduring ecologies of support; or as a particular mode of technoscientific activism democratizing knowledges, design practice and infrastructures. He has been grappling with how diverse embodied experiences, sensory knowledges and modes of dwelling come to matter in democratizing care infrastructures, particularly in accessible urban design and city-making. He is currently writing a book monograph on these topics, titled An Uncommon City: Bodily Diversity and the Activation of Possible Urbanisms.

Besides, he has recently started a collaboration with Barcelona’s City Council, as part of their development of urban heat mitigation infrastructures, such as shady landscapes, climate shelters and bioclimatic itineraries. As part of his work, he has been invested in experimenting with forms of anthropological intervention and multimodal devices for storytelling, joint problem-making or concept work (digital platforms, pedagogic toolkits or games) convening collective venues like xcol. An Ethnographic Inventory (‘Making & Doing’ award of the Society for Social Studies of Science) and Colleex (Collaboratory for Ethnographic Experimentation, an EASA network). As part of his reflections on these matters, he has co-edited An Ethnographic Inventory: Field Devices for Anthropological Inquiries (Routledge, 2023) and Experimental Collaborations: Ethnography through Fieldwork Devices (Berghahn, 2018).

For more information, please check: www.tscriado.org · @tscriado

Co-curator of xcol. An Ethnographic Inventory

Inventions by Tomás Criado

The method of telegrammatic correspondence: A digital mode of inquiry for times of lockdown

CLEENIK – Clinic of anthropological ethnographic experiments

Glossary terms added by Tomás Criado

Care review

A modality of ‘peer review’ undertaken with care searching to be as inclusive as possible, leaving no one behind: that...


In the language of this platform prototypes are open-ended material experiments in anthropological practice at the hinges of the ethnographic,...

Open formats

The term open formats refers to the experimentation with meeting formats as pedagogical spaces for the apprenticeship of ethnographic experimentation....


Those interested in documenting and caring for ethnographic invention, filling up xcol inventory with content (inventions, xpositions, inquiries and terms...


Gatherings and more or less thematic workshops organised by xcolars where ethnographic invention is celebrated and taken care of by...

Xpositions by Tomás Criado

CfP | Bureaucratic reinventions: The more-than-market arrangements of public action

At a time when market logics have become the hegemonic operating rationale of many governments, urban bureaucracies seem to be undergoing a profound process of reinvention: from participatory budgeting or community involvement in policymaking to co-creation competitions and citizen laboratories that expand the range of knowledge and sensibilities in urban governance. These bureaucrats appear no longer as sinister machinic operators of Kafkaesque state violence, but as hopeful and flexible practitioners promoting many forms of public good. In what ways are these bureaucratic reinventions more conducive to the public good than the actions of the market? Also, what do these places mean for the ways in which we might study them?

Anthropology and ethnographic experimentation #EASA2024 PhD Summer School

Ethnographic experimentation is an anthropological response to the epistemic challenges of our contemporary world. Beyond traditional norms and forms of ethnography, there are all kinds of projects that experiment with forms of representation, fieldwork, and analysis. The ‘experiment’ emerges in all these ethnographies as a distinctive epistemic practice, different from observational activities that are the foundation for its empirical engagements. Experimentation is  an opportunity to reconceptualise and transform the empirical practices of anthropology. This summer school brings together a programme exploring the analysis, characterisation, and design of ethnographic experiments, along with opportunities to try them in practice.

SEMINARIO – La invención etnográfica: el arte de hacer preguntas relevantes

La serie de seminarios ‘La invención etnográfica’ presenta un conjunto de investigaciones que dan cuenta de los esfuerzos de antropólogos y antropólogas de orientaciones muy diversas por ampliar el repertorio de nuestros modos de indagación etnográfica. Cada uno de los proyectos que discutiremos presenta un dispositivo de campo que dispone las condiciones para pensar y construir problematizaciones con nuestras contrapartes. Tras cada una de esas investigaciones encontramos el esfuerzo denodado de antropólogos y antropólogas por formular preguntas relevantes para los tiempos que vivimos.

Colaboraciones antropológicas en la contemporaneidad

La colaboración es invocada en tiempos recientes como una figura relacional necesaria para el estudio de nuestro mundo. Las llamadas a la colaboración en antropología no son nuevas, pero sí resultan novedosas las articulaciones específicas en nuestra contemporaneidad, como los ejercicios de colaboración experimental a través de los cuales antropólogos y sus contrapartes construyen problematizaciones conjuntas.

Ethnographic experimentation: Other tales of the field

Ethnographic experimentation refers to an ethnographic modality where anthropologists venture into the collaborative production of venues for knowledge creation that turn the field into a site for the construction of joint anthropological problematizations. Invoking the trope of ethnographic experimentation we aim at describing how anthropologists creatively venture into the production of venues of knowledge creation through processes of material and social interventions that turn the field into a site for epistemic collaboration: a site for the construction of joint anthropological problematizations.

Dispositivos de campo

Proponemos concebir la etnografía como un ensamblaje de dispositivos de campo: técnicas relacionales, dispositivos de registro… el concepto de dispositivo pretende llamar la atención sobre la espacialidad y materialidad específicas que demandan las situaciones etnográficas. Los dispositivos de campo son arreglos singulares que hacen posible el encuentro etnográfico, surgen de la inventiva relacional del campo y nos hablan de los mundos sociales investigados al mismo tiempo que dan cuenta del esfuerzo inventivo de las antropólogas por investigarlos.

Staging complexity

In contrast with more conventional approaches to the uses of theatre for the public engagement with science and technology (e.g. pedagogical approaches to science communication), contemporary forms of participatory, community, interactive or digital theatre have also served as relevant arenas for projects searching to activate publics through agonistic and complex encounters with contemporary technoscientific issues. This was the case of Enacting Innovation, a performance that crystallises a dialogue between social scientists and theatre professionals working in the vicinity of STS in which that seek to 'stage complexity' and the paradoxes of otherwise repetitive innovation scripts.

Note-taking: A ‘fieldwork device’ duplex

A re-description of my two-fold engagement as ethnographer-cum-documenter in the activist design collective En torno a la silla. Highlighting the importance of note-taking as a ‘fieldwork device’ for the problematizing and relating in the field.

‘Devicing’ fieldwork

We would like to intimate a mode of collaboration that is neither a constitutive condition of fieldwork nor a deliberate strategy informed by political and ethical commitments: Collaboration as an epistemic figure that describes how anthropologists creatively venture into the production of venues of knowledge creation in partnership with their counterparts in the field. In these situations, the ethnographic method is re-equipped with new infrastructures, spaces of knowledge production, relationship forms and modes of representation.

The ethnographic invention

Ethnography is an act of invention. Anthropological inquiries always demand to invent how to inquire and how to relate to others, this is the central argument upon which xcol-Inventory has been built. But if invention has always been integral to the empirical practice of ethnography, the imperative to care for our knowledge practices should also involve to care for the inventiveness of our modes of inquiry.

The Lab is not Blah: Academic encounters, venues to re-train ourselves

Open formats are methodologies for thinking and doing together. Despite the relevance of the methodologies used to share knowledge, we usually resort to the most conventional formats: paper presentations, round tables, etc. This offers a collection of experiments with meeting formats as pedagogical spaces for the apprenticeship of ethnographic experimentation and encourages the need to document these ‘experiments’ so that they may travel, be learnt and reproduced elsewhere.