Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Exploring the Role of Language Games Approaches in Empirical Ethnography

Ana M. Ning.

This paper argues that postmodernist approaches to language games derived from Foucault, Wittgenstein and De Certeau, and the provisional nature of truth claims are necessary for solid empirical ethnography. Drawing from my recent ethnographic study with staff and clients at a methadone treatment centre in Toronto, Canada, my paper furthers mainstream drug treatment viewpoints regarding client manipulation and fabrication. I suggest an analytical perspective for analyzing the complex and contradictory social dynamics at work in the drug treatment setting, away from commonly held binaries such as truth and lies, enunciations and action, control and resistance. I examine the ways in which clients act within their constraints in multiple ways, using what I call "complicity" to achieve their own objectives. Thus, denigrated practices on the part of clients take on a new meaning placed within larger sequences of action and seen through the lens of "truth games" and "tactics" approaches.


Ana M. Ning  (Canada)
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
McMaster University

A medical anthropologist with theoretical and ethnographic research experience in the areas of health policy, institutions and professions, addiction and mental health, alternative and complementary care, culture, ethnicity and health.

  • Games of Truth
  • Foucault, Wittgenstein, and De Certeau
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Methadone Maintenance Treatment
  • Toronto, Ontario
Person as Subject
  • Staff members Clients

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)