EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W045)

Methodologies of participation and engagement

Location JHT1
Date and Start Time 26 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenors

Hana Cervinkova (University of Lower Silesia) email
Pauline Lipman (University of Illinois-Chicago) email
Mail All Convenors

Long Abstract

The workshop is a response to growing interest among anthropologists as well as other social scientists in moving beyond description and academic critique of researched socio-cultural worlds to participatory scholarship. Such scholarship relies on the researchers getting involved - intellectually, socially, politically - in issues critical to the improvement of lives of peoples with whom they study in the field. Activist/engaged anthropology is driven by an epistemology of collaborative knowledge production by social actors and researchers, an anthropology that is renewed by its direct engagement with practical problems and in social action for human liberation. The workshop should provide a platform for those researchers who have been actively grappling with ethical, practical and epistemological issues related to their own engaged/activist/action research practices. We are particularly interested in presentations of research practices that focus on exploring the potential of anthropological research to support cultural and social change and people's emancipation through knowledge.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Activist Anthropology linking research, social action, and social movements in Chicago

Author: Pauline Lipman (University of Illinois-Chicago)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper explores possibilities and complexities of activist anthropology linking critical research, social action, and social movements. Through five years of ethnographic and collaborative research and action with youth, teachers, and community members in struggles for education justice in Chicago, my research presents a structural and cultural critique that challenges dominant groups and ideologies, aims to contribute to public conversation about policy, voices experiences of African American and Latino parents marginalized in dominant discourse, and seeks to produce knowledge vital to the struggle. A basic assumption is that research and political engagement enrich each other, and that "knowledge is vital to social action" (Hale, 2008). While I contend that research that sides with those who are oppressed can, and should, support empowerment and liberation, this view collides with public assumptions about objectivity in social research. The paper examines complexities of negotiating these assumptions, expectations of community activists, and my roles.

Dancing with informants: the participant observer versus the observing participant

Author: Jonathan Skinner (University of Roehampton)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

This paper looks at the various positions taken by anthropologists 'with respect to' their informants. In particular, this paper explores the advantages and disadvantages of the assumed 'observing participant' positionality as described by Daniel in her ethnography of Rhumba: Dance and Social Change in Cuba and developed further in subsequent dance anthropology texts.

This paper looks at the nature of working over an extended period of time with social dance informants, studying, developing and learning to dance together. The stress upon participation in the 'observing participant' position involves the anthropologist to a greater degree than the traditional 'participant observer' research position. This apprenticeship - mutually engaged - creative learner approach has the potential to elicit the nuances, insights and particularities of the field, but also has the potential to problematise and blur fieldwork experiences and relationships.

The ethnographer-as-activist: notes on feminism and ethnography in Ireland

Author: Jennifer DeWan  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

My paper will explore some of the methodological, ethical and epistemological issues that arose for me while conducting ethnographic research on feminist political activism in Ireland. Many social commentators have lamented the de-radicalization of politics and the de-politicization of people through the processes of neoliberalism and globalisation in late capitalist modernity. My project was to explore the possibilities for feminist politics in relation to the localised effects of these processes. How do I conduct an ethnography of activism and activists affected by but also challenging the effects of globalisation in their own communities? How do I conduct an ethnography of feminist activism as a feminist ethnographer who is also implicated in global flows of capital, information and politics? In the process of working through these issues, I became the 'ethnographer-as-activist', an engaged complicity positioned to work with activists to support and effect social change, rather than studying them.

Empowering study for refugee background students

Authors: Diane O'Rourke (Victoria University-Wellington NZ)  email
Carla Rey Vasquez  email
Ryan O'Byrne (UCL)  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

'Empowering Study for Refugee Background Students' was established to gather information about experiences of students from refugee backgrounds (RBS) and to work with participants establishing support systems. The project team now includes volunteers from the university staff, anthropology students, members of Global Remix (a club formed by students from refugee backgrounds). It cooperates with refugee-founded organisations, government agencies, and ethnic groups.

Outcomes span several areas: academic and social experience for RBS; ethnographic, research and service learning for student volunteers; community programmes supporting transition into tertiary education; university and government policy; and scholarship. To exemplify scholarly outcomes we discuss the fundamental re-thinking of 'community' stimulated by evolving practices of 'refugee' 'communities' which include people with different ethnic, religious, political, and class identities. In what conditions do people unify across divides from the past? When, why and how do they synthesize new communities? What new divisions arise in the newly created communities?

Re-telling urban heritage through Action Anthropology

Authors: Hana Cervinkova (University of Lower Silesia)  email
Juliet Golden  email
Mail All Authors

Long Abstract

Based on an ongoing project in engaged anthropological research in the Polish city of Wroclaw, we will address possibilities of ethnographic research to be applied as a critical and participative learning tool. Once a vibrant German metropolis (Breslau) almost totally annihilated during WWII, Wroclaw was later nearly entirely re-populated and rebuilt by Poles in the post-war era and its Polish identity created through the official and ideologically driven process of Polonization. Post-1989 democratization has opened up a platform for highly politicized and nationally polarized discussions about the city's cultural heritage. Since 2004, we have worked with groups of college students with whom we have produced multi-layered interpretations of selected urban areas of Wroclaw, which differ radically from the bilateral German/Polish narratives. In the spirit of action research, which aims at implementing knowledge in practical social action, we have produced self-guided tour brochures that lead today's visitors through Wroclaw, pointing to its culturally composite heritage.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.