EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010

(W052)

Making sense together: the role of participants in ethnography

Location JHT6
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30

Convenor

Paul Clough (University of Malta) email
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Long Abstract

This session explores research that contributes to the creative re-examination of ethnography by stressing the active role of participants in the gathering and interpretation of data. The crisis in representation in ethnography has not put an end to methodological questions. On the contrary, it opened up possibilities for experimentation and creative re-examination of ethnographic practice. By rejecting the possibility of objective observation of pre-existing cultural objects, ethnography has been reconceived as a constructed account of an emergent object, written by an ethnographer actively engaged in the production of ethnographic reality. The object of study is now seen to be the interaction between a positioned ethnographer and the culture under study. Not only the inevitability of interaction but also the need for joint interpretation with the participants is increasingly stressed. However, the practical implications of this new stance towards participants for research remain largely unclear.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Creating contexts, hosting encounters: a proposition from visual arts for reframing the art of anthropology

Author: Elpida Rikou (Athens School of Fine Arts)  email
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Long Abstract

Today, visual artists experiment with social relations, create contexts for encounters and become "hosts" or "curators". Such is the case of Z.Xagoraris, artist and co-curator of "Live" (part of the Athens Biennale 2009 entitled "Heaven", as a comment on recent crisis).For this occasion, two groups of students were formed, one by the curators of "Live", in order to create an in situ project in progress, broadcasting the events, and another by the anthropologist (and artist) E. Rikou, in order to participate in "Live", adopting an anthropological perspective.

In this presentation, aided by visual material, we consider both group formations as art projects. We envisage anthropology as an art of providing contexts for, engaging in and reflecting on encounters. We also critically examine artistic tendancies of this kind, from an anthropological viewpoint.

A concern with the human

Author: Joana Junqueira (UNICAMP- University of Campinas)  email
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Long Abstract

One summer day during a conversation Andrea Tonacci commenting on the film he had recently made, said:

"This new being, this being that lives this new moment […] who is born within this way of thinking, when technology is already ingrained, is he less human? Maybe the tendency is not to be called human anymore, but bio-technical, I don't know. [...] It is certain that these new generations have to have another way to be in the world. They establish relationships in a different way.

I am caught in the middle of all this and I wanted to get my bearings, a sense of direction, a perception. So to tell the truth, the answer is the film itself, Carapiru (the main character) questions this history."

Tonacci's reflection allowed me to slowly knit together a series of events, loose phrases, conversations, etc. that until that afternoon I was unable to anchor. Sometime after, I realized that he, as other participants in my research, were concerned with the changes of the human condition in the world today.

I would like to present a paper that describes the emergence of this object, how together with the participants of my research amongst São Paulo's cultural elite, we slowly constructed an account of a problem that was of particular importance to them.

From descriptions of minorities to writing our (future) history together

Author: Anna Rastas (University of Tampere)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper presents an ethnographic study in which participatory methods are favored in order to examine the ethical and political dimensions of knowledge production in research on minorities. I provide examples of projects in which Finnish Africans are invited to examine current representations Africa and Africans in Finnish non-fiction together with researchers, and in which they are actively involved when new texts about their presence in Finland are produced. These projects aim not only at making minority voices better heard but also including them in "our (future) history" by including their voices in the national we. My paper suggests that participatory methods, thought time-consuming, can improve the quality of research especially in studies of minorities and subordinated groups.

States of awareness: adult survivors of child abuse in Ireland's industrial school system

Author: Ruth McLoughlin  email
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Long Abstract

My fieldwork took place at a Dublin based support centre for adult survivors of child abuse who grew up in Ireland's industrial school system. The role of the research was to bear witness to the process of the construction and presentation of testimony to the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and the compensatory body that subsequently arose, the Residential Institutions Redress Board, with a view to understanding the nature of what it meant to be a victim and/or survivor of child abuse at a particular historical moment.

This paper highlights some of the ways in which a collaborative process between ethnographer and informants sought to overcome representational issues in an atmosphere fraught with issues of identity, veracity and litigation.

How people tell you what they want to tell you: belonging and cultural resources beyond the Finnish-Russian border

Author: Helena Jerman (University of Helsinki)  email
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Long Abstract

My paper explores informants' reflections on mental and concrete crossing of national borders tying the local to the translocal and bridging the distance between these. Apart from memory, oblivion and nostalgia, time as a phenomenal notion forces informants to take a stand in everyday life.

I have tried to use a projective method attempting to avoid the informants relating predictable matters. Thus I also try to show how the conceptions and actions of the participants play an important part in the research. This method has made it possible to show the capacity of things or social practices to put memory in place multitemporally.

Studying transnational human existence implies a multisited research perspective suggesting a fundamental change, above all, in the conceptualization of movement and belonging. My paper provides ethnographic insights into the ways in which persons manage complex belonging within various contesting discourses in their present existence.

Generation of knowledge: a communal achievement

Author: Anne-Lise Middelthon (University of Oslo)  email
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Long Abstract

Epistemological questions involved in an ethnographic inquiry, does not only concern questions of how knowledge is generated but also questions of who it is that is producing the knowledge . The paper takes as its epistemological point of the departure that generation of knowledge is a communal achievement (to paraphrase C.S. Peirce), and will discuss some implications of such a stance for ethnography. Further, based on examples drawn from two ethnographic projects focusing on same sex attracted men (in Tanzania and Norway respectively), possible ways of involving and recognizing study participants as co-researchers will be discussed.

Working on stigmatized people: negotiating suspicion and mistrust

Author: Virtudes Tellez (University of Castilla La Mancha)  email
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Long Abstract

At present, working on Muslims means to carry out a fieldwork characterized by people who feel stigmatized by others. Sometimes, this people have enough 'cultural capital' to try to change their stigmatized image. In doing so, they watch any statement from anyone, even or above all, from Anthropologists working on them.

In this paper I will show some fieldwork events that I lived with young Muslims in Madrid who felt stigmatized as terrorist by the rest of the society in the aftermath of 11th March 2004. By means of this experience I will reflect on ethic suppositions that anthropologists should pay attention during their fieldwork with stigmatized people. Moreover, I will think about political and morals relations with informants when they suspect and mistrust Anthropologist's intentions.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.