ASA10: The Interview - theory, practice, society
Queen's University, Belfast, 13/04/2010 – 16/04/2010
The ethics of (relations of) knowledge-creation
Location Lecture Theatre LT5
Date and Start Time 15 Apr, 2010 at 09:00
The ethical concerns of the interview as an interaction with others in the process of knowledge creation will be addressed from three perspectives: (i) the intimate relationship established between ethnographer and researcher; (ii) the mode of transmuting local knowledge into universal knowledge (iii) the monitoring of knowledge-creation itself.
The Interview is saturated with ethical concerns. It sets up an interactive structure with an 'other' in a context of unstated epistemological foundations and submerged interests. Though the interviewer appears to have more to gain, and more control over the perimeters of the exchange and the knowledge to be transacted, ethnographers have found this control to be illusory.
This panel will address the ethics of knowing and the ethics of knowledge, with the interview as its centrepiece. 'Interview' is understood to incorporate directed conversations for the purposes of eliciting knowledge in the process of a research project, as well as interactions (information sessions or participant observation) in which studied people are asked to give something for the sake of knowledge - their blood, their land, their knowledge. We are interested in papers which address the following questions:
i. The ethical implications of relationships between researcher and informant created in the process of being together while 'transacting knowledge'. Relevant distinctions which affect the kinds of knowledge and meaning accessed and produced include those between: subjectivity and objectivity, empathy and imagination, friendship and information, intimacy and distance.
ii. The ethics of transmuting local bodies and local knowledge into 'universal knowledge'. To what extent can this knowledge betray its ideals and its origin? What, then, is knowledge obtained in exchanges with others for?
iii. The monitoring of knowledge-creation from an ethical perspective, a monitoring itself conducted on the basis of 'interviews' with knowledge-consumers. Does it create another stratum of alienation, eliticization, abstraction and reified knowledge?
Discussant: Marilyn Strathern, Tammy Kohn
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
The Problems with gossip: Reflections on the ethics of conducting multi-sited ethnographic research
This paper reflects on the lessons learnt from conducting multi-sited ethnography for a component of a large research programme. The component aimed to assess the extent to which standard religious teachings inform the values and beliefs by which local people live and how these religious values and beliefs do or do not shape their ideas about certain aspects of development. The research was carried out in Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Tanzania as part of a larger programme. The research was conducted by fieldworkers many of whom had received no previous training in ethnographic techniques. This research was conducted through a set of complex relationships. At local level the fieldworkers were often rooted in the communities they studied and the process of becoming ethnographic interviewers was uneasy involving a change in the nature of their relationships with many research participants. The informal dialogues that represent much of the data collected were only made possible because of the friendships and respect the fieldworkers were awarded by the communities in which they also lived. These friendships were made vulnerable by the passing on of this data to a funder whose relationship to these communities was often described by participants as problematic. This paper documents my unease as coordinator asked to 'capacity-build' and write about the lives of people I have never met. This paper reflects openly on the ethics of this research experience whilst also maintaining that the close insight the anthropological lens brings to large scale inter-disciplinary research programmes is important.
The danger of knowledge
This paper will explore the relation between knowledge and danger in a small community of Chiloé, southern Chile
Doing ethnography on a small and remote island presents the immediate predicament of being the very visible Other in a small world of all alike people. In a community where people do all they can to ensure lack of differentiation, being the Other implied having 'knowledge' of things that belong to the outside world. 'Knowledge' is dangerous because it promotes differentiation between people, different access to sources of power, and to witchcraft. This paper will explore the contradictions that have to be faced doing fieldwork, when trying to access other people's knowledge and at the same time being invested with knowledge expectations. This contribution will also show the impossibility of relying on the interview as a relating device.
Empathic relations with Tamil refugees: Challenging morality and calling for ethics of knowledge
Data from interviews and everyday interactions among Tamil refugees in Norway demonstrate how relations of intimacy, empathy and imagination give access to meanings that confront specific moralities and calls for general ethical perspectives in creation of knowledge – about Tamil social experiences.
This paper addresses how the interview and engagement in the other as a mutual subject can create relations that challenge researchers' particular moral codes and cause us to expand these to more general ethical perspectives. Conducting fieldwork among Tamil refugees in a small fishing village in northern Norway with a concern for illness and well-being, interviews and conversations were contextualised by sharing daily activities to capture Tamils' tacit perceptions and experiences of social life. The paper presents a case-study with a Tamil woman who experienced stigmatisation in relation to the local Tamil and Norwegian population. Data from interviews and everyday interactions demonstrate how relations of intimacy, empathy and imagination give access to meanings and values that confront specific moralities and calls for ethical creation of knowledge - about Tamil social experiences.
Encounters with moral choice in social inquiry
‘Knowledge for the pursuit of human good’ introduces ethics in the process of knowledge production and entails a series of moral choices from the part of the scientist, at every level of knowledge –creation. ‘Responsibility for the “other”’ might be the measure and the guiding principle for the researcher’s choices.
If we intend to deal with the ethical dilemmas arising during research with informants, it might be useful to step backwards and rethink the epistemological question ‘knowledge for what purpose?’ ‘Knowledge for the pursuit of human good’, which appears as the obvious and immediate answer, introduces an ethical demand in the process of knowledge production, already from the beginning. Within social sciences, the researcher confronts the ‘other’ both as object of inquiry and as recipient of the produced knowledge. According to Bauman, facing the challenge of the ‘other’ means facing the responsibility of the choice of what is good for the ‘other’ (this is, for Bauman, ‘the “primal” condition of morality’). Thus, in the case of social inquiry, ‘human good’ needs to be determined by the scientist as an exercise of her own responsibility and then ‘the pursuit of human good’ needs to be implemented at a practical level, in both the research and the knowledge production processes. This paper is an account of the puzzlement I encountered regarding this kind of responsibility, during the research for my dissertation. Choices I had to make about how to interact with Afghan refugees and how to put in text the information gathered are discussed. I used Gilligan’s ‘ethics of care’ as ethical model for relating to my informants and then relied to Trouillot’s notion of ‘moral optimism’ and Knauft’s notion of ‘critical humanism’ as general guiding principles for the representational project.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.