Serendipity mon amour : on disquiet as a prerequisite for anthropological knowledge
(Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on a personal account of being a phD candidate with a rather classical “object” of study nowadays, this paper will argue that the very uneasiness and disquiet felt both as ethnographer towards the subjects of the research and as an academic-to-(may)be are crucial to produce ethical anthropological knowledge.
Paper long abstract:
Serendipity may be "the new black" of the social sciences, it surely is a powerful concept. When I look at the definitions I find, it perfectly fits my path in embracing the anthropological "carrier" (in C.E. Hughes' sense) and choosing a topic. A phD candidate working on a treaty signed between First Nations of Northwestern Saskatchewan and Canada in 1906, doing fieldwork on a Dene reserve combined with archival research, my research is not exactly fashionable these days. Except maybe for the "Indigenous peoples" boom in academic production. Still, it raises tremendous tensions, both in theory and practice. In a context of decolonization of the research on/with/for Indigenous peoples and emerging debates on the politics of cultural identity, finding one's place in the academia is not easy. Let alone entering the field as a European researcher, precisely when the field is a "reserve", this place of mere myths and where politics stands at every corner. Drawing from my personal experience of "chronic lack of time", this paper will explore the tensions between dimensions of the personal self, the ethnographic self (Bruner 1993), and the academic self in today's practices of ethnography and anthropology. Ultimately, I argue that the profound uncertainty and disquiet infusing my everyday practice of ethnographer and of academic-to-(may)be is critical to produce ethical anthropological knowledge.
Young scholars forum: contemporary ethnographic practice and the value of serendipity