Accepted paper:

Le Verfügbar aux enfers - Germaine Tillion's operetta. From the 'ethnographic inside-outside' to the staged derision as strategies for an auto (and hetero) existence and resistance in Ravensbrück


Ana Brinca (New University of Lisbon (UNL))

Paper short abstract:

This paper’s objective is to give an interpretative analysis of Germaine Tillion’s operetta written in Ravensbrück, simultaneously discussing the personal experience as a study case and reflection and the ‘ethnographic’ writing as or with the purpose of action (existential or of resistance).

Paper long abstract:

An ethnologist, Germaine Tillion (1907-2008) was a prisoner at Ravensbrück (1943-1945). A former student of Marcel Mauss and a field researcher on the Chaouias (1936-1940), Tillion would use the theoretical and methodological knowledge she had acquired for her detention in Ravensbrück to 'become' a 'field' experience. Observing from the inside, and giving the imposed proximity the possible detachment "as if she were outside (the 'camp'/'field')" she 'represents' the other female prisoners and herself in the camp's (in)humane environment, she scrutinized concentration camp issues and procedures, and turns them into known 'objects' (Todorov 2009), making use, for that, of a particular medium, non-monographic, written in an auto and hetero-scornful tone, done in situ,- an operetta with which Tillion (2005) wanted to fulfill two objectives: she wanted it to be pleasant to her listeners and that these would add information to the auto-knowledge and the 'camp'/'field' and would reinforce the consciousness of their existential condition and of resistance possibilities (Andrieu 2007). Without evoking reflexivity as a method or a problematized object, but with it and its relation with boundaries (bodily, identitary, symbolic mingling together) this operetta is worth rethinking and debating. With the results of an interpretative analysis of this operetta, this paper focuses on issues such as the introduction of personal experience (either direct or indirect) as a study case and knowledge and the interconnection of information this collected and (auto-) reflected with the writing in the or in context as or with the purpose of action (either existential or resistance).

panel P058
Reimagining the self and the field in contemporary ethnography: insights from living and researching within and through borders