It’s been a while since my last post – embarrassingly long. Full time work and a hefty commute have eaten up any available time I had to do this, but in trying to sort out my notes from some recent conferences, I took the plunge and got back on the blog-wagon. This might be interesting if you are working with either ethnographic approaches or marginalised/marginalising groups. It was a cracking day for me – lovely people and great discussions.
This symposium gave me an opportunity to find out more about ethnographic methodologies and about research project that had take place in the SoE. The following scholars gave accounts of their chapter in a recent co-authored book of the same title.
Marginalised and silenced voices were surfaced. Extremist groups also considered within this definition as they are ones who marginalise and we need to understand what they do and how the operate as well.
Kalwant Bhophal raised pertinent methodological questions: no matter who we are we affect the groups we research (her area of research interest is travellers and Roma communities).
How have we used the respondents?
have we unconsciously exploited them?
How do we affect the communities?
Our subjectivity affects our research
Research should always make a difference even if. It’s small.
Ethics – compromises are sometimes necessary. Discourse is often nebulous . Needs to be more transparent – duty to respondents, university, disciple.
ACCESS- problematics rapport an trust are key.
Openness and recognition of the right time to stop when dealing with students are essential!.
Member checking – giving transcripts back to respondents to check is an important part of trust building process – before data is analysed or used. This is important esp with marginalised groups. Reflexivity and positionality – power is dynamic, not static: it will change throughout the research process.
Gavin Bailey: Research Associate, University of Leicester
Interested in the ones who do the marginalising – the extremist groups within working class communities. Are hard to reach groups really hard to reach or are the just hard to hear?
Researches extremism in a community context.
What happens if the residents assoc happens to be run by BNP ACTIVISTS?
Extremism and how it is conceptualised in research Community as a key analytical object.
Stereotypes are dominant representation of these extremist group- see Jeremy Paxman griffiths interview: the way demonstrationss are represented in media is always as confrontational.
Being on Paxman – this is not being marginalised , this is mainstream media- doing the marginalising. The doer and the subject – needs to b broken down a bit.
GB’s study avoided the public representation and focused on what they do in their day jobs the extremist groups are the unit of analysis . Beware the focus on the spectacular groups- counter terrorists focusing on different groups who actually do violence Are they unreformable? Is that why they are ignored?
Activists have chosen to become activists – lots haven’t but are still in the dynamic Geographies of danger of otherness- community and culture as explanation. In this paradigm the research starts with these places. But often activists drive into perform activism and drive away Assumptions are being recreated – seek and you will find Stigmatising communities some objects become indicators of extremism- we know what it looks like and where to find it – so they think anti fascist or anti racist- what was the question again? Is it part of this older debate Where is the concern with white middle class attitudes and actions?
Try the implicit association test – see link.
This I found really challenging. Tiago completely overturned my assumptions about researching people and asked lots of awkward questions like – are these extremist groups really hard to reach? They are easy to reach them compared to bankers!
Ethnographic work – non intrusive or the most intrusive?
You study people – that’s ugly! To put them under the microscope , intrude in their lives is disturbing. We go into places we don’t know much about and try to make sense of what they do. Maybe we should make sense of out own lives? !Intrusion can cause deception – definition Impression management – the work of successfully staging a character(see Goffman). In ethnography we intentionally create a character in order to pry into people’s lives- that’s the ugly bit ethnography: it can blur the divide between a social encounter and a sociologically useful encounter.
The naturalism of the ethnographer is an artificiality What is reciprocity ? – an illusion? Who reaps the benefits or should we base this relationship on something else? Relational quandary. There are different motivations What can we do – get real – no person is perfect so no researcher is either Get real – there will always be betrayal, hands will get dirty Get ample – write about all our experiences detail context sensitive accounts of ethical matters as they pose themselves in the field.
Positionality symbolic violence and critical ethnography Foucauldian influences Experienced uneasiness- chapter draws on critical moments reflecting this in two research projects. Foucault – power and knowledge are mutually constitutive fieldwork has an inherently political nature – symbolic violence is inherent in fieldwork? Every time we engage – esp with marginalised groups – we exercise symbolic violence. See chapter on symbolic violence. This author gave a worrying account of some researchers’ interview data with Roma groups in Italy. Their responses were counter-indicative to the researchers’ expectations, and the manipulation, constant rephrasing, rewording reiterating on the part of the researchers was blatantly driving at a pre-determined conclusion; the participants were making it very difficult for them to arrive at it. A lesson in interviewing.
This was the least helpful presentation for me – it was lacking a bit of coherence, although it was on an interesting question of giving a face to those we study. Should we be protecting identity or giving a voice? What are the barriers to making visible those who are invisible, and how seriously do we take this ethical question – does protecting identity deny voice and agency to some respondents?
Questioning the IRB ethics boards:
Institutional control of knowledge/ legalistic nature of IRB/ conflicting ideas of informed consent: these are represented differently in north south divide between USA and South America. As an illustration of this in reviewing ethics guidelines, the US took 130 pages to explain their guidelines compared to 13 pages for Costa Rica and they were mostly concerned with science.
Am I more or less ethical after this?
This symposium has extended my knowledge and interest in ethnographic approaches, and certainly raised some very probing ethical questions . My area of research interest is teacher professional learning. I’m not sure how easy or relevant ethnographic approaches are to this subject area, but the ethical questions raised here are valid for any methodology involving people.
Gold’s typology of participant observation 1958
Hammersley on ethical absolutism.