Ten years of participant-observation fieldwork and photography among a multi-ethnic social network of homeless heroin injectors and crack smokers in California reveal hierarchical interpersonal relations between African Americans, whites and Latinos despite the fact that they all share a physical addiction to heroin and live in indigent poverty in the same encampments. Focusing on tensions between blacks and whites, we develop the concept of 'ethnicized habitus' to understand how divisions drawn on the basis of skin color are enforced through everyday interaction to produce 'intimate apartheid' in the context of physical proximity and shared destitution. Specifically, we examine how two components of ethnic habitus are generated. One is a simple technique of the body, a preference for intravenous versus intramuscular or subcutaneous heroin injection. The second revolves around income-generation strategies and is more obviously related to external power constraints. Both these components fit into a larger constellation of ethnic distinction rooted in historically entrenched political, economic and ideological forces. An understanding of the generative forces of the ethnic dimensions of habitus allows us to recognize how macro-power relations produce intimate desires and ways of being that become inscribed on individual bodies and routinized in behavior. These distinctions are, for the most part, interpreted as natural attributes of genetics and culture by many people in the United States, justifying a racialized moral hierarchy.
The Cold War sanitized the author's analysis of political violence among revolutionary peasants in El Salvador during the 1980s. A 20 year retrospective analysis of his fieldwork documents the ways political terror and repression become embedded in daily interactions that normalize interpersonal brutality in a dynamic of everyday violence. Furthermore, the structural, symbolic and interpersonal violence that accompanies both revolutionary mobilization and also labor migration to the U.S. inner city follows gendered fault lines. The snares of symbolic violence in counterinsurgency war spawn mutual recrimination and shame, obfuscating the role of an oppressive power structure. Similarly, everyday violence in a neo-liberal version of peacetime facilitates the administration of the subordination of the poor who blame themselves for character failings. Ethnography's challenge is to elucidate the causal chains and gendered linkages in the continuum of violence that buttresses inequality in the post-Cold War era.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted in India, this article explores the lives of women married to seafarers from Mumbai and Goa, charting the changes in attitudes, values and daily life that can be seen as resulting from their husbands’ occupations. Using their own words and accounts and working through their own grounded experiences and changed circumstances, the article describes how despite, and sometimes because of, the isolation imposed upon seafarers’ wives, many have developed an independence that is recognized and often celebrated by family members but is also regarded as unusual within their local contexts. Additionally, access to higher incomes allows many seafarers and their partners to make significant choices about their domestic living arrangements which are not available to others working in the local economy.
Scholars, including urban poverty researchers, have not seriously debated the important issues that Loïc Wacquant raised in his controversial review of books by Elijah Anderson, Mitchell Duneier, and Katherine Newman concerning the disconnect between theory and ethnographic research. Despite the tone of Wacquant’s review, we feel that he made a contribution in raising important issues about the role of theory in ethnography. The responses to his review that address this issue, especially those by Anderson and Duneier, are also important because they help to broaden our understanding of how theory is used in ethnographic research. What we take from this exchange is that good ethnography is theory driven, and is likely to be much more reflective of inductive theoretical insights than those that are purely deductive. Moreover, we show that in some ethnographic studies the theoretical insights are neither strictly deductive nor inductive, but represent a combination of both.
Each year the United States government detains and deports hundreds of thousands of people who prior to their removal are held in confinement for an average of 55 days. The short and long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic on migrant detention and deportation continue to be evaluated in real time, including how we can best study it. This paper provides a timely analysis on the relationship between immigration enforcement and confinement, public health emergencies, and ethnographic methods. It makes two contributions. The first is methodological and focuses on the challenges and opportunities of ethnographic methods in carceral settings when pandemic-related protocols have raised additional challenges to conventional in-person prison ethnography. The second contribution is empirical and documents how we adapted ethnographic methods to an interdisciplinary research design and to the exigencies of the pandemic to study the spread of the coronavirus in four immigrant detention facilities in New Jersey, USA.
This article provides a narrative account of one anthropologist's experiences in the field at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The account is based on the researcher's field diary and digital communication, supplemented by online news reports from the period March to May 2020. The researcher's emotional assessments of the risks that COVID-19 posed to herself and others around her stood in sharp contrast to the way her interlocutors in the field responded to the virus. The article makes a case for the empirical value of a researcher's emotions, especially in moments of confusion and feelings of disconnection, in order to understand varying risk perceptions. This article moreover draws attention to the experiences of people living outside the initial epicentres of the pandemic. Many Tanzanians perceived COVID-19 as just one risk among many in their already uncertain daily lives.
This paper adds to the limited number of studies about physical autonomy and practice shifts among fitness instructors who responded to the change brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and moved their professional activity online. I conceptualize physical autonomy as the ability of moving unrestrained and unhindered. I apply the online–offline ethnography to explore the interdependencies between digital media/technologies and the embodied practices of fitness instructors in online workouts. I also pay attention to fitness instructors’ perception of their physical autonomy in the world of online training during the pandemic. This article shows that instructors’ capacity for action has become more and more dependent on new technology.
In 1995 George Marcus wrote on the ‘emergence of multi-sited ethnography’, contrasting ethnography in the world and ethnography of the world. He seemed to anticipate that with increasing globalization, technological advances, and new economic conditions, multi-sited methods would become the hallmark of ethnography for the nascent age. More than two decades later, I reflect on Marcus’s forecast. Anna Tsing has written perhaps the first monograph to fulfill Marcus’s ‘follow the thing’ model, as a style of ethnography of the world, while June Nash exemplifies his description of ethnography in the world system. Here I compare the merits and challenges of the two ethnographic styles through their works. I consider whether Marcus’s prediction has proven true. I conclude that both approaches are still relevant and, in fact, necessary complements to one another, just as post-capitalist and classic Marxist theories, far from being mutually exclusive, are vital tools for describing and understanding the world.
This article is an introduction to a Special Issue dedicated to Paul Willis’s classic Learning to Labour at its 40th anniversary, and beyond. His theoretically informed and theorizing ethnographic study is read, explored, and utilized all around the globe. Its use also stretches across the borders of social, cultural and educational sciences and to manifold research areas and settings. Besides laying out its main content, that is, the answers to the question of how working-class kids let themselves get working-class jobs, this article argues that the most significant contribution of Willis’s study is the way it illuminates, both theoretically and empirically, the meaning of cultural production and cultural autonomy in the midst of ongoing social reproduction of class. This introduction ends by presenting the eight contributions to the actual Special Issue, and with an invitation to Paul Willis himself to take issue with cultural production and cultural autonomy.
Borrowing from scholarship on emotional labor, emotion management and symbolic power, this article highlights emotions’ symbolic role in sustaining the vital correspondence between the reality of social life and the official classification system. Through the concept of the ‘desired state of mind’ and empirical data from 3 years’ ethnographic fieldwork in an urban 911 dispatch center in New England, this research shows what the ‘desired state of mind’ of this context is, how the link between the folk and the bureaucratic is made though ‘controlled empathy’, and how the cost and consequence of this process is shaped by the status disparity prevalent in 911 emergency community.
In this article, I draw upon 20 months of participant observation to compare the labor processes of routine, office staff in the popular music and digital content industries in the U.S. In both cases, workers play a game of disappearing, pursuing immersive experiences in their efforts to be more productive. These pleasurably immersive experiences vis-à-vis technology described by informants bear a similarity to aesthetic experiences typically associated with art objects. Comparing how workers describe their aesthetic experiences, I show how the materiality of technology as well as management mediate workers’ immersion. In doing so, this article extends theories of control over work by highlighting the importance of work's affective and aesthetic dimensions while also making an empirical contribution by examining the culture industries’ often overlooked, routine workers in conventional and platformized contexts.
This contribution shall focus on post-9/11 port security, its policing actors and how their occupational, counter-terrorist identity is (re)established. The empirical context of this study is that of operational port police officers and security officers who construct port security in the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg. Drawing from a multi-sited, ethnographic fieldwork study, specific attention is paid to how operational staff, employed in a highly securitized realm saturated with War on Terror governance, (re)establish their occupational identity through the terrorist other without having ever been confronted, face-to-face, with terrorism. Instead of fighting in a global War on Terror, and given the way they construe their identity through the terrorist other, they endure an everyday War on Meaninglessness.
This article aims to illuminate the theoretical basis for rhythmanalysis as developed by Henri Lefebvre, who intended it to be a transdisciplinary concept that could be used to theorize everyday life, ‘from the most natural (physiological, biological) to the most sophisticated’. I will attempt to show how this concept can be transformed into a toolkit to research people groups (such as refugees, migrant workers, professionals) where it is impossible to conduct traditional ethnographic fieldwork either because of the difficulty of access or when an event (such as migration) has already taken place. It is a mainly theoretical paper informed by the author’s research on older migrants in Britain. It argues that if the principles behind rhythmanalysis can be distilled to conduct ethnography in absentia for a migrant worker group, then these same principles can be adapted to conduct research in most spaces where access and/or co-presence are difficult.
My professional life has been built on taking a position of apostasy, or the rejection of belief, toward many if not all of the major articles of faith within the fields of literacy studies, teacher education, and instructional technology. I justified my stance and my research practices through my reading of Pierre Bourdieu's analysis of the relation between belief and practice, and was successful for many years in getting published in top academic journals. My disbelief was shaken, however, after a trip to a university in Morocco and subsequent efforts to bring students in the US and myself into direct exchange with Arab/Islamic culture. These experiences provide the basis for re-examining the efficacy of apostasy as an epistemological stance, and through the critique of Jacques Rancière speak to the power of intimacy, empathy, and redefined forms of believing and belonging as paths of insight into one's own and others' cultures.
This research suggests three ways in which hybrid ethnography can be used to overcome the shortcomings of single-realm ethnography, in particular, ethnographies that situate solely in the offline or online worlds. I focus on how researchers adapt the ethnographic toolkit to an environment where digital and physical landscapes touch, overlap, and blend. I name these tools multi-access, multi-positionality, and online-offline data assembly. Multi-access refers to researchers using alternative access points to renegotiate blocked access. Multi-positionality refers to researchers leveraging online and offline self-portrayals to reestablish relationships with multiple participants. Online-offline data assembly refers to researchers analyzing multi-faceted data generated by researchers and participants to validate analyses. Taken together, researchers combine, separate, and mix three tools as toolkits to flexibly transition online and offline in the post-pandemic era.
This article explores themes of chance and contingency in relation to field research I carried out in a network of outdoor newspaper libraries in Pune, India. Appearing amid the city’s transformation into a major regional hub linking western Maharashtra into the global economy, the vernacular institution of the footpath library emerges as a lens for bringing a range of issues related to social change in urban India into clearer focus. I show that the street library is not just a quiet place to sit and read but a site of social visibility and cultural assertion for Marathi-speaking migrants in the city.
Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted between October 2013 and October 2017 in Hokkaido, northern Japan, this paper explores the trajectories of individuals engaging in hip hop music. Participant observation and narratives indicate that the majority of individuals work as regular members of society (shakaijin) and only pursue hip hop in their free time. The paper highlights the intricate entanglement of individuals in subordination to mainstream values despite their references to elements of resistance. I contend that in contrast to previous generations of hip hoppers who chose to lead lives of open resistance to mainstream values, contemporary youth who largely belong to the “Generation Resignation” (satori sedai) prefer to engage in practices of resistance that may not be evident rather than overt contestation of societal conventions.
The field site is the retail showrooms of a fast-expanding organized retail company selling budget eyewear products across shopping malls and high streets of urban India. Through a thick description of 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork – arriving, forging social relations, recording and writing – this article traces the practical, ethical and epistemological paradoxes in doing ethnography. The article identifies these paradoxes as inherent to ethnography given its radical intent. Not studying them as limitations or failures, the article makes the case for a more honest and critical reckoning with these internal contradictions by making them more present in ethnographic practice and writing. It is argued that in so doing we enrich our understanding of the complex and contradictory social worlds we inhabit and study.
Besides being known for population overcrowding, prison staff strikes, and prisoner suicides or escapes, which are frequently reported by the press, prison might also be a place for rare innovative projects. One such project can be seen in a penitentiary policy initiated in Belgium in 2000 aimed at re-shaping the culture of detention towards a culture of ‘restorative justice’. What can be said of this attempt at introducing the concepts of victim, restoration, responsibilization, sensitizing and awareness within prison walls? The present article proposes an illustrative and interpretive account of this prison policy. Rather than restoring the broken victim-offender relationship, its implementation has something to do with detainees working on their ‘self’.
In this ‘Tale from the Field’, I reflect on the practice of ethnographic fieldwork with folk puppeteers over time, using my own experiences in a single fieldwork site at two points, 38 years apart. I describe my fieldwork as a graduate student in 1982 and as a professor towards the end of my career in 2020. I reflect on differences based on digital communication equipment and on my own changing positionality. My 2020 fieldwork was interrupted by the covid-19 confinement which adds a new wrinkle to contemporary participant observation.
Previous studies have reported that injected drug use cannot be understood in a spatiotemporal vacuum but, paradoxically, they have tended to analyze this practice in a single environment instead of examining how people who inject drugs deploy their agency across environments. This ethnographic account describes and analyzes how David, an injected cocaine user, moved from the streets of Barcelona to a drug consumption room By accounting his transition from exclusively consuming on the street to progressively increasing his visits to La Sala, we uncover how different practices, interactions, and norms, specific to these environments, can contribute to the shaping of the development of specific substance use and the techniques informing the complex relationship between pleasure and harm reduction. Accordingly, we argue that we cannot limit ourselves to analyzing this activity in each environment individually; rather, we must locate and study drug use at the interplay of different environments.
This paper focuses on two historical moments in time and geographical locations, significantly situated at the beginning and the end of the Cold War of the Pontic Greeks’ recent past. The significance of these moments relates to the two encounters between the two formerly isolated groups of Pontic Greeks, separated by the Cold War divide: one in the East (FSU) and the other in the West (Greek nation state). It addresses the continuous reconceptualisation of state-family relations, including the Soviet policies of the state as family. The main hypothesis is that in the case of the Pontic Greeks ‘repatriation’, normally seen as ‘return to a place’, should be construed as ‘affinal repatriation’, meaning ‘return to each other’. The paper considers alliance theory (affinity by marriage), thus expanding the traditional concept of kinship (as consanguinity) while maintaining the idiom of belonging, including ideological foes as defined by the Cold War Divide.
This article examines the mobility histories and practices of later-life foreigners living or based in Ubud, Bali. Through an exploration of mobility practices, past and present, I question the analytical relevance of emerging lifestyle paradigms that paradoxically seek to contain experiences of mobility in metaphysical imaginings of flux and dynamism. Based on long-term ethnographic research in Ubud, Bali, I consider the extent to which people continually move across academic paradigms to make sense of their life projects. This mobility of thinking, about selfhood, mobility, place and kin relationships, draws analytical attention to the notion of life course. From this conceptual and methodological sticking point I illustrate how later-life foreigners embrace metaphysical imaginaries of mobility and dwelling on their own evolving, innovative and relational terms. Such imaginaries ultimately unsettle the ‘contained fluidity’ of lifestyle paradigms, as place becomes variously imbued with sedentarist and nomadic qualities of residence, fly paper and water.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork with Hmong communities in central Laos and the United States (California), this paper examines how the power of Hmong shamans and their spiritual healing rituals remain effective across national borders and continue to be practiced transnationally among diasporic Hmong. Although shamanistic rituals can be seen as locally-embedded and territorially-bound, their power and efficacy can be transnationally projected across the Hmong diaspora because of cultural understandings about shamanistic births across borders and the mobile nature of souls, as well as extensive transnational kinship networks. Nonetheless, Hmong shamanism has also been transformed as it has travelled across national borders through the diaspora from a socially rich, localized community event to an individualized and commodified practice, while retaining its ‘traditional’ authority. In short, Hmong shamanism demonstrates how indigenous religious and healing practices are not incompatible with modernity but can remain remarkably resilient in a contemporary, globalized world.
Through his metaphor of landscapes of meaning, Reed provides a way of looking at meaning in terms of how it explains action, with the assumption that action occurs within landscapes of meaning. However, my ethnographic evidence suggests that Reed’s metaphor needs to enlarge its scope. In doing this I use my research on immigrant girls in Sweden. The aim is to demonstrate that people can and do live across, within and between landscapes of meaning. This interstitiality can both produce extreme hardship and possibilities of freedom and agency. I share the story of one person, Nazira, who is negotiating with different social and cultural worlds. This allows her to criticize different cultural contexts and to work towards emergent cultural forms. I conclude by arguing that my ethnographical accounts could be used in support and as a critique of the theoretical understanding of landscapes of meaning within Reed’s interpretivist sociology.
The field–fieldworker encounter in the contemporary ethnographic circumstances creates moving fields where the archetypal Malinowskian conventions have been experienced as insufficient practices. Calls were made for theoretical reconfiguration of a fieldsite from bounded single site to a multi-sited one. This paper draws on a multi-sited ethnographic study conducted in an abandoned village, demonstrating how a fieldsite circumstantially oscillates from online to offline, factual to imaginary when attachment is still resilient and the desire to return is still alive. Its contribution to literature is twofold. Firstly, it demonstrates how to adjust the academic qualitative inquiry to ensure a move towards the desired social changes by cultivating the role of the ethnographer from participant observer to a participant in action in the era of ‘public-or-perish’. Secondly, it adds an important dimension to multi-sited ethnography: a new ‘future’ site, a new stroke to George E. Marcus’s ‘spatial canvas’ in the process of place-making.
Isaac Reed, like the great early work of Talcott Parsons, is focused on social action and continental theorization and largely blind to the broader American interactionist tradition. Absent are Blumer, Dewey, Mead, James (though Peirce appears fleetingly), or the more phenomenological tradition of Schutz or Garfinkel. Absent too is the relational theorizing of gender and race scholars. Given all that is in Reed, it is absurd to suggest that there isn’t enough. The point of this paper is different. It is simply that there are alternate important traditions that ethnographic work draws upon that might aid in pushing Reed’s arguments in different directions. I hope to show how an interactionalist perspective proves fruitful in moving us beyond some of the basic challenges of the classical tradition.
Reed’s Interpretation and Social Knowledge is a valuable resource for ethnographers whose work is characterized by explicit engagement with the sense-making environments that produce social reality. In this essay, I highlight interpretivism’s strengths as a ‘theory of method’, and then discuss its limitations. Namely, I take issue with the central roles that the social actor and motivated action play in Interpretation and Social Knowledge. I draw on my ethnographic work to demonstrate an approach to explanation that, although interpretivist, does not adhere to Reed’s assertion that uncovering subjective motivations is always necessary in interpretive work. When the ongoing everyday-ness of social life is the focus of research, action may be better understood not as doing but instead as being in context. Therefore, Ethnography’s working epistemics must allow for the decentering of the subjective and, by extension, the individual, motivated subject.
This paper explores 38 years of association and collaboration with Ngyema Karma Himdung in the genesis of ethnographic projects related to the western Tamang of Nepal. During this time, Tamang people have moved from the peripheral position of a degraded population to a dynamic presence in contemporary attempts to construct a ‘new Nepal’ and our work was structured in these transformations. I seek to point out how ethnographic agency paradoxically depends to a significant degree on the suspension of that very agency to the agency of others, including assistants, and how ethnographers and the communities among whom they live are in turn caught up in encompassing contexts where agency is always constrained in transforming culturally embedded structures of power. I conclude with discussion of the multiple institutional and ethical constraints at play in the question of recognition of field assistants.
The article investigates how young Muslims born and/or raised in Italy perform ‘acts of citizenship’ combining religious belief and civic engagement. We present the results of 40 in-depth interviews carried out with young Muslims active in two associations: Giovani Musulmani d’Italia and Islamic Relief. The aim is to explore how the tactics of visibility, the strategies of recognition ‘from below’ and the forms of transnational mobilisation of Western Muslim activists may trigger processes to ‘denationalize’ the meaning of citizenship, challenging original autochthony as the primordial ‘right’ of belonging. Furthermore, in the Italian model of imperfect secularism, young Muslims’ acts of citizenship can shed light on the limits of the fictitious principle of public ‘neutrality’ as tolerance and the need to redefine the public sphere as a common and heterogeneous space affirming cultural pluralism and the right to difference as integral elements of the foundation of civil society.
By drawing on ethnographic fieldwork with two grassroots groups that operate near the Arizona-Mexico border, this article illuminates how nativism is translated into day-to-day activism, often in ways that, while openly critical of the state, actually serve to strengthen the state. In contrast to conventional accounts that characterize nativist groups on the border as ‘vigilante’, I argue that the two groups which are the focus of this study, the Soldiers and the Engineers, seek to collaborate with state actors in an effort to restore the state’s exercise of what these groups consider to be legitimate violence in the borderlands. That is, the two groups enact nativism through popular sovereignty. Believing that the state’s ‘absence’ on the border is the result of an understaffed Border Patrol, the Soldiers fashion themselves into a civilian extension of the agency, taking pride in collaborating with locally stationed agents. Meanwhile, the Engineers find their entry point to the state through the ‘border security industrial complex’, hoping to work as private contractors for the Department of Homeland Security to restructure border surveillance. I conclude that we might expect popular sovereignty in other contexts where the state is perceived to be weak.
The current proliferation of often not so distinct ‘participatory’ approaches and labels (photo-voice, photo-novella, community video, auto-driven photo-elicitation) can be traced back to two distinct techniques or research approaches with a long history - namely the use of visual stimuli in an interview situation and the idea of stimulating the field to produce its own imagery with respect to a certain issue. This article aims to clarify the specific strengths and weaknesses of the different options in participatory research as well as interrogate their underlying goals (e.g. scientific knowledge production versus social action/awareness) and their largely undisclosed assumptions. To illustrate and explore the main techniques discussed in this article, excerpts and a brief discussion of a number of inspiring student projects in participatory visual research have been inserted throughout the text.
Informed by Gibson’s affordances and Bourdieu’s habitus, this visual ethnographic study explores parents’ ideas about learning and leisure and the actual domestic leisure children (between three to seven years old) consume in association with socioeconomic status. It is found that parent informants have similar reservations about local education regardless of socioeconomic status. Nevertheless, their different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds contribute to their different involvement in children’s learning and leisure through their use of the domestic setup, television and computing devices, and toys. Through leisure, middle-class parent informants transmit certain emotions, values, skills, behavioral dispositions, and tastes to their children, which coincide with institutional approaches to learning. The study finds that children’s domestic leisure is largely patterned by materials (domestic setup and leisure-induced appliances), practices (TV and mobile computing usage and toy selection and play) and social structure, and thus links considerably to children’s disparity in academic achievements and attitudes towards learning.
When ethnographers explore 'particularly sensitive' social activities, raising complex political, legal and ethical stakes, they sometimes work in contexts in which certain ethnographic descriptions are 'particularly expected'. Ethnographers may then be given (pleasant) recognition for their work producing descriptions of actual social activities. But is there not a trap here? This trap is to reduce the scope of their research to the production of such descriptions even if at the beginning of their work they defined these descriptions as simple 'preliminary questions' and wanted to invest their principal work in 'core questions' - for instance about the relationships between individuals and activities and the social roots of these relationships. This article revisits research concerning life-or-death decisions and 'ethics in action' in neonatal intensive care, in order to pinpoint how social expectations of descriptions may reduce the very definition of the sociological and anthropological perspective.
This article illustrates the impact of environmental protection measures on social attitudes and political behaviour in rural France through the prism of hunting. Fieldwork was conducted in France's second largest wetland, La BriSre Regional Natural Park. Locals mobilize a claimed tradition of hostility toward a vaguely defined 'them' in order to protect their rural and collective rights. The European Union and the European ruling class have become another face of the threat against the rural way of life of the local working class. As this population felt growing pressure from industrial economic impoverishment and a rural sociability crisis, support for the pro-countryside political party 'Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions' rose. This article depicts hunters' growing concern over EU directives for the conservation of wild migratory birds, and then examines the mobilization and discourse of locals against some aspects of the policy of nature conservation.
The article provides an ethnographic study of the lives of the ‘dangerous class’ of drug users based on fieldwork carried out among different drug using ‘communities’ in Tehran between 2012 and 2016. The primary objective is to articulate the presence of this category within modern Iran, its uses and its abuses in relation to the political. What drives the narration is not only the account of this lumpen, plebeian group vis à vis the state, but also the way power has affected their agency, their capacity to be present in the city, and how capital/power and the dangerous/lumpen life come to terms, to conflict, and to the production of new situations which affect urban life.
This paper explores the politics of dependency in researcher–assistant relationships. By doing so, it reflects on how these dynamics are always already predicated on broad personal histories and a range of emergent dependencies. Taking the politics of dependency in fieldwork seriously charts a path towards more fully understanding the quixotic production of ethnographic knowledge. Specifically, this paper reflects on the author’s relationship with Saiful (a pseudonym), who worked with the author during research at the India-Bangladesh border. Saiful was addicted to heroin. This addiction both compromised and enabled a productive research engagement in an unstable place. But Saiful’s heroin use was only one of a series of dependencies that structured our relationship and this research project. Using the lens of dependency to unpack the construction of the field and of ethnographic knowledge more broadly, this paper reflects on a range of questions, including access, anxiety, insider-outsider politics, and entanglement.
Although much of the literature on desistance has focused on late adolescence and early adulthood, little is known about how delinquent early adolescent African-American males develop strategies to desist from youth crime and violence during mid-early adolescence. Furthermore, there are few qualitative studies which examine the strategies delinquent black male youth use to negotiate neighborhood violence and the code of the street. This paper explores why some delinquent black male youth choose to maintain distal relationships or acquaintanceships with neighborhood peers as a safety strategy rather than forge relationships characterized by mutual obligation, trust and reciprocity. Youth define this strategy as ‘rolling dolo’. Drawing on three years of longitudinal ethnographic participant observations and interviews with 15 early adolescent African-American males (ages 12–16) living in a high-risk, low-income inner-city neighborhood in central Harlem, this paper qualitatively explores the meaning, practices and implications of the safety strategy of ‘rolling dolo’.
This article discusses ethnographic fieldwork among nine- and ten-year-old children in an international school in Finland. It elaborates on the myth of going native and on the researcher’s performance and negotiation of various roles, along with the improvisation this requires. Ethnographers cannot escape certain roles that are given to them but they can strategically use these and other roles to establish rapport and gain rich knowledge. When adults study children in an institutional setting, such as a school, they have to take into account the views and expectations of not only the children themselves but also the adults who work there. The article argues that reciprocity is an essential part of a successful ethnographic endeavour and analyses the significance of the researcher’s reciprocal involvement when conducting fieldwork among children in a school.
This paper investigates the relation between food, the body and morality in fashion modelling. More than has been recognized so far, eating is a continuous form of body work that is decidedly essential to aesthetic labour. Against the backdrop of slender aesthetics, models are purposefully socialized into remaining or becoming slender, through food beliefs inducing them to eat in specific ways. Food is classified into good and bad categories, and believed to affect male and female bodies differently. But other than to aesthetics or gender, considering ‘what (not) to eat’ links to morality, enabling models to draw symbolic boundaries between themselves and others. These show two main moral imperatives: models should eat controlled and effortlessly. Solving this moral paradox, models normalize and conceal controlled eating. Ultimately, the fashion modelling food system preoccupies models with self-surveillance and reinforces power inequalities between models and other professionals.
In this paper, I examine the spatial and emotional poetics of dress practices deployed by Sierra Leonean Muslim women living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area as they navigate the complexity of life lived in the diaspora. Focusing on the way women utilize sartorial expression to reject or accept imposed moral regimes, I show how dress practices are part of a repertoire of tactics used to challenge displacement, express belonging, and enact pious presence in public venues. In so doing, I illustrate the way differing opinions about stylistic choices reassemble and rearticulate the strategic ways that Sierra Leonean women distinguish themselves, create personal and public subjectivities, and embrace or challenge dominant, and at times imposed, rules of propriety and morality in their everyday lives.
Exploring life in an emergency shelter, this article narrates the hybridization of civility – the fusion of civility and a street code premised on the threat of violence. This process does not emerge from agency, but predetermined social and economic factors. The hybridization of civility illuminates the psychic violence that envelops the shelter and its personnel. This is illustrated through the aestheticism of this hybridization (what it looks, feels and sounds like). This aestheticism suggests that civility should not be viewed as a binary between civil(ized) and uncivil(ized), but rather in terms of gradations. So doing permits acknowledging and appreciating ‘otherness’ on its own terms, and – paradoxically – recognizing ‘otherness’ as an extension of an already established norm, and thus, as existentially meaningless. The call for the ‘death’ of ‘otherness’ and championing its assimilation into the norm can sow seeds for inclusiveness, tolerance and an ethic of difference.
In volatile situations, resistance can often take an ambiguous form which demonstrates the power of the dominated but avoids provoking repression. Such ambiguity cannot be simply dispelled by ethnographers; rather, it must be acknowledged and accounted for through a methodology that is willing to accommodate uncertainty while demonstrating the researcher’s good faith and sufficient knowledge. I show how this can be done by narrating an episode of ambiguous resistance which took place during my fieldwork doing logistical labor in a warehouse in Ashdod, Israel, when the work crew of which I was a part successfully undertook to resist the removal of our popular forewoman, Oksana. Taking into account the precarious nature of warehouse employment and drawing on the ambiguous statements and non-verbal behavior of both workers and management, I probe the tactical advantages, strategic limitations and epistemological corollaries of ambiguous resistance in the struggle against domination.
This article examines the roles of brokers in conducting research in a (post-)conflict context and uses this analysis as a lens to rethink reflexive ethics in humanitarian research. Drawing on fieldwork in Gulu, northern Uganda, the paper analyses the ambiguous position of brokers, and the complex social space in which they navigate. The paper outlines how brokers, in the pursuit of opportunities and in trying to meet expectations of other players, use strategies such as concealing information for researchers, or actively promoting the research project rather than merely facilitating it. It is further argued that research in northern Uganda may reproduce conceptions of war-affected people as vulnerable and of the war-affected context as problem-fraught and in need of intervention. The paper concludes by seeking ways to rethink a reflexive ethical stance in humanitarian research and encourages researchers to take the role of brokers and other stakeholders into account.
This article traces women’s narratives of the political struggle in Kashmir through the realm of ordinary, scattered, and everyday practices of resistance. It attempts to undo the narrative that overlooks the complexity of women’s lives in the face of ongoing violent political conflict; instead it argues that women in Kashmir escape easy categorization into victimhood. This article is embedded in the idea that there is something spectacular in the everydayness of lives embedded in violence; that the everyday is ruptured and layered like the memory of its people. “In Kashmir, which is a historically and politically complex quagmire of violent protests, morbid silence, and killable lives, it is through the barbed spaces of the everyday we see varied surging affects: of loss, of pain, of anger, of endurance, of fear, and of silence” (Kaur). And in this article, I locate women as the protagonists of these circulating affects, inscribing new meanings to the “political” through the politics of emotion.
This article examines how class and gender hierarchies are reproduced through spatial dynamics among affluent golfers in contemporary Mexico City, using the concepts of collective visibility and invisibility. The analysis focuses on how class and gender principles make some sites and actions visible while reducing the perceptibility of other spaces and acts. To do so, the article addresses three questions: to what extent and in what ways are privileged social spaces, like golf clubs, exclusively organized by class principles? How do Mexican golfers understand the class and gender principles operating in golf clubs? And, how do multiple axes of differences inform space and spatial practices? The study is based on an ethnography of three up-scale golf clubs and 58 in-depth interviews with members of the golfing community, including club members, instructors, caddies, and golf journalists in Mexico City.