Positioning reading and writing about yourself
reflections of self • What we see depends on how we filter or select what we see. • What we see also depends on how we look—how we open ourselves to the act of seeing. • The “spatial gaze” represents the fieldworker’s stance and worldview. • Anthropologists use the term worldview to encompass an informant’s entire cultural perspective. Of course, how we understand an informant’s worldview is dependent on our own. What we see isa reflection of who we are…
reflections of self • Choosing details is an act of selective perception. • As we write, we revise our worldviews. • The point of doing fieldwork is to learn to see not just the other but ourselves as well. The fieldworker’s gaze demands that we look—and then look back again at ourselves.
observing space You’ll never have a second chance to take note of your first impression. During one of your initial visits to your fieldsite take time to observe the space. It can be revealing. • Make lists of sensory details at your site, interior and exterior, paying attention to more than just visual impressions. • Track who goes in and out of your fieldsite at different times of the day and how they use different areas. • Draw actual maps or diagrams, which give you information that would be difficult to get merely from observation. • Research the space further by talking to informants or by studying documents that describe it. As you take notes, record your assumptions about how the space is used.
mapping space Mapping places is one of the first ways researchers learn how informants in a culture see and use their space. By looking at how space is used, fieldworkers come to understand the fieldsite—not just what it looks like but also how their informants inhabit it.
the frame of your gaze • As fieldworkers we are not subjective and should not pretend to be so. • Our fieldworker gazes are framed by our own biases, assumptions, and cultural baggage. • It is important, therefore, that we constantly seek to become self-aware of these forces. • We need to question the frame of our gaze. What have I noticed and what have I rejected? Why?
These questions help track your subjective frame of reference—your positioning. a sample of your fieldnotes Remember, I want two samples of your fieldnotes before the final project is due. For the first sample, I’d like you to focus on space. Be sure to provide all the following in your notes… • A spatial map with flow indicators • Collection of empirical/observable/informational detail (left column) • Reflection, reaction, speculation, and questioning of that which you observed (right column) • Synthesis of both observable/information and reflective notes(in paragraph form) • Analysis of your synthesized notes • What surprised me? • What intrigued me? • What disturbed me?
reading/writing self • Researching a fieldsite requires that you continually “read” yourself to understand your positioning. • Fieldworking is subjective; instead of leaving out personal, subjective information, write it in. • The subjective perspective—as opposed to the objective one—admits your presence as you go about your fieldwork. • Being the researcher so influences your fieldwork that it would be deceptive not to include information about yourself in the study.
positioning Positioning includes all the subjective responses that affect how the researcher sees data. There are three kinds of positioning… • Fixed Positionspersonal facts that might influence how you see your data—your age, gender, class, nationality, race, etc. • Subjective Positionslife history and personal experiences (remember Rosaldo?) • Textual Positionslanguage choices you make to represent what you see; the way that you position yourself in the field with respect to the people you study
A method of connecting as many different perspectives on the same data as possible. Multiple sources encourage the fieldworker to interpret patterns and interrelationships among various accounts alongside the researcher’s own account. • Related methods to achieve objectivity: • Triangulation • Thick description subjectivity objectivity How can this be considered serious research with so much subjectivity? Isn’t science and serious scholarship based on objective approaches? Ethnographers achieve objectivity through intersubjectivity .
“ Committing yourself is a way of finding out who you are. A man finds his identity by identifying. A man’s identity is not best thought of as the way in which he is separated from his fellows but the way in which he is united with them. – ROBERT TERWILLIGER