EASA2016: Anthropological legacies and human futures

(P114)
Epistemological violence & knowledges otherwise: reflexive anthropology and the future of knowledge production
Location U6-12
Date and Start Time 21 July, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Amanda Kearney (University of New South Wales) email
  • John Bradley (Monash University) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel explores the link between Anthropology and epistemological violence. It will examine the discipline's capacity to engage diverse ways of knowing, articulating a reflexive and epistemologically open agenda as the future of knowledge production.

Long Abstract

Epistemological violence is both a part of Anthropology, and also what Anthropology seeks to deconstruct. According to Teo (2010:295) "the concept is closer to personal than to structural violence in that it has a subject, an object, and an action, even if the violence is indirect and nonphysical: the subject of violence is the researcher, the object is the Other, and the action is the interpretation of data that is presented as knowledge". In this panel, the anthropologist is called upon to reflexively engage with the 'types' of knowledge that the discipline produces and perceives, on matters of kinship and relating, place and space, power, justice and injustice. Anthropology's products may intervene in the violence of everyday life as it is lived by marginalised or oppressed groups, or it may contribute to the hardships experienced by such groups, through the production of knowledge that shadows knowledges otherwise in existence. Either way, it has a role to play. This panel will seek to examine the nature of this role, addressing epistemological violence as it may be perpetuated or deconstructed by the discipline of Anthropology. Panelists will use ethnographically informed case studies to highlight the ways in which knowledges otherwise come to the fore through an Anthropological mode that is reflexively and critically self-aware. To what service the discipline is directed is key in thinking about the future of Anthropology and the disciplinary history that so uniquely and critically allows for its intervention in epistemological violence and othering.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Violence in place: indigenous epistemologies of place and plurality in research

Author: Amanda Kearney (University of New South Wales)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will examine just how the non-Indigenous anthropologist might go about more fully decolonising their practice by way of engaging an Indigenous epistemological framework as a guiding methodology. In a study of violence in place, this has proven deeply rewarding, but also ethically challenging.

Long Abstract

This paper is dedicated to a reflexive consideration of decolonizing methodologies and the question of how far we as anthropologist might go when incorporating plurality into our research. Working on themes of violence in place, I propose an Indigenous epistemology of place, as a crucial methodology, yet I am a non-Indigenous person. By tackling the theme of violence in place, as experienced by Indigenous Australian across their homelands, I am drawn to not simply add cross-cultural perspectives to engagements with human life but to make the discipline and my own conceptualising cross-cultural. As such this research is tested (as am I) by the need to systematically unlearn and fully accept, not as alternative, but as central, an Indigenous epistemology that configures place as an agent and sentient co-presence, not merely backdrop to human life. Place is now understood as alive, acting and responsive, therefore capable of experiencing great harm. This paper will assert that there is an epistemological violence in overlooking Indigenous epistemologies of place, but faces the dilemma also that there may also be a violence involved when a non-Indigenous researcher attempts to engage methodologically, an Indigenous epistemology of place.

Does country hear English?: Language loss and the fate of place

Author: John Bradley (Monash University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will examine the ontological and epistemological fear that many last speakers of Indigenous languages feel when faced with significant language loss. It will reflect on how, when faced with such circumstances, people maintain connections to places of cultural importance.

Long Abstract

This paper is dedicated to an exploration of Indigenous language loss and how people think and feel about this in regards to a continuing and ongoing relationship to their homelands. The rate of language loss in Australia is rapid and ongoing, of the original 275 languages only 20 are now considered strong with all generations in a community speaking them. The loss of language through ongoing coloniality has created a vast network of epistemic violences across Australia. There are issues here associated with language documentation, the reduction of oral traditions to print texts and the place of new languages such as Kriol to hold the original ontological and epistemological depths of the old languages. This paper explores my own 35 years of research amongst some of the last speakers of Indigenous languages in Australia and speaks to their day-to-day concerns in regards to future generations of non-speakers of the original languages.

Beyond instrumentalism: a decolonial option to explore indigeneity as lived experience

Author: Maria Fernanda Esteban Palma (University of Pennsylvania)  email

Short Abstract

Contemporary urban indigenous groups are frequently framed as instrumentalist, accused of inauthenticity and compared against universal models of indigeneity. A sensorial anthropology can provide a richer understanding of the experience of becoming indigenous if its methodologies are decolonized.

Long Abstract

Research involving indigenous people has changed alongside shifts in anthropological theory, enabling academics to partially redeem the field from its colonial origins. But regardless of how aware current social theory is of indigenous fluidity, anthropology remains epistemologically and methodologically invariable; hoping to stay objective, generalizable and, therefore, scientific. Ethnography continues to be mostly observational, undervaluing touch, smell, or intuition. Participants continue to be asked about what they see or hear instead of how they feel, while incorporating the researcher's affective and sensorial experiences as data is considered comparativism. Phenomenology and affect-based methodologies could provide an option to de-westernize fieldwork in indigenous anthropology, but as these approaches continue to be bounded to western scientific paradigms, their scope is limited and highly criticised. In this paper I argue that a sensorial, affect-based and subject-based ethnography is possible if indigenous anthropology becomes decolonial, unbounding research methods from western academic trajectories. Moreover, I applied decolonial thinking to explore contemporary urban indigenous formations in Bogota, Colombia. These urban groups have been accused of inauthenticity, not only by the states but also by academics and other indigenous groups. A decolonial methodology allows me to move beyond observation and interviewing to explore how members experience, appropriate and respond to their own indigenization after two hundred years of mestizaje. Additionally, it allows me to reflexively and critically incorporate my experience as a "thinker of the border", a mestiza anthropologist from Bogota who identifies with the struggle of marginalization in Latin American urban areas.

An anthropologist among front-line workers: reflections on research, practice and collaborations amidst everyday violences

Author: Proshant Chakraborty (KU Leuven, Belgium )  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at practice of ethnographic research in urban front-line spaces where gendered violence is negotiated by women in informal communities. It pays attention to the embodied techniques and epistemology that are developed by these women.

Long Abstract

This paper attempts to link two forms of violence: everyday and gendered violence in urban informal communities, and the epistemic violence of NGO and governmental discourse that attempts to understand and intervene in such forms of violence.

I draw from my ethnographic work in Dharavi (Mumbai), where I focus on women front-line workers who are engaged in an NGO's prevention of violence against women program. In the paper, I focus on the embodied techniques and epistemologies that these front-line workers develop to negotiate violence in their homes and communities. I draw a parallel between, and contrast, these epistemologies and the ones produced by non-governmental and governmental discourse, and explore how these epistemologies are hierarchized.

In reflecting on my role as an ethnographer among these front-line workers, however, I contend that there are ways in which such embodied front-line work can and do claim authority in understanding localized problems, and produce new forms of engagement and subjective positions among the workers.

Within the "hot agenda" of the field: a research project on qualitative research and self-reflexivity

Authors: Nevin Şahin (Ankara Yıldırım Beyazıt University)  email
K. Zeynep Sarıaslan (University of Zurich)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes the relationship between reflexive authorship and the political context of the academic scene in contemporary Turkey, focusing on qualitative researchers' field experience and the "hot agenda" of the country.

Long Abstract

The beginning of 2016 in Turkey faced a signature crisis related to the positionalities of social scientists upon political conjuncture, resulting in a nation-wide discussion on the social scientist's attachment with the country's "hot agenda". This event brought an old debate into public on the researcher's political and moral involvement into the research process. In this paper, we aim at exploring ways in which reflexivity is experienced and challenged in Turkish academia. How do the social scientists of Turkish academic scene experience their field research? Do they have incentives for reflexivity? How do they cope with the challenge of the "hot agenda" of the country? What challenges do they face when it comes to reflexive authorship? The data on reflexivity has been collected through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with social scientists who are or were affiliated with Turkish academic institutions at a stage of their career. Taking Gezi Uprising which took place in 2013 as a case, this paper intends to open up a debate on methodological approaches and choices which make both the research and the researcher fluid within the field experience. Doing reflexive field research in the Turkish academic context might turn out to be exhaustively challenging due to historically rooted relationships with academia and politics, and related precariousness in the academic job market. Nevertheless, in light of the data collected upon the 2013 case and our own field experiences, we argue that reflexive authorship is possible through negotiations of survival.

Ethnographic representations or ethnographic perfromances. Reflecting on epistemic practices

Author: Josefine Raasch (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)  email

Short Abstract

Arguing that specific reflection is required for epistemic justice, this paper discusses the consequences for ethnographic research. It discusses three occasions in which epistemic violence can occur and suggests ways of reflecting epistemic practices and metaphysical commitments at these occasions.

Long Abstract

The paper argues for a comprehensive awareness of a researcher's epistemic practices, specifically at three specific occasions in the research process: the collection of data, the interpretation of data and the presentation of results. Based on original ethnographic research data, the paper describes how each of these occasions had the potential for epistemic violence to occur. At each of these occasions the researcher also had to make decisions for or against representative or performative research approaches. The paper reflects on epistemic practices at these three occasions by referring to the figures of a distant judging observer (Verran 2001), a modest witness (Haraway 1997), and as a representing or intervening researcher (Hacking 1983). These figures will be used to discuss a representative and a performative approach in the presented research and their potential to perpetuate epistemic violence.

Doing ethnographic prison research with ‘bad people’ at a ‘bad place’: dealing with the double ‘stigma’ of a research setting during the establishment of trust

Author: Irene Marti (University of Bern)  email

Short Abstract

Questions regarding the issue of epistemological violence are particularly relevant in ethnographic prison research. The aim of this paper is to provide ethnographic insights into the challenges related to the establishment of trust between researcher and inmates in the strongly hierarchized and stigmatized context of the prison.

Long Abstract

Questions regarding the issue of epistemological violence are particularly relevant in ethnographic prison research. Research takes place in a context of multiple power relations that ascribes (opposite) roles, status and positions to individuals in its range (Goffman 1961). Moreover, the prison is a stigmatized place in two respects. First, it accommodates ‘bad people’. Second, it is a ‘bad place’ that leads inmates to experience a wide range of ‘pains of imprisonment’ (Sykes 1958).

By using ethnographic data collected in the context of an on-going PhD-project on indefinite incarceration in Switzerland, this paper will focus on challenges that emerge during the establishment of trust between researcher and prisoners in this hierarchized and stigmatized context. A minimum of trust between researcher and participants is – as in ethnographic fieldwork in general – the basis for a prolonged contact, getting a chance for interaction and the production of knowledge.

The first part will address the organisation of the ethnographic fieldwork by the prison management. At the core will be the prisoners’ relation to their cell as an ambivalent place that provides them with privacy and relief from prison pressure (Toch 1992), but which remains a domain that is highly controlled by the prison system (Foucault 1975). Visiting and talking about the prisoners’ ‘homes’ can serve as a starting point for ‘normalising’ the powerful and stigmatized prison context and the co-construction of trust. By presenting ethnographic accounts on the prisoners’ narratives on privacy, intimacy and individuality, this paper will point to the complexity and dynamics of power between researcher and prisoners.

Epistemological violence and the objectivation of the anthropological gaze in post-social anthropology

Author: Giovanni Nubile (University of Milano-Bicocca)  email

Short Abstract

The paper aims to rethink the concept of “epistemological violence” through the notion of "objectivation of the anthropological subject” in the ethnographic relation as proposed by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's post-social anthropology.

Long Abstract

Over the last fifteen years, a new theoretical paradigm has emerged in anthropology, the so-called ontological turn. In order to properly understand the advent of the ontological anthropology, it must be studied in relation to the Writing Culture movement, which is the last great theoretical rethinking in the discipline. The paper will focus on a topic that was discussed in the famous Santa Fe seminar, namely the polyphonic and dialogical character of ethnographic knowledge. Postmodern anthropology detached from its own modernity in acknowledging “subjectivity” to the other. Thus, the classical notion of “alterity” had been rethought, or even fully rejected. On the other hand, ontological anthropology – as explained in Eduardo Viveiros de Castro's work – has stressed the heuristic value of alterity, basing the whole discipline on it. Furthermore, the ontological turn argues that the postmodern recognition of the subjectivity of the other is nothing but a trivial truth. Rather - in breaking the boundaries between anthropology and philosophy – it redistributes seamlessly subjectivity and objectivity through a dialectics without synthesis between the anthropologist's and the native's point of view.

I will show firstly how the process of objectivation of the researcher's perspective, as elaborated by post-social anthropology, strategically prevents and neutralizes the violence inherent to the epistemological gap existing between natives and scholars, without indulging in a postmodern-like reflexivity. Secondly, I will demonstrate how the “cannibalizing effect” (Viveiros de Castro, 2009) resulting from exposing oneself to alterity can prevent epistemological violence. The intent is not to settle differences - it would lead us to a “false peace” (Latour, 2002) – but to recalibrate the violence and the tradimento which resides in every attempt of translation.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.