Ethn02
Sex and the field: sex, power, and the production of anthropological knowledge

Convenors:
Natalie Araujo (La Trobe University)
Kalissa Alexeyeff (University of Melbourne)
Discussant:
Helen Lee
Stream:
Ethnographic theory and practice
Location:
Babel 106 (Middle Theatre)
Start time:
2 December, 2015 at 11:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Sex impacts on virtually all aspects of ethnographic fieldwork, but remains marginal to debates about ethical conduct and fieldwork relationships. This panel explores not only moral engagements with research subjects, but also debates about sex, sexuality, and the production of knowledge.

Long abstract:

Sex, sexuality, and erotic subjectivity impact on virtually all aspects of ethnographic fieldwork, but remain in the shadows of anthropological debates about morality, ethical conduct, and fieldwork relationships. As the discipline has diversified, scholars have paid increasing attention to discourses of gender and sexuality. In the 1990s a proliferation of works, including Taboo and Gendered Fields, examined the sexualized practices, identities, fields, and imaginaries encountered by anthropologists. This promised to help unravel issues of gender and sexual power, pleasure, and danger that have characterized the lived experience of fieldwork. However, from recent surveys concerning sexualized violence in fieldwork to lingering taboos around sexual intimacy between ethnographers and informants, it is clear that anthropology has yet to fully reconcile the inherently sexualized landscapes of ethnographic encounters. Epistemologically productive debates on sex in the field remain marginalized. Medical and applied anthropology have been at the vanguard of transforming the prevailing model of sex as risk and danger into one that acknowledges not only violence, but also and importantly, pleasure. We apply these developments to open a conversation not only about the ethical engagement with research subjects, but also more broadly about the role of gender, sex, and sexuality in the production of knowledge. We invite papers examining a range of perspectives, including: • The ways in which gendered and sexualized selves encounter, shape and interact with the sexualized field; • The implications of bodily erotics on the body politic; • The ways gender and sexual identities rearticulate themselves through power relations and knowledge production.