Accepted paper:

Bargaining boundaries in symbiotic anthropology: the liminality of the ethnographic narration


Marta Ferri (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

This is proposal starts from an empirical experience as researcher in the field of the new social movements. In the analysis of creation of meaning in the alter-global movement Rifiuti Zero, the researcher understands the need to be part of it, in order to get better the activists' perception.

Paper long abstract:

The research here named is based on the informers' way of thinking and acting in order to understand the construction of symbolic representation related to the possible creation of an alternative culture about environment and consumption in Italy. Rifiuti Zero could be considered a grassroot instrument, used to create alternatives in terms of politics, economics and culture, in order to get out from the crisis. In this way, being involved in the movement is helping the researcher not only to understand better the activists' perception and their construction of meaning, but also to get the "backside" of the movement, in terms of conflicts and complexity about power diffusion and network organisation. During the fieldwork as well as in the re-elaboration of data, there is a kind of continuous bargaining of boundaries, between informers' world representation and the researcher's perception of facts. This seems to put the ethnographic narration in a kind of liminal phase, in the attempt to find a sustainable way to analyse facts. The collaboration between the researcher and the informers could lead to a symbiotic anthropology, but also to some tricky ethical issues. Despite the approach "from the inside" is a methodology increasingly used in fieldworks concerning social movements, the "objectivity" of the researcher's perception must constantly debate with his/her role in the movement. Is the researcher's thought "colonised" by the informers' perception, or is he/she going to be capable to "win" the bargain and to create a sustainable, symbiotic anthropological reflections?

panel P06
Symbiotic anthropologies: new disciplinary relationships in an age of austerity