Accepted paper:

The emotional, political, and analytical labor of engaged anthropology amidst violent political conflict


Rosa Cordillera A. Castillo (Humboldt University Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

Researching suffering such as those in contexts of violent political conflict implicates reciprocity and witnessing. It entails at the same time an emotional, political, and analytical labor and troubles the separation of the self and other.

Paper long abstract:

Given the harsh realities that my interlocutors live through in southern Philippines where there is rife human rights violations and violent political conflicts, it becomes difficult and arguably unethical to assume a position of neutrality particularly since my interlocutors often perceived me as a source of hope and aid. My particular persuasion follows the call of Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois for anthropological witnessing which "positions the anthropologist inside human events as a responsive, reflexive, and morally or politically committed being" (2003:26). But what does witnessing, engagement and reciprocity entail? I tackle in this paper the various tensions I faced and how I negotiated and strategized through these tensions in my ethnographic research in a Moro village where a secessionist movement holds sway and where violence waxes and wanes but never fully goes away. These tensions are not only limited to questions of reciprocity and witnessing but also to related questions of positionality and the formation of my own subjectivity as a researcher conducting an intellectual inquiry in a politically volatile and dangerous field site. I argue that engagement entails at the same time an emotional, political and analytical labor. My multiplex subject positions also troubles the separation of the self and the other in anthropological research.

panel P38
Moral certainty and ambiguity in research: anthropology's enlightenment legacies and the politics of ethnography