Half an hour in Belfast: a sensational experience… and a haircut
(University of St Andrews)
Paper short abstract:
Through analysis of an intense sensory and emotional experience that occurred during fieldwork, I consider how in-the-moment sensory knowledge can be retained and understood and how this way of knowing can best be disseminated.
Paper long abstract:
There were a few times in my fieldwork when I experienced intense sensory and emotional engagements while participating with those I sought to understand. I was acutely aware in those moments that the bodily knowledge I was gaining was an important part of my fieldwork experience but I had no idea at the time what it meant; the profundity of the sensory and emotional overload trumped in-the-moment cognitive understanding. Temporal, geographic and sensory distance from fieldwork has opened a space for cognitive analysis, but that is a different type of knowing. How do I capture, retain and understand the sensory knowledge I gained? Should I (can I?) disentangle my experiential understanding of my self and extrapolate it to an understanding of the other? This paper will explore one of those 'ethnographic moments', when I anticipated an innocuous visit to a hairdresser but found I was plunged into a dramatic performance, where social boundaries were simultaneously observed and disrupted and the expected script was not followed. I will explore the sensory knowledge I gained at the time, alongside a review of my subsequent academic (re)presentation of this experience - as fieldnotes, as a chapter, as a theatrical performance, and as a more traditional 'academic paper' - to consider how experiential, individual, present-tense sensory knowledge can best be understood and disseminated.
Sensational knowledge: emotional and sensory encounters as ways of knowing