Author:Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)
Paper short abstract:
Since ethnography is an intersubjective entreprise, each revisitation of “the field” brings forward the issue of the double nature of ethnography’s historicity: both in relation to the ethnographer and the ethnographed. But does the contingent character of the ethnographic encounter prevents ethnography altogether from making sense of change through re-studies?
Paper long abstract:
Since ethnography is an intersubjective entreprise, each revisitation of "the field" brings necessarily forward the issue of the double nature of ethnography's historicity: historicity in relation to the ethnographer, historicity in relation to the ethnographed. Both ethnographer and ethnographed are enmeshed in time and evolve as it progresses. Each ethnographic inquiry is thus inevitably contingent not only to a set of circumstances but also to a unique intersubjective encounter. But does this contingency render futile any attempt to make sense of change by adding up successive visits to "the field"? Can ethnography translate into a "longitudinal study", in the manner of the ones produced in other social sciences? Does the nature of ethnography's situatedness condemn each ethnographic inquiry to merely punctuate a moment of a historical process and to dissolve itself in the duration?
The discussion of these issues will be grounded on data derived from what started as a "re-study" in a Portuguese women's prison. It will be argued that the processes affecting ethnographer and ethnographed can be taken into account as parameters for more accurately articulating the past and the present in order to make sense of change.
Returning to the field: experiences and dilemmas in re-studies