Accepted Paper:

Bohemian methodologies?  


Patty Gray (Maynooth University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that the radically ethical project of social anthropology is to craft a research methodology that has spatial, temporal, and conceptual flexibility structured into it, and asks how contemporary institutional processes in higher education and research administration undermine that project.

Paper long abstract:

Does anthropology lack an adequate language for discussing the methodology of ethnographic fieldwork, or do some anthropologists deliberately resist developing such a language? Or are there attempts to develop an alternative methodological language that are silenced by more dominant institutional discourses that privilege articulations of methodology in terms of natural science and technology transfer? How does the restructuring of universities in general and graduate education in particular - promoting a uniform "1+3 years" model for the completion of Ph.D. degrees and implementing "generic skills" modules for the professionalization of Ph.D. programs - undermine the radically ethical project of 21st century social anthropology, which is to train scholars to allow their research agendas to be shaped by a collaborative encounter with interlocutors at (and beyond) fieldsites, and to therefore craft a methodology that has spatial, temporal, and conceptual flexibility structured into it? Methodological borrowing across disciplines is a constructive practice that has in many ways strengthened anthropology and its interlocutor disciplines; but are there cases of methodological hijacking (funding agency-approved) that similarly undermine social anthropology, such as "human dimensions" research in which natural scientists claim to produce social scientific data, or "quick ethnography" whose proponents claim that long-term ethnographic field studies are no longer necessary to produce valid results? In the face of all of this, should social anthropology give in and jump on the bandwagon of managed uniformity, or should it resist and insist that space must be made for a more "bohemian" methodology - and can it be?

Panel W097
New vocabularies of method: experts, ethics and the mutuality of ethnographic fieldwork