Reflections from the polling booth: the temporality of research in small places
(IT University of Copenhagen)
Christopher Gad (IT-University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
With a starting point in a very small place (a polling booth) as a site for ethnographic research, this paper will debate the problematisation of spatial but also temporal scales in the making of one’s ‘field’.
Paper long abstract:
The conundrums of ethnographic research set forth in Small Places, Large Issues remain important to this day, even if they have been challenged or are in need of reconceptualisation after the popularity of multi-sited ethnography and the proliferation of ethnographic methodology to multiple other disciplines. It is thus not only the spatial demarcation of the (small) field, which is at stake, but also the attention devoted to it over (long) time, which was as much a hallmark of the classic anthropological fieldwork. This paper builds on recent writings that debate how attention to 'temporality' and 'contemporaneity' has become equally problematised as anchoring for ethnographic coherence in the face of new (time) demands on field research. Empirically the paper takes as its starting point how a very small place - the polling booth in a Danish election - works as a technology for temporary and momentary constructions of state-citizen relationships, and how these relationships are contested when faced with modernist imaginaries of digital voting technologies. The polling place thus potentially works as an entry point for shifts in ethnographic scale into important contemporary debates in a democratic society, but it only does so if giving due attention to both time and space as ethnographic sites.
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums