Gendered nuances of engagement: feminist ethnographic reflections toward a critical anthropology of migration in Italy
(University of Trento)
Paper short abstract:
Analyzing the predicaments of firsthand ethnographic fieldwork relations from a feminist standpoint, this contribute intends to plea for a reflexive and critical turn in the ever expanding anthropology of migration and multiculturalism, with a focus on the recently established Italian national scholarship.
Paper long abstract:
While burgeoning, the anthropology of migration and multiculturalism in Italy has not yet adequately addressed the issue of engagement. In this paper, I’ll explore on-field identity politics and ethical implications delving into two gendered episodes of my multisite research with Punjabi diasporas in Italy, which illustrate forms and dilemmas engagement yields in social and applied anthropology. I first endangered my onsite credibility when informally sent to settle a family conflict. It took me weeks to mediate between a close Punjabi teen runaway from home and her kin, who perceived me as a pernicious outsider while she deemed me as a counselor and go-between: an Italian young mother, an “expert” on Indian transnational migrations, an advocate for women’s rights. I then attempted to perform a participatory ethnography when hired, as a lecturer of Italian to immigrants, to run a public seminar on the local integration of Indian ethnic minorities. Being assisted in the training by another Punjabi girlfriend who related her life-history, I felt the uneasiness as a feminist anthropologist in “speaking for others” while demanding the voice of others be heard. These accounts challenged my ethnographic and interpersonal ties with my collaborators and the responsibility I held for the knowledge co-created in such settings, which could add to decolonize the unequal relations observer/observed and question the intersectional social positions we were enmeshed in. I finally argue that feminist engagements prompt methodological and ethical reflexivity to surface in ethnographic narratives, broadening the horizons of critical anthropology within and beyond migratory contexts.
Feminist activist ethnography and social change