Accepted Paper:

Coping with tears: ethnographer's own body experiences in the Roma Pentecostal community  


Ewa Nowicka (Collegium Civitas)
Maciej Witkowski

Paper short abstract:

The paper focus on complexities of participatory ethnographic insight into small Roma Pentecostal community. Common prayers involve extreme emotional (with physiological and behavioral components) reaction of the ethnographer. Empathy results in ambiguous intimacy of relations.

Paper long abstract:

The paper focuses on complexities of participatory ethnographic insight into small Roma Pentecostal community of converts in a Carpathian village in Poland (about 100 new-believers). Researching the community means participating in religious practices, especially prayer meetings.

The participation leads to serious emotional engagement of ethnographer (albeit non-believer). The bodily reactions of the ethnographer allow a specific way of transgression of the social barriers which divide Roma community and the non-Roma researcher. We suppose it emerges from the basic mechanisms shared by the observed and the observer. However, this kind of bodily engagement is very hard to take under conscious control. The emotional together with physiological and behavioral components reaction of the ethnographer and emphatic participation result in highly intense relations and intimacy.

As a consequence, Roma Pentecostals expect that the observer will soon join the community of believers. Moreover, it invokes a new kind of attitude of Roma towards non-Roma individuals. Ethnographer's bodily reactions are on the one hand the tool of anthropological insight in the researched community. It indicates specific mechanisms grounded in human emotionality which bring the Roma community to conversion and aim to assess the form of religious engagement. On the other hand, it raises ethical, methodological and interpersonal problems. The complexity of the ethnographic situation will be considered.

Panel P134
Doing ethnography through the body