Accepted Paper:

Producing ethical knowledge through the ethnographer's gendered body   


Maya Maor (Haifa University )

Paper short abstract:

Based on autoethnographic and participant-observer research in martial art groups I argue that the ethnographer’s gendered body can generate ethical knowledge, shaped by professional discourses. The body can be an ethical compass, and physical contact can produce new ethical relationships.

Paper long abstract:

Martial arts entail preoccupation with practices associated with physical aggression and violence. Relatedly, the field is historically, numerically and ideologically associated with notions and practices of hegemonic masculinity.

Based on more than three years of intense participation in several martial arts, I argue that my gendered body served as an indispensable research tool that can produce ethical knowledge, in two major ways.

First, my body acted as a moral compass. As a female novice, I had no intellectual or socially acquired authority in the field. However, my feminine socialization (e.g. an ethics of care) allowed to challenge and uncover the mechanisms through which real violence takes place under the cover of legitimate martial arts practices. On various occasions I felt through my body the urge to refuse cooperation with what was going on in the group or interfere in order to change the dynamic.

Second, through physical contact with other bodies, I formed new and distinct ethical relationships. Over time I learned that the ongoing physical contact with other bodies in the field led to the formation of bonds of love and trust, with significant moral implications.

I conclude by discussing the unique characteristics of the ethnographer's bodily knowledge that include: 1. Informed openness to the social world; 2. Holding on simultaneously to empathy and critique; 3. Searching for structural factors.

Panel P134
Doing ethnography through the body