Accepted Paper:

Collaborator-anthropologists? Some critical reflections on fieldwork in radical movements   

Author:

Tord Austdal (University of Bergen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will critically discuss the practice of anthropology and ethnographic fieldwork in leftist and radical social milieus at the juncture of informant security and anonymity.

Paper long abstract:

This paper will critically discuss the practice of anthropology and ethnographic fieldwork in leftist and radical social milieus at the juncture of informant security and anonymity.

Using case material from fieldwork in a post-left radical milieu in the southern United States, I will in this paper discuss issues related to the production of ethnographic data, informant security, and the accounts we as anthropologists share with the public; and consequently with potentially repressive authorities. To any fieldworker navigating volatile political situations or decide to work with oppositional movements, the concern for informant security and anonymity is a palpable and practical concern. The safety and integrity of our interlocutors is an unconditional, professional, and ethical obligation demanding that fieldworkers secure and maintain the civil wellbeing of their interlocutors individually and collectively. Not just in the now of research and publication, but the obligation extends to safeguarding against potential future repercussions. To what extent is this (actually) possible? In what ways does such ethical concerns for informant anonymity structure our accounts? To what standards of science do we conform when safeguarding anonymity produce epistemological problems in our depictions of lives, people and events? Is the collaborator-anthropologist always a collaborator in the double sense?

Panel P054
Ethnographies of the contemporary left