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Rethinking Pseudonyms in Ethnography 
Erica Weiss (Tel Aviv University)
Carole McGranahan (University of Colorado)
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Miia Halme-Tuomisaari (Lund University)
Carlo Cubero (Tallinn University)
Peter Froggatt Centre (PFC), 02/017
Friday 29 July, -
Time zone: Europe/London

Short Abstract:

Despite the energy and time anthropology invests in its own reflexivity, the ethics of pseudonym use remains mostly unexamined. We will discuss the high ethical stakes that pseudonyms bear for research participants and ethnographers, which we have not sufficiently considered as a discipline.

Long Abstract:

Why do we use pseudonyms? For many scholars the unironic answer is: "I don't know. We've just always done it this way." How is it that we explore the habitus of others, but are unable to recognize our own? That is, despite the energy and time anthropology invests in its own reflexivity, anthropologists have left such as major topic as the effects and ethics of pseudonym use mostly unexamined. In this roundtable, we contend that the use of pseudonyms often has high ethical stakes for research participants and ethnographers that we have not sufficiently considered as a discipline. Real consequences are involved; this is not simply a technical or methodological matter of anonymity.

Anthropology has changed dramatically in the 21st century, including the nature of our fieldwork and professional relationships. As a result, a great deal of our ethical discourse and norms appear anachronistic. The ethical discourse which dominates the discussion of pseudonyms, the protection of human subjects, can often infantilize research participants, while simultaneously reducing our responsibilities to them to a series of bureaucratic precautions. As a result, our performance of these tasks of conforming to "ethics" often become perfunctory and impassive, distanced from our actual fieldwork relationships.

The participants in this proposed roundtable do not converge on a single recommendation or method of determining the need or desirability of using pseudonyms. Rather we will show that the use of pseudonyms is not a neutral technique, but a practice that implicates and reflects our greatest disciplinary values.

Accepted contributions:

Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -