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Accepted Contribution:

Living with ourselves while learning from others: Genres of accountability in Ethnography, Oral history, Documentary work and Espionage  
Keith Brown (Arizona State University)

Contribution short abstract:

Easy-to-use search algorithms have dispelled the fiction that pseudonyms insulate ethnographers' field-sites or interlocutors from discovery. What can anthropologists learn from others-including "ordinary" citizens with longer experience of living under surveillance-about the ethics of transparency?

Contribution long abstract:

This paper is prompted by exchanges I have had with anthropologist colleagues who continue to deploy pseudonyms, even while acknowledging that their own citation practices and professional candor allow readers to readily decipher the code. "Insiders" (as well as advisors, peers and students) have always been able to peer behind ethnographers' pseudonyms, suggesting their usage has always been Goffmanesque "face-work." If a changed and ostensibly more participatory and accessible culture of knowledge-production and exchange has shifted or blurred the distinction of front-stage and back-stage, then what work do pseudonyms do?

To answer, I additionally draw on the reflections of colleagues in North Macedonia, with whom I work on issues related to people's past relationships with a security apparatus that enlisted citizens as informers. In a context where my work is translated, read and discussed, I do not use pseudonyms for people--in part because the state assigned its informers pseudonyms--or for places, largely because my work focuses on their distinctive characteristics, rather than presumptive generalities. I am also informed by the practices of oral historians (including Trevor Lummis and Svetlana Alexievich), who anticipate the future use and value of their work being amplified by preserving the context of its production, and acknowledging the emotional and intellectual investments of their interlocutors. By drawing on the insights of these practitioners, as well as on theoretical discussions over ethnography as invention as opposed to discovery, the paper seeks to advance cross-disciplinary learning and exchange around the ethics of rapport-building, respect and credit-sharing.

Roundtable RT09
Rethinking Pseudonyms in Ethnography
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -