Accepted Paper:

Complex fields, research strategies and challenges for ethnographic knowledge production  


Paweł Lewicki (Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder))

Paper short abstract:

In research among EU elites positionality and autoethnography provide a tool to depict overlapping cultural orders and to reveal how actors maneuver within the complex EU-space. These concepts however contradict the principle of scientific “objectivity” and undermine the “applicability” of findings.

Paper long abstract:

The political process of the so called "European integration" has lead to the establishment of a cultural microcosm in Brussels that I call the EU-space where different political actors are involved in decision making process. Within this assemblage of political, national, social, legal, economical representations, there's a constant struggle over political issues and it is played out in cultural terms where different capitals are applied. Struggles within the EU-space have led to the stiffening of the boundaries between inner and outer world and this dense political environment guards its cultural secrets vehemently. However, it is the ways and means of this guarding with which an ethnographer is confronted that provide thick ethnographical material. Navigating and maneuvering in this bureaucratic and political assemblage, learning the political, social and cultural intimacies and taking distance from them, approaching and transgressing the limits within and of the EU-space are becoming epistemological resources for the ethnographic knowledge production. Applying such concepts as positionality and autoethnography in this paper I present some examples from this complex research field. Subsequently I problematize the tension such concepts evoke in current state of the art in academia, where "objectivity" and "applicability" of research findings are becoming not only a standard but also a prerequisite for further funding of intense ethnographic research.

Panel P124
Bounded fieldsites, mobile concepts, flexible anthropologists