Accepted Paper:

Interpersonal relationships and possibilities of understanding in the field  


Sara Merdian (Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg)

Paper short abstract:

In the Turkish Muslim context communication between researcher and informants are shaped by the negative views the media distribute about Muslims. This complicates research with Muslims on a personal level.

Paper long abstract:

My paper basically deals with my experiences in a field study with a group of Muslim students in Turkey. In the Turkish Muslim context interaction between researcher and informants can be more difficult than one would expect. The negative views the media or Westernised people hold about Muslims in general deter Muslims from contributing to research projects that focus on their views and perceptions as Muslims. They are not only aware of the fact that any research might depict distorted views on them, but also feel that the asymmetrical relationship between a "secular" researcher and a "Muslim" informant is awkward. This awkwardness has never explicitly been articulated in my research, but produced barriers in my communication with informants. The fact that our communication was anything but flawless led me to question whether there was any possibility of understanding at all, if not on a more individual level on which one could build a basis of trust. The question that I would want to deal with thus is concerned with building trust between researchers and informant. How can trust be established between researcher and informant? Can mistrust be overcome on a more personal level? How can conflicts be addressed in research? What role does the researcher's personality play in such situations?

Panel P029
The individual in anthropology: a future paradigm in anthropology?