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Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Fooled into fieldwork: epistemic detours of an accidental anthropologist  


Francisco Martínez (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Field accidents situate us in a condition of negative capability, making it difficult to know how to go on while facing our limits of comprehension. They also decenter us from our original plan and from our object of study, generating epistemic detours and showing the elasticity of the field.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I engage with a set of field accidents and failures and unresolved questions in my research experience in Georgia. Normative approaches would simply dismiss the learning and argue that these encounters lacked systematic engagement and ethnographicness. Yet, following the proposal of this panel, I show that fieldwork is not necessarily guided by an understanding of what significance or relevance are, nor does it have to follow well-planned techniques that involve systematic methods for assembling data.

By putting accidents and failures at the centre of analysis, I have tried to understand how research experiences mature with us, providing a methodological engagement with my epistemic troubles and the accidental in the field. Despite rarely being acknowledged in ethnographies, moments of perceived failure show, however, relevance to understanding the production of anthropological knowledge. The referred stories of failure appeared to be beside the point, neither originally casted as ethnographic, nor designed within a conventional methodological frame. How I gained access to local knowledge and what I learned with these events was not seriously ethnographic, but profoundly anthropological (Ingold 2007), thus complicating the relationship between research experiences and knowledge production.

All these are relevant epistemological and disciplinary concerns that address

the subjective dynamics of data collection in a way that allows analytical questions

to emerge from field accidents. Besides reconsidering the accidental nature of anthropology as a discipline, some other questions answered in this paper are: Which are the similarities and contrasts between the fieldwork of journalists and anthropologists? And what commitments do anthropologists have in the field?

Panel Know02a
Research at the margins - transgressing rules in sensitive fields? I