This post is a little outside our usual mandate, but we are intrigued by the idea that Professor Robinson proposes: an interactive online project she is working on to share and find publication avenues for the works of the late anthropologist Chandra Jayawardena. What would it mean to use field notes that have undergone no analysis? What is it like using the raw data of someone who can no longer have a say on how it is assessed?
As anthropologist Kirin Narayan put to readers of her book Alive in the Writing, the creative process of ethnographic writing can grow from ‘the impulse to find company amid the often isolating and difficult aspects of writing’. In ethnographic writing, we need to somehow re-galvanise our fieldwork experiences that are now in the past.
It doesn’t go without saying, so I’ll say it: I’ve never worked for the CIA, or done any intelligence or security work of any kind, nor would I. But all through my years living abroad, in Indonesia and Australia, I harbored a secret fantasy, that maybe, one day, I would be tapped.
Elizabeth has an agency all of her own, albeit one that we might not be familiar with, and so to reduce her experience only to the ties of sociality that bind her to others, is I think, to miss a significant portion of the story.
A shaft of afternoon light began to stream through the window of the clinic room. Observing the light reflected in my eyes, she now saw in them the “Holy Spirit”. Assured, she said I could look at her again.
Ana provided me with generous amounts of knowledge, time, and care. She knew I was doing a doctorate, and the understanding between us was clear: her knowledge, and her story, would be at its core. Now, that isn’t going to happen. I can use her information for articles, but it doesn’t feel the same.
I was determined to make sure that I was never bored during my fieldwork. Vibrant informants and constant social interaction were to be the key to my successful defeat of apathy. And yet, when it came to the crunch, I frequently found myself bored.
There’s anthropological spirit in investigative journalism that anthropologists could better acknowledge. Regardless of whether it has a anthropology qualification attached or it is embedded in complex cultural theory, it is something that sparks thinking about the ‘other’; the ‘strange’.
Online ethnography, where researchers may never share a physical space with the participants in their research, is finding its methodological feet. Combine that with an analysis of these sorts of online media, combining intimacy, community, public speaking, and private listening, and you’ll see what makes podcasts so fascinating and potentially fruitful for anthropologists.
How do we ensure that the #metoo movements reach beyond both Hollywood’s red carpets and academia’s Ivory Towers, to areas where a shake-up is arguably most needed? How do we approach community solidarities that provide both victim and perpetrators meaning and comfort, at the same time as perpetuating the problem sexual abuse?