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Reflecting the “Field”

Two Vepsian Villages and Three Researchers

Laura Siragusa and Madis Arukask

For social researchers a field site is continuously made by the interactions between the researchers and the ecology, including ideologies, present at the time when research is conducted. Such interactions and their interpretations change over time due to the dynamism of life in the field and the emergence of new methods and academic discussions. In order to do this, we have taken two Vepsian villages and three researchers of different background—including ourselves—and compared our working ways. This has enabled us to appreciate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of our own practices and to recognize the value of self-irony as a method of exploration and discovery. The dialogic approach of the article matches our theoretical scope as we have developed an understanding of field as a space where an honest and open discussion is possible.

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Dmitry V. Arzyutov and Sergei A. Kan

The conceptualization of the “field” in early Soviet ethnography had its own dynamics and elaborations within the discursive arenas of the Leningrad ethnographic school. Beginning with the prehistory of the idea of the field among the Enlightenment naturalists and travelers, we turn toward a description of long-term expeditions of the first generation of Soviet ethnographers of the North. Comparing field diaries, photographs, questionnaires, lectures, and textbooks, we consider the patterns and flexibility in the concept of the field in the first half of the twentieth century. We conclude with a discussion of how post–World War II Soviet anthropologists departed from the ideas of participant observation and long-term fieldworking prominent in earlier conceptualizations of fieldwork in Soviet ethnography.

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Questions from the Field

Anthropological Self-reflexivity through the Eyes of Study Participants

Sangmi Lee

Although there is nothing new about how anthropologists can be the observed instead of simply being the observer and that they can also be interviewed while interviewing, no one has studied the kinds of questions they receive from the people that they study and interact with in the field. Questions that research participants ask the anthropologists during fieldwork provide a critical way to reflect upon historical and persistent issues related to field-work, such as positionality, self-reflexivity and methodology. Based on fourteen months of multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork among two Hmong communities in Laos and the United States, this article examines some of the questions I received from the people in my study and suggests that anthropologists need to pay more critical attention to these questions as a source of self-reflexivity and positionality in the process of ethnographic writing.

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Practising in the Field

A Narrative of Public Health Research

Lindsay Sprague

The following is a narrative of a medical researcher and her experiences in the field. Una Lynch, a resident of Northern Ireland and currently a lecturer in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the Queen’s University Belfast, has engaged in extensive public health research using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Though historically, as anthropologists, we have valued the contributions fieldwork has offered to our understanding of culture, personality, lifestyles and behaviours, we seldom encounter fieldwork within other facets of academia. How is ethnography used, therefore, within other disciplines? What contributions has ethnography brought to knowledge outside the borders of anthropology?

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Re-locating the Ethnographic Field

From 'Being There' to 'Being There'

Máiréad Nic Craith and Emma Hill

When considering the ethnographic field, language use has been of continued anthropological concern. Traditional approaches to the field have associated language use with concepts such as place, territory and ethnicity and have tended to bound them within a single site. However, in conditions of increasing globalised mobility, approaches to both fieldwork and language use within the field are changing. Using existing scholarship on minority-language communities in Europe alongside original fieldwork with Somali migrants in Glasgow, this article considers the dynamics of that relationship within the contexts of single-sited, multi-sited and online fields. It finds that, for an inquiry focused on both language use and mobility, established modes of thinking about the field are a methodologically restrictive practice on 'being there'. Instead, the authors argue for rethinking the field as a 'spoken' one where, with language at the fore, emphasis is placed on 'being there'.

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The Birth of a Field

Women's and Gender Studies in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe

Krassimira Daskalova, Mihaela Miroiu, Agnieszka Graff, Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Marina Blagojevic and Judit Acsády

Every volume of Aspasia includes an ‘Aspasia Discussion Forum’ in which a particular topic is highlighted or debated. Aspasia dedicates this year’s (2010) and next year’s (2011) Forums to the field of women’s and gender studies in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe (CESEE). The idea came from a round-table on Gender Studies in CESEE organised by Aspasia editor Maria Bucur for the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) in Philadelphia in November 2008. The pieces included here by Agnieszka Graff and Mihaela Miroiu were first presented at that round-table. The other participants wrote their contributions especially for Aspasia. The five texts in this Forum are a wonderful be- ginning of our discussions about the establishment and development of women’s and gender studies in CESEE in the last two decades. Next year we will continue with the presentation of the state of the art in this field in other important East European contexts. During the period under consideration, the category of ‘gender’ appeared as an analytical tool in the realm of historical research in CESEE as well. To follow these developments, the 2012 issue of Aspasia will host a Forum dedicated specifically to the appearance and progress of women’s and gender history as a field of study and an academic discipline in the region.

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“A Story, Exemplified in a Series of Figures“

Paper Doll versus Moral Tale in the Nineteenth Century

Hannah Field

Early in the nineteenth century the London publishers and printsellers, S. and J. Fuller, packaged paper dolls and storybooks together in their Temple of Fancy paper doll books. This article examines the tension between the narratives of these works—typically moral tales for children in which a love of clothing is punished—and the accompanying paper dolls, which celebrate costume and dressing up. The textual morals against love of clothing are gendered in problematic ways, with female characters mortified for this flaw more readily than male characters. However, the variety of potential reading experiences offered by the form of the paper doll book, in which picture and word are separate, is viewed as a challenge to the gendered moral content of the stories. Ultimately this article argues that the form of the paper doll book sheds new light on D. F. McKenzie's (1986) ideas about how readers make meaning from texts.

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Democracy and the Multitude

Spinoza against Negri

Sandra Field

Negri celebrates a conception of democracy in which the concrete powers of individual humans are not alienated away, but rather are added together: this is a democracy of the multitude. But how can the multitude act without alienating anyone's power? To answer this difficulty, Negri explicitly appeals to Spinoza. Nonetheless, in this paper, I argue that Spinoza's philosophy does not support Negri's project. I argue that the Spinozist multitude avoids internal hierarchy through the mediation of political institutions and not in spite of them; nor do these institutions merely emanate from the multitude as it is, but rather they structure, restrain and channel its passions. In particular, the required institutions are not those of a simple direct democracy. There may be other non-Spinozist arguments on which Negri can ground his theory, but he cannot legitimately defend his conception of the democratic multitude by appeal to Spinoza.

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Art and the Man

Alex La Guma's Comics and Paintings

Roger Field

This article explores two relatively unknown areas of Alex La Guma’s work – his comics and painting. While there is plenty of the former, information on the latter has come from his family and contemporaries. It is based on their memories and impressions of paintings that have not survived or have been lost. La Guma gave them away or left them with friends to look after when he and his family moved from Cape Town to London, and then from London to Havana. Necessarily, this article falls into two parts distinguishable by their respective emphases. While the first part relies on documentation, the second is more speculative and draws on the work of analysts associated with the object relations school of psychoanalytic theory.

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Dmitry V. Arzyutov

What do we know about the fieldwork of the ethnographers/ anthropologists of the North? How did they organize their research and what ideas have they left behind in their now archived field notes? Historians of anthropology along with anthropologists attempt to find answers to these questions through the analysis of field notes, diaries, letters, and reports, as well as published and unpublished works from the fieldworkers of the past. Despite the thousands of field notes and multiple narratives about how pre-Soviet and Soviet anthropologists heroically conducted their research in “uncivilized conditions” in remote areas, and how they were captured by ideologies of evolutionism, Soviet modernization and development, we still know little about their field research as a practice. This issue titled, “Beyond the Anthropological Texts: History and Theory of Fieldworking in the North” aims to start a discussion on the history and ethnography of ethnographic fieldworking in the North and Siberia.