Giving Care, Writing Self: A New Ethnography

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At best, abstracted ethics formulated from the comfort of a proverbial armchair are a sort of anxiety reducing practice for giving the self the belief that dealing with the unpredictability of ethnographic life in the field is within the scope of abstracted reasoning nourished by immersion in appropriate canonical texts.

The customary reliance upon written ethical approval based upon appraisal of written documents submitted is also obnoxious to us on moral grounds because it obscures attention from the virtues of the researcher upon whose own ethical integrity any research revolves. Indeed, conformity to institutional research ethics board prescriptions may undermine the quality and originality afforded by autonomous researchers Deuchar ; Locke, Ovando and Montecinos Capitalism contains a model of the virtuous person and models of research impact or relevance. As critical criminologists, we are sympathetic to the vision of Jock Young expressed in The Criminological Imagination , where he makes us aware of how criminal justice is biased towards serving vested interests of the existing social class hierarchy.

In brief, if as researchers our ethical stance involves moral empathy towards the marginalized groups we work with, this potentially puts us at loggerheads with the universal ethical orientation inherent in institutional ethics approval processes.

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In terms of our argument, the decisions they enforce upon researchers, especially in the light of the contemporary nature of higher education, means that the oppression we seek to highlight is reinforced as one is legally obligated to respect a capitalist order culpable for producing the injustices that Jock Young eloquently exposes.

It should be clear that we take a position of ethical relativism in terms of the conduct of research relations in the field and knowledge production. In this dystopian framing, regulatory research ethics is not really about ethics, but risk management. We then explore the supposed contribution of reflexivity to the production of unresolved contestations in the field. We believe this is important for the sake of clarity, as there has always been contestation within ethnography as a concept and material praxis Atkinson, Coffey and Delamont Also, this is necessary for the sake of relevance to our questioning political project, as such variety inevitably provokes conflicting ethical concerns and provisional solutions.

Finally, if we concur with Adler and Adler that epistemology and reflexivity are at the heart of ethnography, then surely a text on reflexivity in ethnography must celebrate and model critical reflexivity. Therefore, ethnography is an endeavour to write about, to describe, a given group or community with a focus on its cultural features.

For some this is but a part of a wider project to advocacy and support mobilization. In the s, Malinowski [] had already pointed out that inside knowledge is a central feature of ethnography, although his personal diaries demonstrated prejudices which contaminated his integrity of respect for other ways of being. Whatever the extent of the immersion, asking questions too early in fieldwork is a recipe for negative experience and ostracism.

Despite appearing trivial, the two paragraphs above set political frontiers and discursive boundaries.

Namely, they leave out the so-called auto-ethnographies Brunt , as well as research that relies heavily on more structured arrangements for data collection focus groups, interviews, and so on or on technical equipment namely video and audio recorders. More on that later.

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This is a consequence of the centrality of a typically solitary participant observation and deep immersion in fields historically at great distances from the homes of the researchers. The process of data collection relies upon becoming accepted by those one is trying to research.

This focus on data collection and analysis is fundamental if one concurs with Anderstaay that the goal of ethnography is the production of knowledge rather than, for example, the emancipation of the people one is researching. However, we do not see the ethnographer as a mechanistic kind of knowledge-production machine. Quite the contrary: the concentration of technical activities is necessarily accompanied by an emotional approximation to the field and the people in it Neves Identities have to be flexible, caring and empathetic if the immersion is to work.

Indeed, generating inside knowledge requires personal implication of the ethnographer, often leading to significant — sometimes difficult to integrate — amounts of resocialization in the field Emerson, Fretz and Shaw ; Neves This, of course, is a result of the descriptive goal of ethnography, as mentioned above. Texts, in the form of field notes, are the main recording device in ethnography, coupled increasingly with the affordances of visual technologies, cameras and videos.

Goal, method, main instrument, and recording and analytical device: the four core elements of ethnography as we understand them. Surely, they are presented separately not because they are independent, but for presentational clarity. Being reflexive is also being aware of the inevitability and bias of any rational reconstruction of the research process Bourdieu Why do some researchers decide to study prostitution, violence, the addictions or madness? What for? What drives us, ethnographers of crime and deviance?

If we seek to understand the values of others and how they socially construct the meanings defining who they are and the choices they make, we benefit from clarifying our own constructs as they help define these encounters with strangers. We need not only worry about the people in the field and the people who will read our work, but also about continuing to live with ourselves Whyte [] , a theme resonant of the gap in the ethics approval process which neglects attention to the ethical values of the researcher as a person.

Of all people, ethnographers should know the limits of an apparent context-free, disembodied bureaucratically constructed ethical code Deuchar If not, how are we as critical researchers to suggest alternatives to administrative, aprioristic, impersonal, anticipatory regulatory regimes on whose employment and power to approve we depend? It is striking that those ethical themes are simultaneously, more often than not, also central methodological issues connected with immersion through participant observation. All of these social dynamics are on-going, dynamic encounters; the processes are typically tacit and invisible to the players.

It might be argued that the degree of manipulation and seduction varies as a function of the difficulty of gaining access to a given field. If true, this would mean that ethnographers of crime and deviance probably incur to a larger extent in such behaviours. One of us certainly felt that in his earlier studies on drug addiction, as he stretched his middle-upper class self to new postures and behaviours to ensure gaining access to a world different from his own.

To manipulate others one needs also to manipulate oneself. It appears, then, that there is no possibility of ethical purity in ethnography.

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Why would — or rather, how could — ethnographic life be very different when its method seeks, by and large, to emulate the common life themes of others in scholarly fashion? However, it is mostly in the final ethnographic text that such promises are put to the test. There are two general directions in which this style of cultural criticism has evolved. The second form of criticism arises from the study of social institutions and cultural forms.

More recent studies, especially in sociology, deal with the production of cultural forms such as music, the text, and art Becker ; Griswold ; Petersen Thus a study of the researcher's own culture allows for the construction of "otherness" from a new vantage point. Being an insider and yet providing a cultural critique privileges one; on the other hand, it makes the researcher more vulnerable to cultural criticism.

But the benefit of such a process is that it minimizes cultural chauvinism that has often accompanied the interpretation of an exotic "other. Secondly, by virtue of this dual position, the ethnographer is able to identify the various possibilities and alternatives as they exist in reality. Two examples are examined below. The importance of this article can be appreciated when one considers the background information and critical political underpinnings of the consumer behavior odyssey project.

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Dissatisfaction with the existing logical positivist philosophy expressed by a number of consumer researchers since the early 80's eventually led to the coalescing of efforts by "a substantial and sociometrically- central minority" to question the appropriateness of this position Belk This group then decided to embark on the Odyssey Project, which was to employ a variety of naturalistic methods to explore American consumption. In order to receive funding from the Marketing Science Institute MSI , it was decided that a subset of the larger group would do a pilot project.

The article on the Red Mesa Swap Meet was the outcome. The purpose of the article on the Red Mesa Swap Meet is to document both the process and the outcome of interpretive research. It is essentially a tutorial and takes the reader through the various research stages encountered by the authors at a swap meet.

Consequently, the first half of the paper is an explanation of data collection methods, data recording techniques, the creation of field notes, and the keeping of the field journal. Together they form the basis for the written account. Since the purpose is not to focus on the crafting of the text itself, the latter half of the paper deals briefly with their findings. It is the first account of its kind in the consumer behavior literature to deal explicitly and systematically with alternate methodologies and paradigms for doing research, although Hirschman's article attempts to do the same.

This account of the swap meet is a prelude to the Odyssey Project. It is based on traditional fieldwork at a single venue and explores a variety of significant actors, events, and processes.

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As in other ethnographic accounts, etic and emic differences are well documented. The reader is introduced to the site and is provided with a map of the meet. This is followed by some general information about the organization of the vendor area. Next, a brief description of the line-up and ambience is provided. The authors provide a brief description of the sellers and buyers, followed by a discussion of the emergent themes and possible hypotheses that could be tested further.

The authors' concern with the scientific nature of the study is particularly important, given the newness of the framework in consumer research and the considerable hostility of some researchers in the field toward such a paradigm Sherry The pilot was critical to the launching of the Odyssey Project. Too much was at stake and, as Belk notes,. It was partly a labor of love, partly that this effort promised larger rewards in potential funding for the summer project, and partly that it was now time to 'put up or shut up' about the project.

By juxtaposing the richer findings garnered from such alternative methods in specific consumption contexts to established concepts in the field, they raise havoc with our thinking and conventional modes of studying consumer behavior. In their words p. The field has attained some elegance and precision but lacks soul, feeling and sensitivity to natural consumption contexts.

But because naturalistic inquiry studies consumers in situ and provides thick qualitative insights, it can potentially inject the richness that Tucker saw as missing in our research.