Inner Dialogues: Negotiations Unfolding between the Field and one’s Desk
Schlagworte:Ethnography, writing, discomforts, uncomfortable reflexivity, ethical moments, South Africa
This article is concerned with the inner dialogues around ethical dilemmas and concerns which unfold somewhere between the field and one’s desk. It engages self-reflexively with how the subject of research is intimately connected with particular forms of representation and posits that it is especially ethnographic research on violence that renders the inherent premises and (com)promises of representation acutely tangible. Only seldom does the ethnographic story begin and end with the arrival and departure from the field. It is rather the case that the decision ‘about how to write’ does not develop linearly, is subject to shifts, and is often radically decentred at different points in time. In this article, I draw on my PhD research, conducted on the outskirts of Durban, South Africa, in which I became caught up in a series of hitman killings. When two of my main interlocutors were arrested for murder, I was confronted with the demand to make my ethnographic material available for the forthcoming trial. Taking this case as point of departure, I argue that, whilst significant efforts have been made to unravel the ethical tensions that define the everyday practice of doing field research, comparatively little conceptual work is available that engages with the nature of what we are doing when we write, the significance of ethical decision making therein, and how these unfold, leaving it to be something of a black box within research practice.
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