19 SES 11, The Role and Experiences of Writing in Ethnographic Research
Experimental ethnographers such as Michael Taussig and Stephen Muecke(1) assert that an ethnographic project should not consist of stages - preliminary literature work, field work, analysis and writing a final text. This kind of work assumes distance from the world being studied. Drawing on Deleuze (2001), they argue that ethnography is always immanent; the ethnographer is not distanced and set apart from the world, but is rather with the world, inseparable and always becoming with/upon/of it. The rejection of a transcendent and unitary researcher self and the move to with/upon/of is an onto-epistemological move. The ethnographer functions in and on the world, with it and through it, mapping their environment and thus discovering their own delimited powers and relations. Taussig and Muecke are not concerned with representation, as have been many anthropologists (e.g. Geertz, 1988, Rosaldo, 1989). Writing ethnography not only brings the ethnographer into being, but also needs to bring the specific place/culture/material world into the text, to become part of it. In this paper, we explore the Taussig/Muecke argument looking at the talking/writing integral to a six-year ethnography examining learning programmes at Tate. We have been engaged in a long conversation. Through dialogue and shared and individual writing, we continually form relations, affects, connections – becomings and world-ings. Our talking/writing produces "relations of movement and rest, speed and slowness between unformed elements”(Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). We thus have been working with and through text as montage, using different writing voices, images, snatches of theory and extracts from field notes. We find ourselves engaged in writing which is the learning with/upon/of contemporary art - non-linear, always incomplete and in a state of becoming, and a mix of the sensory, affective and critically reflective. (1) see Sunset Ethnography https://vimeo.com/113130961
Deleuze, G., 2001. Pure immanence Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Deleuze, G. & Guattari, F., 1987. A thousand plateaus. Capitalism and schizophrenia: University of Minnesota Press. Geertz, C., 1988. Works and lives. The anthropologist as author, 1994 ed. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Rosaldo, R., 1989. Culture and truth. The remaking of social analysis, 1993 ed. Beacon Press: Boston.
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