11-12 July 2019
Encountering ‘the Uncomfortable Other’ in Ethnographic Research
Department of Anthropology and African Studies, JGU Mainz. Organizers: Lene Faust (Bern) and Simone Pfeifer (Mainz).
Please register for participation as places are limited. To register, email Simone Pfeifer (email@example.com).
Under a different name: Secrecy, Complicity, Ethnography
by Nitzan Shoshan (Mexico City)
Thursday, July 11, 19:00 pm, HS 15 (Hörsaal, Forum 7)
Drawing on his research under a false identity, in this talk Nitzan Shoshan reconsiders the ethical imperative of absolute transparency and full disclosure in the transactions of anthropologists with their interlocutors in the field. Motivated by recent political developments in numerous world regions—including Europe—anthropology has recently shown a growing interest in research agendas that appear to entail the systematic violation of some of its most cherished ethical paradigms. Shoshan reflects on the significance of these disciplinary shifts by examining his evolving relationships with his interlocutors, particularly the social workers who consented to grant him access to their young right-wing extremist “clients” on the condition that he takes up an alias. Working under a different name brings into focus the intensive metapragmatic labor in which anthropologists engage as they position themselves in their respective fields, a dimension of our labor that too often remains unexplored. How do we draw our interlocutors into webs of secrecy and complicity as we withhold and obfuscate information in our transactions with them? How do we recruit them to collaborate with our dissimulations, and how, in turn, do they call upon us to reciprocate by upholding theirs? How do such complicities get mobilized interactionally and become discursively framed? Recognizing the importance of secrecy and complicity in fieldwork situations invites us to think, too, about the limits of transparency and honesty in ethnographic work more generally.