• Commitment, Correspondence, and Fieldwork as Nonvolitional Dwelling: A Weberian Critique

    Patrick Eisenlohr (see profile)
    Ethnology--Fieldwork, Ethnology, Anthropology
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Tim Ingold, History of anthropology, anthropology of ethics, Mauritius, Ethnographic fieldwork, Ethnography
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    Contribution to a volume reflecting on Tim Ingold’s recent interventions on the relationship between anthropology and ethnography. I engage with Tim Ingold’s critique of the term ethnographic and the practice of ethnography as a way to describe our encounters with interlocutors during field research. Contra Ingold, however, I make a case for understanding such encounters as ethnographic. Interactions in the field are ethnographic because our knowledge interests, as well as institutional and professional commitments as anthropologists are not just something we bring to bear on the record of encounters with our interlocutors after the fact. They also have a way of strongly influencing our encounters in the field long before they even begin. Successful and ethical field research does not require the sort of organic oneness with one’s informants Ingold points to when he takes “correspondence” and “ontological commitment” as hallmarks of participant observation. Conversely, Ingoldian correspondence and ontological commitment can also occur in fieldwork by activists, guerillas, marketing researchers or journalists, and does not necessarily distinguish the fieldwork of anthropologists from that of other actors with different, or even opposed ends and value orientations. Drawing on my fieldwork experience in Mauritius, I argue that ethnographic fieldwork is a professional practice that acknowledges and makes explicit differences in knowledge interests and practical goals among ethnographers and their interlocutors in order to make collaboration between people with frequently different social and professional commitments and life projects possible.
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    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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