15 May 2017

Promoting publications behind paywalls... or anthro everywhere! in Anthropologica

Jennifer and Rhiannon at CASCA-IUAES
with Vol. 59, Issue 1 of Anthropologica (May 2017)
What a nice surprise to arrive at the CASCA-IUAES intercongress last week and see our new journal article "Agency and Agendas: Revisiting the role of the Researcher and the Researched in Ethnographic Research" published in the most recent issue of Anthropologica! This article was co-authored by the authors of anthro everywhere! (Rhiannon Mosher and Jennifer Long) as well as Elisabeth Le and Lauren Harding.

This is also an opportune moment to reflect on how we can best communicate about our new article through social media. During CASCA the publisher (University of Toronto Press) had made this latest issue open access, but now that the conference has ended, our article is once again behind a paywall. So, as Aidnography suggests in Don’t post direct links to your new journal article! (17 April 2017), here's a brief description of our latest publication. If you have access to Anthropologica as a CASCA member, or through your institution, we hope that you download and read the full text.

"Agency and Agendas"
"Agency and Agendas" came out of the discussions we had as members of a panel during CASCA 2015 with the late Pierre Maranda (1930-2015) on the researcher as starting point for ethnographic research. Growing out of that early discussion, this article focused in on how ethnographic research is an essentially collaborative project between the researcher and the researched, all of whom exert agency in how they choose to engage with the ethnographic project (or not), and in the service of their own agendas -- which may align or differ from those identified by the researcher in their project. This article doesn't focus on explicitly collaborative research approaches -- like PAR or activist approaches -- but thinks about how ethnographic knowledge is created more generally. In thinking through the diversity of moments that comprise what we come to know through this approach to social research, we find Anna Tsing's notion of "friction" useful, as it "engages not only the ‘‘awkward zone of encounter’’ but also the potentially generative results of diverse, even divergent, agendas and agencies coming together" (Mosher et al. 2017:154). As we write,
Tsing’s friction refers not to conflict or poor relations among the researcher or researched. Instead, friction refers to the idea that our interlocutors are agentive individuals who wilfully take part in, and influence, our research. How our interlocutors participate (or refuse to participate) deeply affects our work as ethnographers (Mosher et al. 2017:146).
In this article, we wanted to try to move beyond simply discussing reflexivity and positionality, and instead consider how the people who participate in our research co-create what we consider 'the field' -- how this interaction deeply "enables, shapes, redirects, and limits the kinds of research we may ultimately produce." Through drawing on our own research experiences, we argue that what we come to know through ethnography "is in no small part due to the agency and agendas of those we recruit as participants in our studies" (Mosher et al. 2017:147). As authors, we tackle these questions and hope to open up this discussion through addressing considerations of:
  • how our potential participants shape and direct our access to data. Our interactions with the people, places, and issues that we seek to understand are deeply entangled in the iterative process of ethnography.
  • what might be called the "observed" effect on our research. In what ways are we and our research agendas/ approaches shaped by becoming an object of scrutiny among our research community/ participants/ informants? 
  • the adaptation of ethnographic methods to non-academic research contexts. With the growing interest in ethnographic methods in industry, how can anthropologists pursue "thick" ethnographic relationships and insights in the context of rapid, industry research timelines (including where our research contacts have been pre-arranged by a third party)?
  • the afterlives of research. How do the reputations of past researchers among the communities we study impact or frame the kind of research we do in the present? How might our own research findings become incorporated into yet unimagined future projects and agendas, including among our former research communities?

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