WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn77 )

Ethnographic dissonance: working with gendered identities in the field

Organizers

    Ménard Anaïs

    France

    Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

    Online - Presence

    Marie Deridder

    Belgium

    UCLouvain

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Global Feminisms and Queer Politics

Keywords:

Ethnography, gender, identities, dissonance, epistemology

Abstract:

Ethnographic methods rest on a reflexive process about one’s engagement with the field. They rely on the premise that researchers conform to (or at least work with) local social norms. However, when it comes to gender, this epistemological necessity can lead to social and moral dissonance between the researcher’s own identity and values, and their position as an ‘unbiased’ scholar. In the wake of decolonial endeavors and the #MeToo movement, reflecting on scholars’ situated identities has become critical to ethical knowledge-making. Identity work, in the field, requires researchers to negotiate a gender assignment and role that emerge in interaction with the changing social environment of the research. This gendered identity builds on the researcher’s positionality (gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, religion etc.), on their personality, and on the intersubjective process that develops through social interactions. Yet, the ‘frontstage’ that researchers display may be at odds with their own values, which may create uncomfortable and/or violent situations and undermine the sincerity of the exchange between researchers and their interlocutors. This process impacts not only the collection of ethnographic data, but also their interpretation and the production of texts. In this panel, we invite papers that explore the gender dimension of ethnographic practice from an epistemological perspective and reflect on researchers’ strategies to engage with emic concepts of gender in the field. How do scholars actively endorse, resist or contest assigned gendered identities? How do they use/perform gender norms to craft a public persona and how does this influence relations in the field? How do they manage backstage and frontstage gendered identities? How do they negotiate the ambivalent requirements of assuming alterity and acquiring social respectability? How do they employ processes of disclosing or silencing (when possible) their own identities? What does this imply in terms of risk-taking in the field?