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LEDS Session 27 February – Ethnopoetics and the Reflexive Researcher

18 February 2019

The next LEDS meeting will take place on the 27 February, at the usual time of 4.30pm, in Room 2.46. It will be led by Dr Natasha Carver, and please see the abstract below:

Ethnopoetics and the Reflexive Researcher

Marriage, Gender and Refugee Migration (Carver, forthcoming) explores perceptions of marriage, marital relations and separation among UK-Somali migrants living in Bristol. Based on eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork including forty-four interviews, I use CA, narrative and discourse analysis to capture and analyse group-specific narratives which regulate and reproduce gendered cultural identities following migration, as well as to identify broader dominant discourses which are used to sustain, justify and reproduce gendered identities. 

In this LEDS session, I would like to discuss the value of ethnopoetics as a tool for the reflexive researcher. Whilst the data in interactions and interviews were jointly produced, the researcher as author has a monopoly over transcription and representation. As such, consideration of how and what to transcribe and include in publication must be a major component of the feminist protocol of ‘thinking ethically’ throughout the research process (Miller et al 2012:1). As Roberts argues, ‘we are transcribing people when we transcribe talk’ (Roberts 1997:170), anonymous or otherwise, and the ‘smallest representational decision may have serious consequences for those transcribed’ (Jenks 2011:18). Detailed transcription may be a more nominally accurate presentation of what was said and how it was said, it may provide plurality of voices, and document some of the unsaid, but it is still a representation, a re-presentation (Jackson 2003). It does not overcome the problematic and irresolvable question of ‘voicing the Other’. Western feminists have been repeatedly challenged by postcolonial theorists for speaking for the subaltern (Spivak 1986; hooks 1983), often in such a way as to mask their own role (and the power it wields) in the production of the text.

As a means of addressing this issue, Mazzei and Jackson (2012:750) call for researchers to refuse to let voices speak for themselves. Drawing inspiration from Deleuze’s analysis of voice in “silent” pictures, they ask (2012:748) ‘what might it mean to “see” a speech-act according to Deleuze?’ Here, I would like to discuss whether ethnopoetics, building on Blackledge et al’s (2016) ‘rescue’ of Hymesian ethnopoetics, can be of use in addressing this issue.

No pre-reading is required, but for those interested (and many thanks to Piotr for bringing the Blackledge et al article to my attention), then please see:

Blackledge, A., Creese, A. and Hu, R. (2016) ‘The structure of everyday narrative in a city market: an ethnopoetics approach’ in Journal of Sociolinguistics 20(5):654-676.

Mazzei, L. and Jackson, A. (2012) ‘Complicating voice in a refusal to “Let Participants Speak for Themselves”’ in Qualitative Inquiry 18(9):745-751.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible!