All entries for Wednesday 11 May 2005

May 11, 2005

feminist ethnographies

More notes for the blog, since I panic and freeze when confronted by a blank page in Microsoft Word, and this at least makes me feel like I'm being semi-productive. I think I will just hand in some webpage addresses next week instead of an essay – either that or find a PA who can make sense of my disparate ramblings and quotations and write them up in something ressembling a meaningful and coherent essay form…

Notes on two articles
Stacey, Judith. 1988. Can there be a feminist ethnography? Women's Studies International Forum, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 21–27.

and Skeggs, Beverley. 1994. Situating the Production of Feminist Ethnography. In Maynard, Mary and Purvis, June (eds), 1994. Researching Women's Lives from a Feminist Perspective. Taylor & Francis: London.

Stacey begins by making the point that many feminist scholars have found ethnograpy to be especially apt for feminist research because it approaches knowledge as experiential and contextual, rejects positivism's false dualisms, and establishes an egalitarian relationship between knower-known

Aims of feminist research:

Most [feminist scholars] view feminist research as primarily research on, by and especially for women and draw sharp distinctions between the goals and methods of mainsteam and feminist scholarship. [They] evnice widespread disenchantment with the dualisms, abstractions, and detachment of positivism, rejecting the separations between subject and object, thought and feeling, knower and known, and political and personal as well as their reflections in the arbitrary boundaries of traditional academic disciplines. Instead most feminist scholars advoce an integrative, trans-disciplinary approach to knowledge which grounds theory contextually in the concrete realm of women's everyday lives. (Stacey 1988: 21)

Ethnography as specifically feminist:

Like a good deal of feminism, ethnography emphasizes the experiential. Its approach to knowledge is contextual and interpersonal, attentive like most women, therefore, to the concrete realm of everyday reality and human agency… this method draws on those resources of empathy, connection, and concern that many feminists consider to be women's special strengths and which they argue should be germinal in feminist research. (ibid: 22)

However, Stacey argues that ethnographic methods ironcially subject research subjects to greater risk of exploitation, betrayal and abandonment by the researcher than positivist research.

The lives, loves, and tragedies that fieldwork informants share with a researcher are ultimately data, grist for the ethnographic mill… (ibid: 23)
…an ethnography is a written document structured primarily by a researcher's purposes, offering a researcher's interpretations, registered in a researcher's voice (ibid).
The greater the intimacy, the apparent mutuality of the researcher / researched relationship, the greater is the danger (ibid: 24)

Postmodern ethnography

Stacey highlights a need for fertile dialogue between feminist scholarship and poststructural ethnography (one which has since been realised?)

[Critical ethnographers] attempt to bring to their research an awareness that ethnographic writing is not cultural reportage but cultural construction, and always a construction of self as well as of the other (ibid).

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