Face-to-face research is awesome

After reading Borneman (2014) I’ve been a lot less apologetic about my interests, claims and evidence being so strongly shaped by my field work. I mean even which reports I poured over was often influenced by ‘the serendipity of field work’. That seems like convenience sampling to me. Only it was not particularly ‘convenient’ to undertake field work and following face-to-face encounters seems like a pretty powerful way to find something worth learning.

Here are some more quotes to add to the stock of authorisations to draw on.

‘Their [Joseph Conrad and Bronislaw Malinowski – discussed by Geetz and Clifford] subsequent descriptions of social life and behaviour emerged from their firsthand experience of living amidst others who possessed radically different social, cultural and moral values. Without such interactions, neither would have become the same writer or obtained the same insights into the complexity of the human condition. If the resulting perspective is cosmopolitan, it is thus not a property of Western enlightenment values, urban life, displacement or temperament per se, but a moral appreciation of human difference that emerges, in part, through movement and face-to-face interaction, here understood as existential possibilities that continually generate new viewpoints and signify the presence of other perspectives. At the very least, this not only exposes the provisional, finite and bodily basis of perception, knowledge and belief, but also indicates how other persons form a perspective on oneself, including the verification of one’s existence, moral values and beliefs. Truth becomes contextualized within the face-to-face encounter.’ (Irving 2015: 71)

‘The cosmopolitan project is thus based on different modes of acting that constitute the imaginative, empathetic and practical means through which people attempt to reach an understanding. However, unlike an actor’s attempts to represent other people’s lifeworlds, academic approaches must not only offer a believable performance, but one that is truthful, moral and empirically justifiable, one that emerges from the field and is not the preserve of God or even small gods.’ (Irving 2015: 73)

Borneman, J., 2014. Containment in interlocution-based fieldwork encounters: Thought, theory, and transformative thinking. Anthropological Theory, 14(4), pp.442–461.
Irving, A., 2015. Chance, Contingency and the Face-to-Face Encounter. In N. G. Schiller & A. Irving, eds. Whose cosmopolitanism? Critical perspectives, relationalities and discontents. New York & Oxford: Berghahan Books, pp. 65–73.



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