Articles with tag: ethnography

07/15/2022 _Perspective

Making the ‘Other’ Visible in Ethnographic Research

Reflections through the Lens of Caste and Gender, from a Non-Metropolitan City in West Bengal, India

1_ Introduction This paper is an attempt to find some possible contextual answers to the ethico-political concerns that surround the question of methodology in feminist ethnography. My larger research project sought to understand the forced migration induced by the Partition of British India (1947) in my hometown, Asansol in West Bengal, India. [1] In doing so, I took as my protagonists women from the Dalit/Bahujan families, [2] who had hitherto been invisibilized in the narrativization of the Partition. I understand invisibilization as a political act through which dominant groups reduce heterogenous experiences of an event, such as that of the Partition, to a homogenous ‘master narrative.’ This master narrative in the case of the Partition in India, and in West Bengal specifically, was told largely from an upper-caste point of view and comprised of multiple cultural productions—films, autobiographies, memoirs—and was crucial for the ways in which the upper-caste population negotiated with state in seeking and achieving rehabilitation. In the process, the differential experiences of the Partition and rehabilitation as well as the caste-based injustices therein were erased. Consequently, both in its academic and popular culture versions, Dalit/Bahujan women and their specific experiences were not thematized. Even the feminist counter-narratives had erased the specificities of caste and its impact on the experiences of refugeehood. [3] In contrast, my doctoral research aimed to understand through an ethnographic approach how Dalit/Bahujan women experienced the Partition and its aftermath, especially in the long-durée, in the context of Asansol, a non-metropolitan city in West Bengal, where the refugees from government camps, largely from Dalit/Bahujan backgrounds had been rehabilitated to provide cheap labor for the industrial development in the area. I began my doctoral research in 2017, seeking to rethink the Partition-migration in West Bengal India, through the intersecting frameworks of caste, gender and region. In the process of this ethnographic research, as a cis-het, upper-caste woman and a third-generation member of a Partition-migrant family, my established notions of ‘feminist’ ethics and politics were continuously put to test. I constantly battled the insider and outsider status throughout the course of my research: Being part of a migrant family on my mother’s side, I had been exposed to milieus similar to the research context since my birth. [4] In fact, some of the respondents of the study were acquaintances of my mother’s whom she had lived and grown up with. Her class background was similar to that…

05/30/2016 _Perspective

Design and Modeling as Processes of Creating Culture

In the framework of the investigation into “Research as Art” by research area ‘Visual and Material Culture,’ Prof. Claudia Mareis (Basel) and Dr. Reinhard Wendler (Florence) hosted a two-day workshop on “Designing Models, Modelling Design” (February 3–4, 2016). In the workshop, the concepts of ‘design’ and ‘model’ served as semantic vehicles for a discussion on the temporal and material character of meaning-making. As ideas, both can foster an interdisciplinary analysis of emerging cultural phenomena, transcending disciplinary boundaries in academia as well as those between different fields of cultural reflection, social planning, and material production (such as architecture or engineering). The workshop revolved around the central notion that the creation of objects and images during modeling and design processes can fulfill a multitude of different functions: as means of representation, ideation, planning, or communicating ideas, they shape historically specific emergences of cultural phenomena. …

05/30/2016 _Perspective

Shake Those Methods!

The Art of Doing Research

In the winter term 2015/16, the GCSC research area ‘Visual and Material Culture’ held a number of meetings on the application of the research methodology while conducting research in the study of culture. As the immediacy of practical application of the research methods leaves a strong imprint on the ideas and knowledge that appear in academia, we wanted to report on our discussions in the light of the theoretical concept of ‘emergence.’ …

05/30/2016 _Perspective

Research Design

The explorative potential of research-planning processes in visual and material culture

The first session of the Creative Emergence of a Research Method series was dedicated to thinking about research processes and their design. The non-planned potential knowledge, emerging during those processes (also while reflecting on the research design process itself) became a central topic. It was a provocative session in which we took the abstract notion of ‘design’ as the ‘rituals of creativity’ and compared research design to object- or service-design processes. …

05/30/2016 _Perspective

Curating as Research

In recent years, curating seems to have become a flourishing practice; everything seems to be curated today: meals, music, marriage ceremonies. But beyond these inflationary uses, the professional curation of museums, exhibitions, or collections has also received increased attention — the arena where curating as research and means in the production of knowledge comes to the fore. University courses in traditional curating are booming, but there is little academic literature on the subject, and it often remains vague as to what the role of the curator and their methods and repertoire of tools might look like. For me as an artist, curator, and academic, but also for the research area ‘Visual and Material Culture,’ these questions, as well as how curatorial practice relates to academic work, are of central concern. …