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An Ethnographer Lured into Darkness

Barker, E; (2020) An Ethnographer Lured into Darkness. In: Wiesser, C and Pilch Ortega, A, (eds.) Ethnography in Higher Education. (pp. 157-175). Springer VS: Wiesbaden, Germany. Green open access

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No matter the combination of methods ethnographers bring to their research design and to participant observation, our pursuit to log, interpret, analyse and present the lives of those we meet is never an entirely intellectual or objective one. Ethnographic fieldwork is intimately sensory (Pink, Doing sensory ethnography, Sage, London, 2015), invokes our imagination (Sparkes, Qualitative research in sport and exercise, 1:21–35, 2009) and requires us to actively navigate social landscapes (Hammersley and Atkinson, Field relations. Ethnography: Principles in practice, Routledge, Stoodleigh, 2007). There is a tendency for these elements to fade in terms of visibility and immediacy within the research process. For those in accord with (Davies, Reflexive ethnography: A guide to researching selves and others, Routledge, New York, 2008), continuous reflexive labour becomes a core praxis to monitor the ways we observe and participate in this textured environment. Without this, we are left in the dark and are less able to see how we can (or should) respond to the nitty–gritty qualitative nature of ethnography. In this Chapter, two of methodological vignettes will act as entry points to unpack a set of tensions that commanded my attention during an eighteen months ethnography in Higher Education. ‘You Look Like an Ivory Tower Student’, for example, begins to troubleshoot ethnographic participation within educational environments. ‘Going Dark’, on the other hand, problematises the prioritisation of visual observations that are implicit in ethnographic tradition. Throughout these discussions a metaphor of being lured into darkness is offered as a productive orientation for ethnography.

Type: Book chapter
Title: An Ethnographer Lured into Darkness
ISBN-13: 978-3-658-30381-5
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-30381-5_10
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-30381-5_10
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: Sensory ethnography; Darkness; Examples of reflexivity; Performing arts
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10110314
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