Participant observation for solidarity scholarship: opportunities, challenges, results Food Power, Food Sovereignty, and Food Security SOAS Anthropology of Food Professionalization Event Jessica DuncanCentre for Food Policy, City University London March 14, 2013
The point of this talk: • Make a case for participant observation (in solidarity with food social movements) • Discuss how and why I conducted fieldwork (as solidarity research) in a UN committee • Identify some of the challenges I faced/lessons learned • Reflect on the outcomes/tangible results
“The Field” Constructing the Field CFS 2007-8: food price crisis = 1 billion hungry 2009: Reform process for greater coordination and cohesion of food security policies Vision: The foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform …work together in a coordinated manner … towards the elimination of hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all human beings Civil Society Mechanism facilitates the participation of CSOs in the CFS, including input in negotiations and decision-making Decision to research in solidarity with many of these civil society actors. • The “field” is not an objective place • Site of reciprocal and contested relationships (Domosh 2003) • Site where actors co-construct meaning through various forms of interaction • These meanings are not static: they are continuously constructed, reconstructed, deconstructed, and enacted through interactions (or lack of thereof) • It is important not to assume that shared experience results in shared meaning CFS = Interface space which constitutes “important terrains for confrontations between social movements and the defenders of the neoliberal agenda that has dominated the world’s community’s discourse and actions over the past 3 decades” (McKeon 2009:48)
DoingParticipantObservation How it’s defined What I needed Methodological and ethical principles • Minimal methodology • Keep as close to the social phenomenon as possible – distinct from emphasis on distance and objectivity • Process of “deep hanging out” • Staring to understand processes from the perspective of those engaged • Active engagement and identification • Theoretical openness • Dialogue and reciprocity • Reflexivity • (Brem-Wilson forthcoming) • Gate keepers • Flexibility (a must) • Consultation • Feedback • Hard work • Language • Cultural and linguistic • Fundamental role of interpreters: voice -trust • Value of English (*) • Blog • Transparency • Publicprofile • Exposure • Remaining a-political (*) • Networkingtool • Motivation • Archive of thinking and process
Benefits of ParticipantObservation/SolidarityResearch • For Participant Observation: • Interviews = limited, actions don’t always align with words • Vantage point – as a co-constructor of meaning • For Solidarity Research: • Social movements produce knowledge • Connected via positionality to fields of relations - often “outsiders”, often “knowers” with a contentious and/or political quality (Brem-Wilson forthcoming) • Social movements = conducive sites to privilege meaning-making: activities foreground resistance to dominant norms and institutions (Kruzman 2008) • Reinforced through interviews with CFS negotiators • Raise possibilities of alternative world-views which challenges those engaged to rethink meanings often taken for granted
Key Challenges • Speaking social movement(s) and across cultures • Research/participant binary is critical • Negotiation of power relations, responsibilities and hierarchy within the constraints of the research project • How to assessing truth claims (avoid locking participants into a time and place of meaning (Domosh 2003) • Ontological argument for viewing experience sand broader processes as mutually constitutive • Researcher-CSO dynamics (shifting role) • Insider, outsider, both and neither (Mullings1999) • Gender politics • Bargaining with Patriarchy (Kandiyoti 1988, 1998) • Time- methodological tension in ethnography • Dealing with political sensitive analysis • Academic expectations vssolidarity vs capacity • Protecting participants • Emotion (highs/lows) • How to address this personally & academically • Getting too involved?
Outcomes & Tangible Results Outcomes for CSM actors Outputs from me Academic presentations and articles Academic legitimacy (peer review) Public talks Blog communicates information Facilitation & interpretation Support with grant writing, note taking, reports, briefs, presentations, videos, images, grants, advisory boards, committees … with varying outcomes • CFS = best practice in global governance • Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of national food security • Global Strategic Framework for Food Security and Nutrition • Mechanism to coordinate inclusive international civil society engagement in food security governance ANALYSIS
Resources and References Brem-Wilson, J. 2013. “Negotiating Positionality in the Pursuit of Solidarity Research: Towards Participatory, Engaged Social Movement Scholarship.”Forthcoming. (contact author for info: jbremwilson at gmail.com) Brockmann, M. 2011. “Problematising short-term participant observation and multi-method ethnographic studies.” Ethnography and Education 6(2):229–243. Casas-Cortés, María Isabel, Michal Osterweil, and Dana E Powell. 2008. “Blurring Boundaries : Recognizing Knowledge-Practices in the Study of Social Movements.” Anthropological Quarterly 81(1):5–15. Chesters, Graeme. 2012. “Social Movement Studies : Journal of Knowledge Production Social Movements and the Ethics of Knowledge Production.” Journal of Social, Cultural and Political Protest 11(2):145–160. Domosh, Mona. 2003. “Toward a More Fully Reciprocal Feminist Inquiry.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 2(1):107–111. Esteves, Ana Margarida, Sara Motta, and Laurence Cox. 2009. “‘ Civil society ’ versus social movements.” Interface: a journal for and about social movements 1(2):1–21. Kandiyoti, Deniz. 1988. “Bargaining with Patriarchy.” Gender and Society 2(3):274–290. Kurzman, Charles. 2008. “Meaning-Making in Social Movements.” Anthropological Quarterly 81(1):5–15. Mckeon, Nora. 2009. “Who speaks for peasants ? Civil society , social movements and the global governance of food and agriculture.” Interface: a journal for and about social movements 1(2):48–82. Morell, Mayo Fuster. 2009. “Action research : mapping the nexus of research and political action.” Interface: a journal for and about social movements 1(1):21–45. Nagar, Richa, and Farah Ali. 2003. “Collaboration across borders: moving beyond positionality.” Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 24(3):356–372. Nagar, Richa, and Susan Geiger. 2007. “Reflexivity and Positionality in Feminist Fieldwork Revisited.” Pp. 267–278 in Politics and Practice in Economic Geography, edited by Eric Sheppard, Jamie Peck, and Trevor Barnes. London: Sage. Sultana, Farhana. 2007. “Participatory Ethics : Negotiating Fieldwork Dilemmas in International Research.” ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 6(3):374–385. Tsolidis, Georgina. 2008. “The (im)possibility of poststructuralist ethnography – researching identities in borrowed spaces.” Ethnography and Education 3(3):271–281. Ward, Kevin G, and Martin Jones. 1999. “Researching local elites : reflexivity, ‘situatedness’ and political-temporal contingency.” Geoforum 30:301–312.
THANK YOU! “ If we have learned anything about anthropology’s encounter with colonialism, the question is not really whether anthropologists can represent people better, but whether we can be accountable to people’s own struggles for representation and self determination.” Visweswaran, K. (1990) Fictions of Feminist Ethnography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. P. 32. Contact: email@example.com View Presentation: foodgovernance.com