Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper

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<ul><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 1/13</p><p>Moral and Political Ethnography</p><p>Nina Eliasoph</p><p>To do ethnographyalso called participant-observation, the researcher both observes and</p><p>participates in situations in the research "subjects" o!n spaces, during the noral ties that the subjects</p><p>are there, doing !hatever it is that they norally do# This $ind o% research is di%%erent %ro intervie!ing,</p><p>because in an ethnographic study, your subjects are interacting already, !hether or not you are there# &amp;t is</p><p>di%%erent %ro survey research because you cannot test variables, cannot design your hypotheses in advance</p><p>and test the, but discover categories as you go' since you are in the %ield %or a !hile, you can change your</p><p>coparisons and categories over tie# (ou are not loo$ing %or !hat is deep and hidden, but %or !hat people</p><p>can do and say together, !here, !ith !ho# )bservation is obviously the central %eature o% participant-</p><p>observation, but it !or$s best i% the researcher has a role in the setting, so that he or she can %eel %irst hand</p><p>!hat it is li$e to have to solve the pu**les that participants theselves have to solve#</p><p>+tudying political or civic involveent through ethnography allo!s you to as$ ho! people create</p><p>everyday places !here they can learn about society, learn to care about society, and epress their</p><p>coitents publicly# +tudying social coitent this !ay includes an iplicit theory o% citi*enship as</p><p>inevitably shared and interactive# &amp;n contrast, ost research on political engageent is ore disebodied#</p><p>&amp;t relies on surveys, intervie!s, and %ocus groups the researcher creates the contet, !hile, %or</p><p>ethnography, the !hole point is to as$ ho! participants theselves iagine and re-iagine their</p><p>relationships together ho! the participants theselves create contets# &amp;% !e iagine deocratic or civic</p><p>virtues as inhering in people.s heads, as objects that they can carry around !ith the unused all day, and</p><p>just ta$e the out !hen it.s tie to vote, then !e !ould not !ant to do this $ind o% research# &amp;ntervie!s</p><p>and %ocus group can approiate the ethnographic ethod, but they are still very di%%erent# / %ocus group</p><p>gives people a chance to tal$ politics, but the researcher still cannot $no! ho! the contet o% the %ocus</p><p>group di%%ers %ro the ore usual contets in !hich intervie!ees conduct political dialogue#</p><p>(ou are not trying to get to the botto o% things, %ind out the real reasons !hy people have their</p><p>opinions' you are just observing !hat they can do or say, !here, !ith !ho# &amp;% !e !ant to understand</p><p>political engageent, !e need to understand ho! and !here people create everyday contets that a$e</p><p>political dialogue possible#</p><p>This essay !ill be very hands-on, a ho!-to that gives soe pointers about ho! to study civic</p><p>engageent and identities in everyday li%e# 0ut theori*ing is inescapable the people you are studying have</p><p>their o!n theories about !hat they are doing together, so you ust both reveal their theori*ing and copare</p><p>it to your o!n, !hich ay not atch theirs# The ethod is inetricable %ro theory, so ost o% this</p><p>hands-on !ill be about ho! to do !hat soe o% us call theory by !ay o% ethnography 12laeser 34456#</p><p>Most o% the essay gives conceptual tools that allo! you to practice the art o% ta$ing %ieldnotes,</p><p>since these notes are the heart and soul o% an ethnographic study# &amp;n that long section on ho! to ta$e</p><p>%ieldnotes, !e highlight !ays o% organi*ing your perceptions,</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 2/13</p><p>7# 0y closely observing the !ays that people translatethe sae eperience into di%%erent !ords</p><p>depending on !ho the spea$er is, !ho the listeners are, on !ho the iagined listeners are, on !hat</p><p>$inds o% epectations8or %un9 +piritual %ul%ilent9 0attle9that participants and other</p><p>audiences bring to the scene'</p><p>3# 0y noticing incongruous,funny, or di%%icult oents 1:at* 34476'</p><p>;# 0y noticing ho! the stories eet %riction in situations !here they never per%ectly %it, depending on</p><p>the devicesthat are in the situation, such as account boo$s that need to be %illed out, co%ortable</p><p>or unco%ortable %urniture, and other things that !e could call aterial conditions 1i% that</p><p>epression did not coe !ith the !hole boatload o% Marian baggage6#</p><p>5# 0y noticing $ey phrases</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 3/13</p><p>graduation reBuireents, %lu%% up their C.s %or college applications, get pri*es %or having done good</p><p>volunteer !or$, and publici*e their !or$ to voters !ho vote %or %unding %or such progras# The youth</p><p>progras have to count the hours, and publici*e the volunteer spirit, %or any reasons they.re al!ays</p><p>scrabling %or %unds, and governent and N2)-sponsored grant application o%ten deand evidence o%</p><p>local grassroots involveent# +oe progras include college bound $ids, and those $ids need to easure</p><p>and publici*e their volunteer !or$, because it loo$s good on their college applications# These progras</p><p>have to a$e volunteering happen, and have to docuent it in rapidly digestible %orats, so that distant</p><p>publics can assess it Buic$ly in nubers o% hours spent volunteering, nuber o% people served, nuber o%</p><p>volunteers involved, tons o% %ood delivered to the needy#</p><p>+o, easuring volunteer hours is iportant# &amp;n %act, in soe groups, ore tie in eetings is</p><p>devoted to the Buestion o% ho! to easure the hours spent volunteering than to any other Buestion# This</p><p>typical eeting o% a county and N2)-sponsored service club is all about the %ors that $ids have to %ill out</p><p>%or President.s 744 Four Challenge, a national a!ard %or youth !ho coplete 744 hours o% volunteer</p><p>!or$#/n N2) !or$er as$s, Dould you reeber to send it in9</p><p>+oe o% the eight teens in the eeting ans!er No#</p><p>/nother adult Dhat i% you got a reinder9 Dhat i% you %orgot to sign the %or9 !ho.ll pay %or</p><p>copying and postage9 Dould it just be an etra burden, a%ter having already done the volunteer !or$, to</p><p>have to %ill out a %or9 Dhat i% you couldn.t %ind the9 Fo! can !e distribute the to you9 De just !ant</p><p>to encourage re%lection# Dhat i% soe o% your hours didn.t get recorded9 Dhat i% you %orgot to send in the</p><p>sheets9 +hould there be an event id-year, to give recognition to youth !ho.ve per%ored %i%ty hours o%</p><p>service9 ;4 hours9 34 hours9 Dho !ill record this data9</p><p>Teens got volunteer hours credit %or entering the data about volunteering# Teens got volunteer</p><p>hours %or attending eetings deciding ho! to count volunteer hours# &amp;% the !or$ !as unpleasant, adults let</p><p>the teens count the hours double# +ince soe college scholarships also reBuire volunteer !or$, $ids could</p><p>get credit %or each hour in t!o di%%erent progras at once#</p><p>+oeties, the di%%erent audiences. reBuireents con%lict# 8or eaple, a group o% poor youth at</p><p>a counity center !ins a city-!ide copetition' their a!ard is supposedly %or having done so uch</p><p>counity service# 0ut !hen the group goes to the event to receive the a!ard, the teens see on the list o%</p><p>a!ardees that the a!ard is called an a!ard %or needy youth# The adult leader o% the teens. progras is</p><p>horri%ied that the teens have seen this' she !ants the to %eel proud, %or having been good counity</p><p>volunteers, not li$e pathetic recipients o% pity %or their neediness# Fere are any audiences, each !ith its</p><p>o!n eigencies#</p><p>+oeties, the audiences are not even thereG +oe o% the ost in%luential audiences are long</p><p>dead, or invisibleghosts# 8or eaple, a guy sees a !oan !ith a heavy suitcase, dragging it across the</p><p>side!al$# &amp;% he o%%ers her help, he has to de%end hisel% against chorus o% invisible judges poised to accuse</p><p>hi o% seis he has to a$e it clear to her that he !ould o%%er help to anyone, not just a !oan' that he</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 4/13</p><p>is really not going out o% his !ay' that it is just coon decency' that he is not trying to pic$ her up or put</p><p>her do!n 1iaud-2ayet 344</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 5/13</p><p>about !ho !e are together# 8or eaple, 8rancesca Poletta 134436 sho!s that the phrase participatory</p><p>deocracy eant very di%%erent things in di%%erent grassroots groups in the Civil Iights Moveent,</p><p>depending on !hat iplicit cultural odel %or solidarity the group held %riendship 1in student activist</p><p>groups6, %ello!ship 1in church groups6, or tutelage 1in &amp; %orget !hich $ind o% groups6# / study o%</p><p>congregations %inds the sae thing even Hutheran churches that read the sae chapters and verses o% the</p><p>0ible and sing all the sae sons and have all the sae belie%s on paperhave di%%erent iplicit de%initions</p><p>o% !ho !e are and ho! !e do things, as the church-goers put it 1Edgell 7AAA6# =i%%erent congregations</p><p>use the sae !ords o% +cripture to do di%%erent things together#</p><p>&amp;% you !ant to $no! !hat to do in this bureaucracy this year, you cannot learn it just by consulting</p><p>the guide boo$ or rules' you have to learn ho! the other people in the o%%ice !or$ together# (ou, as a</p><p>noral participant as !ell as an ethnographer, hang bac$ at %irst, !aiting to see !hat the group style is#</p><p>Calvin Morrill.s The Eecutive Day, %or eaple, ta$es us inside three high-rise corporate headBuarters#</p><p>=o !e go by %irst naes, !ear jeans, and !or$ by Buic$ly %oring and dissolving cool, net!or$-style,</p><p>intense %or a oent relationships9 )r !ill it be suits and ties, gol% every +aturday !ith the boss, andloyal, %aily-li$e paternalistic relationships9 These are just t!o possibilities# &amp;n this and any other</p><p>ethnographic and historical studies, !e learn, %irst, that $no!ing each individuals. inner ideas, values or</p><p>interests is certainly not enough# +econd, !e learn that $no!ing soething about the participants. shared</p><p>ideas is not enough, either eployers. rules, or judges. la!s, or church-goers. theology !ould not be</p><p>enough# The !ays people %or relationships and tal$ to each other in the group help deterine !hat the</p><p>group is, !hat it can do, ho! ebers in it norally act#</p><p>Dhen noticing $ey phrases, the tric$ is to as$ !hat !or$ do they do9 Consider, %or eaple, an</p><p>eaple, %ro a %il ade by t!o anthropologists, o% +outh &amp;ndians in the J:# / highly Buali%ied &amp;ndian</p><p>librarian is see$ing a job as a librarian' his 0ritish intervie!ees as$ hi Dhy do you !ant this job9 and</p><p>he ans!ers, because &amp; need a job# )bviously, to /erican or 0ritish ears, this is the !rong ans!er' !e</p><p>all $no! that he !as supposed to lie# &amp;n soe societies, or soe relationships, spea$ing too directly %eels</p><p>!rong' i% you are in a cold roo !ith your boss, you ight say 0rr, cold in here i% you !ant the !indo!</p><p>closed, but you probably !ould not say close the !indo!# 1the eaple coes %ro Faberas 7AK</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 6/13</p><p>People spea$ !ithout !ords, usually# Clothes, usic, iPods, consuer goods spea$ %or you</p><p>oha!$s, blac$ shredded tights, tattoos and s$ateboards, %or eaple, but also ore subtle ites li$e</p><p>plastic bags %ro the AA cent store# These, li$e other stories, only !or$ %or soe people but not others, in</p><p>soe situations and not others# / iddle aged dad.s s$ateboard and tattoo says soething di%%erent %ro a</p><p>teenage boys.#</p><p>+oe devices help people tell the stories that they !ant to tell about theselves, and soeties,</p><p>the devices a$e the story-telling hard# The stories eet %riction# 8or eaple, the story that ebers o%</p><p>the youth civic engageent projects !anted to tell, about the volunteer spirit, eets %riction !hen it has to</p><p>be counted and easured %or public consuption# Ta$en together, the eplicit stories and the devices create</p><p>each other#</p><p>Social Structure Cannot be Presumed</p><p>It is tempting for ethnographers to presume the existence of social structures, but it is a mistake.</p><p>This will probably be the most controversial suggestion of the essay: it seems to be saying that social</p><p>structure does not exist, but it is not saying that. It is saying that structure is as structure does; part of your</p><p>job as an ethnographer is to figure out what kinds of ghosts are haunting the situations, and these ghosts are</p><p>often what sociologists call social structure.</p><p>When social researchers say structure, we usually mean either structures like race, class and</p><p>gender inequalities, or structures like capitalism, bureaucracy, religious institution, and the family. If</p><p>these are in play, you can see their footprints, in speech as well as silences; such as when participants</p><p>assume that a little citizens group like theirs is politically powerless, or when the black speaker at the</p><p>Martin Luther King Day event gave prizes to blacks who got Bs and played flute, thus implicitly</p><p>acknowledging the uphill battle. Or: when underprivileged immigrant youth are sent from Paris to the</p><p>tropical island of Madagascar to work as volunteers, painting and refurbishing a hospital, some of the boys</p><p>in the group spend the whole two weeks lounging under the palms on the beach, figuring that they are</p><p>finally getting what they deserve; it is not clear to them who the recipient of aid should be, considering how</p><p>hard they think their lot in life is (Hamidi 1999).</p><p>Then, lets take the structures like bureaucracy or government. Common sense says that</p><p>bureaucrats are governed by rules, churches by god, families by affection, civic groups by camaraderie, and</p><p>the like. But people in bureaucracies never simply follow the letter of the law (Blau, 1956); thats why</p><p>different offices have such a different feel to them (Morrill 1993), a different style. In some Brazilian</p><p>youth activist groups, members try hard always to agree and bond and express their feelings; in other,</p><p>members sharpen their swords with loud debate verging on fights; in still a third type of activist group</p><p>there, members explore ideas without feeling the need to conclude anything (Mische 2001). You cannot be</p><p>a normal and decent member of the bureaucracy, or the activist group, or whatever, until you know what</p></li><li><p>8/10/2019 Eliasoph Moral and Political Ethnography Eliasoph Paper</p><p> 7/13</p><p>the unspoken group style is. Anger, jokes, light teasing, or fury are typical signs that someone has</p><p>violated the usual group style.</p><p>(Parenthetically, what goes for activists and volunteers goes for religion and other institutions,</p><p>as well. People can act religiouslyboth in and outside of religious organizations (Besecke 1999). And</p><p>conversely, most religious organizations spend a great deal of effort and time figuring out how to pay rent.</p><p>People in a workplace can can act civiclywithout being self-described civic associationsthey can</p><p>widen members horizons, open up space for free deliberation, and solve shared problems together;</p><p>bureaucrats fall in love with each other).</p><p>Another way to discover the structures that relate to your fieldsite, you have to ask what the site</p><p>is connected to, and how. For example, where does it get its money? Where else do people in that site</p><p>usually godoes your group often interact with the police, landlords, real estate speculators? Ideally, you</p><p>would follow your group around, as its members interact with other organizations in its field. But in a</p><p>short project, you can get a lot of this by gathering n...</p></li></ul>