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Learning, violence and the social structure of value

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2006

GILLIAN EVANS
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 3PH, UKastanga66@btopenworld.com
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Abstract

Drawing on fieldwork among ‘racist’ white youths in Southeast London, this paper considers the ethical dilemma which arises for the ethnographer when the increasing proximity that developing empathy with her informants implies, is jeopardised because the disposition she is expected to adopt is at odds with what she feels it is right for a person to become. Is her only option to distance herself from what belonging amongst her informants entails? Or could such a crisis help her to understand that resistance and conflict are intrinsic aspects of the learning processes through which any person is continuously making sense of their own social position vis-à-vis others?

En s'appuyant sur des recherches de terrain parmi des jeunes gens blancs et [Lt ]racistes[Gt ] du sud-est de Londres, cet article examine le dilemme éthique auquel l'ethnographe est confrontée quand la proximité croissante nécessaire pour renforcer l'empathie avec ses informateurs est compromise à cause de la non correspondance entre l'attitude qu'on attend d'elle et ce qu'elle pense être la bonne trajectoire de vie d'une personne. La seule option offerte est-elle la distanciation par rapport aux implications de son appartenance au groupe d'informateurs? Ou est-ce qu'une telle crise peut l'aider à comprendre que la résistance et le conflit sont des aspects intrinsèques au processus d'apprentissage à travers lequel toute personne saisit la signification de leur propre position sociale vis-à-vis des autres?

Diesem Papier liegt Feldforschung unter, rassistischen' Jugendlichen im südöstlichen London zugrunde. Zentral steht das ethische Dilemma der Ethnographin. Durch die wachsende Empathie für die Informanten entsteht eine Nähe, die dadurch gefährdet wird, dass die Bereitschaft, welche Informanten von der Forscherin erwarten, im Widerspruch zu Überzeugungen der Ethnographin betreffend der Ideale von Persönlichkeitsentwicklung steht. Bleibt ihr als einzige Möglichkeit, sich davon zu distanzieren, was Zugehörigkeit unter ihren Informanten zur Folge hat? Oder könnte so eine Krise zum Verständnis beitragen, dass Widerstand und Konflikt dem Lernprozess angehören, in welchem jeder Mensch seiner eigenen sozialen Position anderen gegenüber fortwährend Bedeutung zuerkennt.

A propósito del trabajo de campo hecho con jóvenes sajones ‘racistas’ del sureste de Londres, la etnógrafa plantea en el ensayo un dilema ético cuando, al incrementar la proximidad necesaria para desarrollar empatía con los informantes, se pone en juego lo que ella considera una persona debiera de ser de frente a las expectativas sobre lo que se espera ella. ¿Es distanciarse su única opción, visto lo que implica pertenecer al grupo de sus informantes? ¿O puede una crisis como ésta ayudarla a entender que la resistencia y el conflicto son aspectos intrínsecos al proceso de aprendizaje que cualquier persona enfrenta continuamente al exponer sus puntos de vista de frente a los otros?

Type
Younger Scholars's Forum
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2006

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Footnotes

This is a version of a paper given at the EASA biennial conference in Vienna 2004 on the theme ‘Proximity and Distance’. My participation as a ‘Younger Scholar’ was made possible by the generosity of a grant from the Marie Curie Foundation.

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