An interesting little exercise in my Ethnographic Research class on Tuesday. This week's student seminar was on reflexivity, summed up as the careful and deliberate examination of the relationship between a work of ethnography, its producer, and the process by which it is produced. In any other science, you might just call this 'being transparent about one's methods'.
My classmate who was giving the seminar asked us to write down ten things about ourselves -- personal, political, demographic, academic or philosophical, that give an idea of who we are and where we come from, and that could influence how we carry out our research.
I found it surprisingly easy to scribble things down, and had filled up an A4 page within four or five minutes. A couple of my classmates who read out their jottings focused on things that would directly affect the particular research project they had planned. But it seems I interpreted it as a chance to come clean about my what drives me in general. I wrote it down quickly, in what was pretty close to a stream of consciousness. Apart from a couple of grammatical tidy-ups, the below is almost exactly what I jotted down on the sheet of paper.
1. I'm very analytic but also like to see connections or analogies between things and put them into a system.
2. I'm generally shy and introverted, but sometimes switch over to another side of my personality and become domineering. I have to have my say, and can be a poor listener.
3. I tend to become very obsessed with particular topics, and have to know all the details about them.
4. I have a background in philosophy (itself driven by the personality traits above). I've since moved on to a more empirical interest in human affairs, but the philosophy always finds a way back in.
5. I love stories -- anything is better when told as a narrative, especially written, but also filmed. My driving ambition is to be a good writer myself.
6. I'm male, European, hetrosexual and middle class, but have always felt detached from the supposed position of power that puts me in (being clumsy, nervous and geekish always seemed to easily override any inherent social advantage). It's only as I've got older that I've noticed the subtle ways in which my path is smoothed.
7. I was brought up as a Catholic, but with a Kantian / humanist morality that emphasized principles, responsibility, and treating people as ends in themselves.
8. I'm very interested in Latin America for reasons I can't fully explain. Although I have quite a bit of experience there, my connections are overwhelmingly with the mestizo middle class, which could lead me to overestimate my insight.
9. I love the outdoors, but am also very attached to certain comforts, notably hot showers, coffee, and a good night's sleep.
10. Politically, I'm a social democrat by default, with flirtatious leanings toward left-libertarianism. I'm prevented from crossing over fully by a suspicion that oppressive systems don't come close to explaining the sum total of human nastiness. In that sense, I'm also probably hiding a streak of 'small c' conservatism.
OK, so there you go. Readers, how about a similar contribution? You don't have to do ten; five or even three would be a good start...