Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Traversing the Divide (TB)
The question that emerged most prominently for me out of this morning’s session was how do we as industrial ethnographers traverse the theory/practice divide? Using the concept of sociality as a guiding theme for the conference, Nina Wakeford asked us to think about how sociality is made visible or invisible and whose sociality is left out? Do we include the sociality of the participants and exclude our own? Do we discuss it and theorize it?

These questions pulled out some of the concerns from Day 1 that emerged out of the theory papers in that ethnographers need to theorize and examine more critically their own positionality. It’s not enough to say that we are social researchers (or whatever the label may be) because one’s identity will invariably impact upon how one conducts their research. Knowledge is a social construct and something that is produced through a dialogue. Moreover, engagement with the field is not an easy business and can be messy at times. Brinda Dalal, Pat Swenton-Wall, and Simon Pullman-Jones all alluded to this messiness and the practicalities of the field in exploring issues regarding gifts and reciprocity and ways of conducting research.

Still, participants asked, how do we put ourselves into our research? I’m not sure the reply answered the question in suggesting that theory can be a lazy term and instead there should be a focus on disciplinary sensibilities (I’m actually not sure what that means).

Again we returned to feminist theory to explore Harding’s discussions of ways of knowing and how we decide what counts as legitimate knowledge. There was a call to mobilize and problematize the word ethnography. Something I know was taken up at the coffee break by many of the conference delegates, the general buzz being – we know it’s significant so how can we start a discussion of it.

The seeds have definitely been planted for greater growth in our ‘landscapes of possibilty’.

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