Synnøve Bendixsen & Hilde Danielsen
Public Engagement: Ethnographic Docu-fiction as a Tool
How can you produce a docu-fiction based on ethnographic material? In which ways can the use of docu-fiction activate public engagement on the role of parenting and living together? What are the ethical considerations when transforming ethnography to film? This keynote will elaborate on the process of the production of the docu-fiction Birthday Parents, and its implementation and application in various forums. As part of the research project Parenting Cultures and Risk Management in Plural Norway, we made use of film in order to reach out to a wide audience with our research findings. Birthday parties for children are important ritualized events through which many of the social and political aspects of parenting become apparent. It also involves belonging in schools and neighbourhoods. Birthday parties, thus, is a valuable and important starting point to discuss some of the challenges regarding parenting in a plural society. In our project, we found it important to reach out to different professionals such as teachers, kindergarten personnel, social worker, parents with and without migrant background and children. The film aims to make room for reflection and discussion rather than give a recipe on how to celebrate birthdays.
Synnøve Bendixsen is a Social Anthropologists and an Associate Professor at the Western Norway University of Applied Science. She has conducted research on young Muslims and religiosity in Germany, irregular migrants in Norway, political mobilization, marginality, urban life and diversity, and parenting. She takes currently part of the research projects Nordic Hospitalities and Parenting Cultures and Risk management in Plural Norway. Bendixsen has extensive experience in communicating research to a wider public, and is among other the co-editor of the Palgrave volume Engaged Anthropology: Views from Scandinavia (with Tone Bringa, 2016).
Hilde Danielsen (project leader of the film Birthday Parents) is a research professor at NORCE, Norwegian Research Centre, Bergen with a Dr. art in Cultural Studies. She is working with both historically and contemporary perspectives on family-life, parenting, gender, equality and diversity, and urban life, inclusion and exclusion. She currently lead the research-project Parenting Cultures and Risk management in Plural Norway on how parenting in influenced by ethnicity and class. She recently edited Gendered Citizenship and the politics of representation (2016, Palgrave Macmillan) together with three other editors. She has broad experience with communication to different kinds of users of research.
Ethnography in the diverse mediated publics of online space
Digital platforms make a wide array of forms of social interaction observable to social scientists. Online ethnographies have become commonplace in such fields as education and health studies as ways to examine the everyday beliefs and behaviours of participants. Some have suggested that such methods give access to a less artificial version of beliefs and behaviours than offered by alternative methods in the repertoire of the social sciences such as the interview or the focus group. It is important to remember, however, that online forums have their own distinctive qualities. Online behaviours are either deliberately or subconsciously shaped to be appropriate to the setting, depending on the kind of space that participants understand themselves to inhabit. The mediated public of an online forum studied by an ethnographer is a distinctive thing not directly reflective of other spaces that might be peopled by the same participants. Methodologically speaking, this imposes some important constraints the claims we make for the findings of online ethnographies. This presentation will review some recent ethnographic studies of online spaces, exploring the kinds of publics encountered there and reviewing the scope of the claims that can reasonably made about the phenomena that they help us to understand.
Christine Hine (University of Surrey, UK) is a sociologist of science and technology who has a particular focus on the role played by new technologies in the knowledge construction process. She has a major interest in the development of ethnography in technical settings and in „virtual methods“ (the use of the Internet in social research). In particular, she has developed mobile and connective approaches to ethnography that combine online and offline social contexts. In common with many scholars in Science and Technology Studies, Christine has a scientific and technical background herself. She studied Botany (BA, Oxon) and Biological Computation (MSc, York) and completed her DPhil in the Biology Department at York before making a transition to Sociology of Science and Technology. Christine is the author of books including: Virtual Ethnography; Systematics as Cyberscience; and Ethnography for the Internet and editor of collections: Virtual Methods and New Infrastructures for Knowledge Production and co-editor of Digital Methods for Social Sciences.
Kaja Kesselhut & Dominik Krinninger
Translating ethnographic research on family life for television
Kaja Kesselhut and Dominik Krinninger will present an ethnographic research project on family and the transformation of it on the occasion of a presentation of a popular science TV program (‘Quarks’) on public television (WDR). The scientific interests of the project are directed on how family shapes the transition to school and how family itself is shaped in this process. The project focuses on family practices and the materiality of family environment. In order to include educational perspectives in the ethnographic descriptions the research project draws on the concept of a recognizing view of families. In bringing together the different formats of scientific representation and a TV feature, both, the research team and team of the broadcaster repeatedly negotiated questions of shifting content and reducing complexity. The public presentation of the project was, thus, supported by different interests, and the negotiations between ethnographic research and TV program design were characterized by the complex interdependencies of shared authorship. Against this background, the contribution will discuss the extent to which the interests of research, opportunities for scientific public relations work and scientific ways of representation can adequately be combined.
Dominik Krinninger, Dr. phil., is Professor at the School of Educational and Cultural Studies at the University of Osnabrück, Institute of Educational. His main areas of work are: Educational childhood and family research, empirically based educational theory, qualitative research methods in educational science, especially ethnography, and aesthetic education.
Kaja Kesselhut, M.A., is research assistant at the University of Osnabrück, Institute of Education. She works in the field of Educational Childhood and Family Studies. Her main focus is on the relations between private and public institutions (e.g., nursery, kindergarten and school). She currently works on an ethnographic field study about the transition of toddlers and infants from the family to the nursery (‘Krippe’). Her interests are practice theory (esp. theories of subjectivation), (early) childhood studies and family- and parental research.
Allegories of Education. Methodological Considerations on the Ethnography of Complex Institutions
The power and pervasiveness of educational institutions and organizations in all spheres of existence is an important feature and central issue in modern societies. But education as a set of intertwined institutional requirements, social relations, everyday activities, material arrangements and shared normativity within particular organizational frameworks is hard to pin down by ethnographic means. And even if agree on the main function of education – the maintenance of the cohesion of the social – we cannot but concede its simultaneous comprehensiveness and inherent fuzziness. Here the questions arise if the recent and new developments within ethnography (like e.g. multi-sited, multi-scalar, multi-sensual and institutional ethnography, sociology of knowledge approach to discourse ethnography (skade)) are promising approaches for a theoretically based ‘multi-track approach’ toward education and its institutional and organizational environment. In my keynote I want to reflect on the current state of educational ethnography and its challenges, which still are pragmatic on the one hand (access, inhibitory ethical regulations on data uses, political correctness. etc.), and more importantly, methodological and theoretical on the other hand. How can we capture an essentially complex institutional entity with methods that are essentially based on the observation of concrete people, activities and places?
Christoph Maeder is professor of educational sociology at the University of Teacher Education in Zurich, Switzerland. He has done ethnographic research in organizations like schools, prisons, hospitals, welfare administrations, programs for the unemployed and in human resources management. He is a founding member of the RN 20 “Qualitative Methods” of the European Sociological Association (ESA), convenor of the RN 19 “Ethnography” of the European Educational Research Association (EERA) and a former president of the Swiss Sociological Association (SSA). In 2015 Maeder has been rewarded the research prize “Ethnography” by the Section “Sociology of Knowledge” of the German Sociological Association (DGS) and the University of Applied Sciences in Fulda. Currently his fieldwork is on kindergartens as socializing environments. And he is also researching the uses of bells in herding animals as a prototypical sound technology for producing knowledge. Theoretically he is interested in the sociology of knowledge and in transferring concepts form the Cognitive Anthropology into ethnographic research methodology.
Facing Public Problems – From Ethnographies of shared identity to Ethnographies of collaborative capacity
Our societies are confronted with a number of interrelated collectively existential problems, meaning pressing issues that threaten the reproduction of various collective life-forms. Existential problems demand for attention and problem-work. They test the existing infrastructures and institutional apparatuses of problem-work. The various disciplines in the Social and Cultural Sciences are themselves apparatuses that contribute to the problem-dealing capacities of our societies. They are, as well, tested by the interplay of existential problems today. The talk suggests that we face the pressing problems by studying the problem-dealing capacities of apparatuses. By doing so, we take seriously the tasks, challenges and limits of, especially, state apparatuses and our own research apparatuses. This is done by object-centred, praxeological research (here: ethnographies), cutting through the black-boxed, institutionalized self-descriptions on the one hand, and, on the other hand, through the modes of critique that focus on questions of identity and freedom. Both registers neglect collectively existential problems in the name of autonomy that we need to account for as contemporaries. Ethnographies of capacities offer a balanced view of affirmative and material critique in times of existential problems in order to mobilize whatever we are capable of.
Thomas Scheffer (Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main) is professor of sociology with an emphasis on interpretative social research. He carried out a number of ethnographies of state apparatuses including bureaucracies, legal procedure, parliaments, and the military. His work links discourse and ethnographic studies by offering thick descriptions and comparisons of object-centred discourse work as process-event relations.
Stategraphy as epistemological tool: Approaching the public/private boundary through care
Stategraphy denotes an ethnographic approach to studying the notoriously hard-to-grasp processes of state formation. In this approach, the (re)production of boundaries between state and other social realms constitutes a central entry empirical and analytical point. Family (or, as anthropologists would have it, kinship) stands out to be an important ‘other’ to the state, and much work goes into establishing and maintaining the ‘appropriate’ boundary. Sometimes this boundary seems largely to overlap or even to merge with the boundary between what is considered private versus public. In negotiations about the ‘appropriate’ place and content of each sphere, care is central: should the state provide child care or would that intrude into the private realm of the family? Should the state ‘redirect’ its citizens to kin care? What kinds of supposedly private care are ‘wrong’, and when should it prompt intervention by state/public actors such as social workers, pedagogues, or teachers? Images of past and present, self and other, good and bad underlie these debates on who deserves what care by whom and when. As they are translated into legal regulations and daily institutional practices, they influence the allocation of resources. Such translations take place in concrete relational settings and between differently positioned actors. Mediating practices and images, past experiences and future expectations, they feed into ever shifting patterns of inclusion and exclusion. Ethnographic research into these negotiations of boundaries thus offers insights into not only the micropolitics of institutions but also questions of social organization, processes of (cultural) differentiation and marginalisation.
Tatjana Thelen is a full professor at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. Her research interests include care, kinship and the state. Central to her theoretical work is the role of care in the (re)production (or dissolution) of significant relations, including those with and to the state. In the edited volume Stategraphy (2017, with Larissa Vetters and Keebet von Beckmann), she proposes a relational approach with an empirical emphasis on boundary work, relational modes and embeddedness of actors as analytical avenues. Recently, she has concentrated on questions of the effect of modelling of differences and relational categories on understandings of historical development. This topic stood also at the heart of the research group at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Bielefeld (ZIF), which Thelen headed together with colleagues from Los Angeles, Zurich and Bayreuth.
Why public ethnography?
Public audiences have a great deal to gain from the critical messages contained in social scientific research. Indeed a more public scholarship is the key to a more advanced democratic society. But how can social scientists – both students and scholars alike – make their voices heard? What opportunities for the public to learn from social scientific research are made possible by different ways of communicating knowledge? This presentation argues that one of the ways in which social scientific research can play a greater role in public discourse and in shaping the popular imagination is by taking inspiration from some of the qualities of an important social scientific tradition: ethnography. Ethnography is endowed with rhetorical and substantive characteristics that are of great appeal to the general public. When carried out with the information and entertainment needs and wants of the public in mind, ethnographic research can reach beyond the confines of academic discourse and can position social scientific knowledge at the nexus of public debate, current affairs, and popular culture. Through a fully public ethnography social scientific research can better engage multiple stakeholders and play a key role in the critical pedagogy of the general public. But for that to happen, social scientists must first learn to understand the grammar of twenty-first century public ethnography.
Phillip Vannini is Professor of Communication and Culture and Canada Research Chair in Public Ethnography at Royal Roads University, Victoria, Canada. He is the author/editor of over a dozen books, most of which have drawn from his ethnographic research in Canada and abroad. His latest book „Doing Public Ethnography: How to Create and Disseminate Ethnographic ad Qualitative Research to Wide Audiences“ has now been published by Routledge, London, as part of its series on Advances in Research Methods. The monograph collects my reflections and writings collected over nearly a decade, with the addition of new essays never published before.