Ethnographic Practice and New Materialist Onto-Epistemologies

Teggi, Diana (2017). Ethnographic Practice and New Materialist Onto-Epistemologies. In: London Conference in Critical Thought 2017, Stream ‘Theorizing Ethics and Politics in Ethnographic Practice’, 30 Jun - 1 Jul 2017, London South Bank University.



This paper asks how new materialist onto-epistemologies (Braidotti, 2013) reshape our understanding of ethnographic writing, fieldwork and interviewing, well-attested methods in the social sciences. The feminist strand of new materialism this paper follows (Barad, 2007; Haraway, 2008; Braidotti, 2013) questions two common practices in ethnography: (1) the presentation of ethnographic insights as mirroring research participants’ experiences, and (2) the erasure of researchers’ subjectivity and positioning within the intersecting axes of difference and power that structure the social field (i.e. race, gender, ability, age, social class, sexuality, neurodiversity etc.) .Positivist research paradigms, still dominating the social sciences, induce qualitative researchers to obliterate themselves from their research output, even if they are part of it.The concept of intra- actions (Barad, 2007) combined with Donna Haraway’s situated knowledges (1988) provide the grounds to argue for the onto-epistemological, ethical and political validity of knowledges marked by strong positionality and co-produced through inevitably asymmetrical research rapports. This stance demands researchers to be self-reflexive and reflexive of systemic power differentials, and their impact on the research process. It also fosters the insurrection subjugated knowledges (Stryker, 2006; Foucault, 2010; Bauer, 2014). I first elaborated this new materialist approach to ethnography in my M.A. Thesis, a case study of a nursing home for the aged in England. In this paper, I would like to focus on the research rapports I could not discuss in my thesis. These are those with a participant who addressed me sexually, and the reaction of my supervisor and gatekeeper when I reported this.

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