Academic journal article International Social Science Review

If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography

Article excerpt

Fassin, Didier, ed. If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017. 368 pages, Paperback $27.95.

Didier Fassin, a social scientist, edits this collection of works examining various authors' experiences with fieldwork and participant observation in a global context. The contributing authors, representing a diverse group of social scientists specializing in anthropology, global health, sociology and political science, of If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography share their journey of researching human subjects and presenting their research to the public, through publication. The contributors are explained to be "taking a risk" (p.9), which is evidenced in their individual cases where they present their findings or "truths" as power. The contributors of this text illustrate the ways in which researchers communicate their findings, which are grounded in theoretical underpinnings.

Fassin explains that the publication process involves making private information public, which inevitably involves popularization and politicization. The afterlife of researchers' work is also highlighted and illustrates how various publics interpret, politicize, or use researchers' final product or publications. In the editors' discussion of popularization and politicization, he highlights the importance of selecting a topic of research and the challenge of presenting the findings to the public in a clear, non-technical manner, which is applicable to all social scientists developing a research design. Additionally, politicization is of importance to social science research, as dilemmas of how to present findings in an illustrative approach while avoiding breach of confidentiality of participants, and contributes to continuous debates in the field appropriately.

Fassin shares his experience in his fieldwork and how those experiences lead to the second component of ethnography, which is writing. While social scientists may not be researching such controversial issues that are highly political, which was the focus of Fassin's research and observation of minorities in the criminal justice system, this work provides a much-needed discourse to researchers concerned with how their findings may be construed by the public, including journalists, policy makers, and advocacy groups. …

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