Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Of Discourse, Dialogue and Dutiful Daughters

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Of Discourse, Dialogue and Dutiful Daughters

Article excerpt

The article explores some interrelationships between theory, field research and pedagogy with which feminist anthropologists have recently grappled. I write of the tensions generated through my research amongst rural women in France and indigenous women in New Caledonia and how they have taught me that intellectual approaches should be formulated with ones respondents. I reflect upon my role as a not always dutiful "daughter," and how the opportunity to negotiate a research methodology with one's informants is rarely allowed by many Ethics Committee models of power. I then relate how my field research experiences have enlivened classroom discussions by describing informants' agency and subjectivity in ways that can dismantle barriers of difference and build understanding between peoples.

Cet article examine certaines des interrelations entre la theorie, la recherche sur le terrain et la pedagogie, avec lesquelles ont dernierement lutte certaines anthropologues feministes. J'ecris au sujet des tensions generees par la recherche que j'ai menee parmi des femmes rurales en France et des femmes indigenes en Nouvelle-Caledonie, et comment elles m'ont apprise que des approches intellectuelles devraient etre formulees avec les personnes interrogees. Je reflechis a mon role de [much less than] fille [much greater than] souvent desobeissante, et au fait qu'il est rarement permis selon les modeles de pouvoir de beaucoup de comites d'ethique universitaires de negocier une methodologie de recherche avec ses sujets. Je raconte ensuite comment mes experiences de recherches sur le terrain ont motive des discussions en salle de classe en decrivant l'autonomie et la subjectivite des personnes interrogees de facon demanteler les barrieres de difference et a arriver a un accord entre peuples.

We can no longer follow E.E. Evans Pritchard's advice to "behave like a gentleman, keep off the women, take quinine daily and play it by ear." (Helen Roberts, 1981, p. 1)

Roberts' ironic introduction to the classic work Doing Feminist Research demolishes the presumption that only men make it to the field, that men would behave "like gentlemen" when there, and that playing it by ear is a tolerable field work practice given the limited resources of tertiary institutions being shaped by the theories of economic rationalism. Her quip provides a light-hearted link to my examination of the ways that "knowledge" shapes and is shaped by field research, and how my field research experience as a feminist anthropologist has inscribed my teaching practices.

Discourses, dialogues, and research in the field

In examining the complex relationships generated by the construction of knowledge and the practice of field research, I query the rights but support the desire of researchers to examine the cognitive and interpretive patterns of people from a different milieu to oneself. I support researchers' desires to understand others because my experiences as a doctoral field researcher in a village in the south of France resonated with Janet Finch's (1984) description of her research encounters, for whom women welcomed contact with other women. I also was welcomed into the community of Grand Roch as "la petite Australienne," because I was perceived to be young, and far from home. The villagers used the term to differentiate me from the English summer visitors who rented houses in Grand Roch and towards whom they harboured some resentment.

During my research the village women engaged in continuing, sequential dialogues with me, dialogues that both constituted and entwined with existing discourses about "womanhood." They told me about the local values that related to socially appropriate "feminine" behaviour and through which many women made overt connections between customary behaviour and changing, emergent views of womanhood. They spoke, for example, of socially established ideas about "proper" women not entering or drinking in the village bar, about acceptable ways to run a household and its members, about appropriate women's work beyond the house or the village, about the pious women who attended church, and the adventurous women who had learnt to drive and owned their own car. …

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