Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology: An Interdisciplinary Reader

By Sharlene Hesse-Biber; Christina Gilmartin et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Situating Locations: The Politics of Self, Identity and "Other" in Living and Writing the Text 1

JAYATI LAL

[As] ethnography is moving into areas long occupied by sociology,. . . it has become clear that every version of an "other," wherever found, is also the construction of a self," and the making of ethnographic texts. . . has always involved a process of "self-fashioning". . . . Cultural poesis -- and politics -- is the constant reconstitution of selves and others through specific exclusions, conventions, and discursive practices.

-- James Clifford, "Partial Truths"

. . . we need to observe the life we participate in when we are "back from the field" critically, and question the roles we play with respect to those from all over the world who are affected by our actions. . . There is no corner of life so private and personal that issues of race, class, color and culture do not permeate it; if anthropologists have connected the kitchens and bedrooms of other societies to their theories they have no excuse for closing the doors on their own.

-- Deborah D' Amico-Samuels, "Undoing Fieldwork"


Deconstructing "Fieldwork"

The very notion of what it means to do research on gender and development in the contemporary historical arena has been urgently called into question by recent critical discourses on anticolonialism. For instance, debates on postcoloniality have interrogated the excavation of the Third World as a resource for Western theory. Additionally, feminist discourses on difference and antiuniversalism have challenged the construction of the "Third World woman" as an essentialized Other. And finally, methodological writings in sociology and anthropology have also articulated a deep skepticism about methodological vantage points that colonize, or objectify, the subjects of one's research. The common theme that underlies these strands of questioning is their collective interrogation of the foun

Jayati Lal, "Situating Locations: The Politics of Self, Identity, and 'Other' in Living and Writing the Text", in Diane L. Wolf, ed. Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1996): 185-214. Reprinted by permission.

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