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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/n7eg-qd89


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Disabled “Truths” in the Field: Challenges, Emerging Connections, and Innovations in Ethnography


research/research methods


In keeping with this year’s AAA theme, “Truth and Responsibility,” roundtable participants, who have varying bodymind embodiments, social positionings, and anthropological interests, explore and interrogate the diverse and multi-faceted factors that shape, constrain, and enliven their decisions regarding their engagement with the field. These considerations are revealing of many “truths” that we need to face and with which we need to grapple as a profession. Despite the reflexive turn in anthropological writing, it is clear that our profession persists in promoting images of and expectations for the “fit” and often “lone” ethnographer, an unshakable and abiding myth of the model anthropologist. Yet one “truth” the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed is that bodyminds are not fixed entities and nor are the contexts in which anthropologists conceptualize and conduct their work. For many with long-term or more recently acquired disabilities and chronic illnesses, these are not new revelations as their lives have required both adaptation and innovation. These insights can be valuable both to novices entering the field and those established in the field but wondering how to proceed under contingent and uncertain circumstances and/or as their own bodyminds face the inevitability of change. In seeking to erode the assumption of “fitness” as foundational to the fieldwork enterprise, this roundtable addresses the following questions: How has the understanding that embodiments are unstable, as well as the frameworks in which they do or could operate, contributed to novel and creative ideas and practices regarding fieldwork and ethnography? Are there ways in which the recent COVID-19 pandemic has generated original and useful practices with regard to these endeavors? What impact does the ideal or “fit” researcher have on the financial aspects of conducting fieldwork for the disabled and chronically ill? In what ways might fieldnotes retain vestiges of embodied memories? How does diversity in bodyminds disrupt, obscure, and build emergent connections that are key to the anthropological enterprise? What kinds of inequalities (among anthropologists and between field researchers and their interlocutors) are revealed by the realities of examining bodyminds in context? How can disability give rise to ingenious and liberating forms of ethnographic expression? How might these reflections, approaches and methodologies, both tested and emergent, provide possible solutions to those affected by financial hindrance, unforeseen or unforeseeable fieldwork constraints, and an inflexible disciplinary canon?


Transcript English (automatic)

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