dinsdag 25 oktober 2016

Walking Seminar on Translations in our research


On the most beautiful day of the week and in stunning autumn weather, we took a walk in Weesp last Friday, 21 October, for the Walking Seminar.

The theme was how to think about translations in our research? [1]

We started off with the following questions: 

Doing research involves translating. Or, put differently, many activities that we engage in as ethnographic researchers may be glossed as translating. Events in the field you translate into (mould into? cook up as?) field notes. Notes you translate into (mobilise in the telling of? digest so that they become?) stories. Stories you juxtapose – contrast, compare, link – in a process called analysis (and what is translated there into what?). In the process, sounds become words, tastes dissolve in sentences, questions into assertions or vice versa. Here is the question: what is involved in these translations; what in attending to them as translations (rather than using other metaphors/models such as moulding or cooking); what is gained in translation; what is lost; what transformed in felicitous ways; infelicitous ways; and what to do with the pleasures of ‘getting it right’ and the sense of failure when hitting up against untranslatables?

Everybody translated these questions freely into their 'care rounds', in which two people take care of one person's project first, before turning to care for the other person's project. 

Translations, we found, are everywhere - and they can be challenging, and they can be frustrating. But sometimes they bring forth richer writing, and reflecting upon them can make us better ethnographers. Mostly, we all got eager to translate this finding back into our writing.

Thanks to all those who joined us and made this a wonderful and inspiring afternoon. With luck, we will have another walking seminar this calendar year. I will keep you posted. Annelieke

[1]  The theme originated from a reflection on translations in research that I wrote for the 'ethnographic writing workshop' with Julie Livingston and Robert Desjarlais that took place at the University of Amsterdam in May 2016. At the end of the workshop week the participants all did an 'ethnography slam', which, 'translated' into blog posts, appeared on the Allegra Laboratory website.






dinsdag 18 oktober 2016

Report from Art and Humanities in Environmental Crisis: a Walking Workshop

Guest blog post by Anna Kaijser and Martin Hultman, Department of Thematic Studies, Linköping University


On  October 3-4, a group of eleven artists and researchers within the humanities or social sciences gathered at Vårdnäs, a village south of Linköping, Sweden. Each participant had brought a question, incited by their own work and related to understanding, acting upon and living with environmental crisis. These questions, we brought with us on a hike through the countryside, intended to accentuate embodiment and movement and evoke a sense of the own body’s place in nature. In pairs, we walked through forests and meadows, and along the Stora Rängen Lake. The sun was shining and the landscape sparkled with magnificent autumn colours. Most of us had never met before, and thus were introduced to each other’s work through the questions. Every 40 minutes we stopped to change conversation partners. This is slow intellectual speed dating, somebody joked.


At  the end of the walk, the entire group gathered to share insights and reflections. Overall, the accounts were very positive. The participants commented that their talks had turned out quite differently than they would have in a seminar room or office. Several reflected upon the role played by the particular places that we passed trough, and by the non-human actors that were present, in the conversations. Someone said that they longed to do the same exercise during a longer and more demanding hike, curious to see how the physical challenge would affect their thinking. Quite a few said that they did not talk that much about their question, but that this did not matter. Some felt that they had to repeat their question too many times.
In the afternoon we had time to immerse even more in the surroundings. Some of us had a very close contact with the lake close by and the sauna made it feel pleasant even though the water was cold. The discussions centred around how having these types of experiences together makes a difference.  
The following day was grey. We spent the morning inside doing collective writing inspired by the walks. Many found this exercise very inspiring. We layered in our own text with others and realised the possibility of actually writing a text together that makes sense from the beginning. The resulting texts were put together in a shared document, for us all to use in our work. In the afternoon we split up in pairs again for another walk, wrapping up the experiences of the workshop and discussing future collaborations. As we came back to the house, it started to rain.
As  presented here the elements around us made big impressions on how we discussed and acted. How does it influence us to most of the time sit inside compartmentalised seminar rooms to discuss the world? On the other hand, what kind of knowledge do we create when we are more focused on the surroundings than on our computer screens? 
The Walking Workshop was intended as an opportunity for networking and collaborative reflection, and an experiment in walking as a method for conversations. With inspiration from this successful experience, we will continue to organize walking seminars with colleagues and students at our department and beyond.



dinsdag 4 oktober 2016

Come to our next edition of the walking seminar, with the theme Translations


The next walking seminar will be on Friday October 21st from 13:00 o’clock until early evening. This walking seminar will be devoted to the question how to think about translations in our research.




Doing research involves translating. Or, put differently, many activities that we engage in as ethnographic researchers may be glossed as translating. Events in the field you translate into (mould into? cook up as?) field notes. Notes you translate into (mobilise in the telling of? digest so that they become?) stories. Stories you juxtapose – contrast, compare, link – in a process called analysis (and what is translated there into what?). In the process, sounds become words, tastes dissolve in sentences, questions into assertions or vice versa. Here is the question: what is involved in these translations; what in attending to them as translations (rather than using other metaphors/models such as moulding or cooking); what is gained in translation; what is lost; what transformed in felicitous ways; infelicitous ways; and what to do with the pleasures of ‘getting it right’ and the sense of failure when hitting up against untranslatables? 


vrijdag 17 juni 2016

Next walking seminar: 22 July



Come to our next edition of the walking seminar, with the theme 'Negative appraisals'

The next walking seminar will be on Friday July 22nd from 12:00 o’clock (Note: this is an hour earlier than ususal – we are hoping to take a long walk through the dunes) until early evening.

This walking seminar will be devoted to the question how to handle our own negative appraisals of situations we encounter in the field.

You may think that some people in your field of research find themselves in dire situations. There are structural problems. You may also think that some people in your field research mean well but do things that are bad (ill considered, nasty, counterproductive, what have you). You may think that some people in your field of research are abusive in one way or another. You encounter practices that, in one way or another, you consider to be/go wrong. What to do? Articulate criticism; suggest improvements; file complaints? Step back and refrain from judgements? Seek others within the field, who voice your negative appraisals for you?

And where to do these things, for which audiences?

And how does this ‘being negative’ in your writings relate to the effort that the people in the field may have put into your research; to the welcome they offered you; to the relations you established with them? 

If you would like to join us on this edition then please sign up before July 15th by sending an email to Annelieke at a.e.driessen@uva.nlAnnelieke will make a list of walkers and provide those on the list with further information on the route.

maandag 9 mei 2016

Walking and Talking about 'Your Audience' in Breukelen

Thank you to all those who walked and talked with us in Breukelen on Friday.

With beatiful weather and in 27°C we walked through the Dutch 'polderlandschap' and past cows and windmills. 



Meanwhile, we addressed the following questions:

Who do you write for? 
What is the audience you hope for; what is the audience you may expect? How does that all that relate to writing in English; to the venues where you publish; to the style you adopt? 

And how does it affect what you tell or leave untold? How does it emerge in questions and your argument, plot, story line (or how would you call the line in your writing)? 

What are you doing, technically, practically, to include The Reader in your work? How do you seduce, appeal to, convince, or otherwise reach out to the audience that you imagine?






This resulted in fruitful conversations about how audiences differ, which different styles of writing and varying degrees of explanations they require, how combining audiences may improve texts or make them illegible to some, and/or boring for others. We discussed how writing for an audience in your mother tongue may add new insights to your argument usually written in English. How 'intranslatables' may enrich your understanding of your object of research. We wondered why we read texts unrelated to our research topics and what they may offer us - and exchanged thoughts on how we may learn something from every text. 




Thank you for joining and if you did not, we hope to see you next month!

vrijdag 6 mei 2016

Your audience

Dear walkers,

At 13:00 today we will set out to Breukelen to walk and talk in this beautiful weather!!

The central question that we will address in this edition of the walking seminar is: Who do you write for? This question is relevant right from the start of your research project as it informs the questions you may need/want to ask. And it stays relevant all the way to the end as you adapt your style, your tone, your speed, the kind of footnotes you make, and what not, to The Reader.

Various further questions follow. What is the audience you hope for; what is the audience you may expect? One way or another, you will have to include your committee in your audience. Do you also want to include your funders? Your informants? The authors you quote? Professionals or policy makers or people from various disciplines?
And how does that all that relate to writing in English; to the venues where you publish; to the style you adopt? And how does it affect what you tell or leave untold? How does it emerge in questions and your argument, plot, story line (or how would you call the line in your writing)?
What are you doing, technically, practically, to include The Reader in your work? How do you seduce, appeal to, convince, or otherwise reach out to the audience that you imagine?

We look forward to walking with you today!

vrijdag 1 april 2016

After the previous walking seminar and before the next...


Once again we enjoyed a wonderful walk - this time from 



We were a large group of about fifteen, and talked about 'the field before and after you'. This led to inspiring conversations aboutthe difficulty of setting boundaries to how much history to take into account when analysing and depicting the field in writing, and the difiiculty of deciding that data collection is now, finally (or 'at least for this one article') over. 



Thank you all for joining and being such an inspiration, again!
The next walking seminar will take place in May (date is to be confirmed)! I hope to see many of you then.