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.

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