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Patchwork Ethnography: Interpenetrations of the Personal and the Professional in Research
March 30, 2023 / 6.30pm (JST) / 11.30am (CEST) / 10.30am (BST)
Chika Watanabe, University of Manchester
For researchers using ethnographic methods, long-term fieldwork is becoming difficult. Neoliberal university labour conditions, expectations of work-life balance, environmental concerns, and feminist and decolonial critiques have demanded a rethinking of fieldwork as a process that entails spending a year or longer in a faraway place. Gökçe Günel and Chika Watanabe proposed ‘patchwork ethnography’ to consolidate the innovations that are already happening in ethnographic research out of necessity—to balance family and research, for example—but that remain black boxed. Patchwork ethnography begins from the acknowledgement that recombinations of ‘home’ and ‘field’ have perhaps always existed in fieldwork practices. However, the interpenetration of the personal with the professional is often deemed illegitimate in research practices. This talk presented patchwork ethnography as a provocation to open spaces of honest conversation so that models other than uninterrupted fieldwork can become recognized methodological approaches, while still upholding the importance of long-term commitments, language proficiency, and contextual knowledge.
The talk provided fascinating and inspiring insights into a new theoretical and methodological approach to ethnology. It gave an overview of the Patchwork Ethnography project that started with the publication of “A Manifesto for Patchwork Ethnography” in June 2020 and of the project’s origins, theoretical foundations, methodological and practical challenges, implications and possibilities for teaching. The talk ended with a future agenda and questions (see slide) for researchers to address collectively. It was attended by approximately 40 people with interdisciplinary backgrounds.
Chika Watanabe is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her current research and teaching interests are on development and humanitarianism, disaster preparedness, pedagogy, play, and the future in the contexts of Japan and Chile. She is the author of Becoming One: Religion, Development, and Environmentalism in a Japanese NGO in Myanmar (U of Hawai’i Press) and co-editor of the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.