Times of the other: the temporalities of ethnographic fieldwork

Otto, Ton (2016) Times of the other: the temporalities of ethnographic fieldwork. In: Dalsgaard, Steffen, and Nielsen, Morten, (eds.) Time and the Field. Berghahn Books, New York, NY, USA, pp. 64-79.

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[Extract] The rise of modern ethnographic fieldwork is rooted in a paradox. The key methodological move as formulated by Malinowski was to 'put one's tent among the natives' and thus to share their time and lives, but the intellectual drive, as Johannes Fabian has argued, was to study people who were assumed to live in another time than our own . According to Fabian (1983: 31), anthropology has been characterized by a consistent and pernicious "denial of coevalness" to the people who were the subjects of the discipline. By this he means "a persistent and systematic tendency to place the referent(s) of anthropology in a Time other than the present of the producer of anthropological discourse" (ibid.). The paradox, then, is that this creation of another, non-coeval time is based on the actual sharing of real time. In this chapter I will argue that this paradox is not as devastating for the anthropological endeavor as Fabian wants us to believe. Even though I fully agree that temporal stereotypes stand in the way of ethnographic understanding, I maintain that the sharing of time in the present also reveals differences of temporal orientation co-existing in the present and reflecting different pasts. Thus, one could argue that in this sense people do live in different times while sharing the present. Because of its focus on direct experience and participation, ethnographic fieldwork is a key method to make these differences in time orientation or temporality visible.

Item ID: 50057
Item Type: Book Chapter (Scholarly Work)
ISBN: 978-1-78533-087-2
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Originally published as a special issue of Social Analysis, volume 57, issue 1. See Related URLs.

Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2017 01:25
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 100%
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