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Shot and Fragment: The Place of Researchers in Ethnography

Pablo Herraz Mardones y Andrés Haye Molina

Chapter 2 Ethnography and Education Policy. A Critical Analysis of Normalcy and Difference in Schools

Abstract: The critical self-description of the researcher’s position is key to understanding how knowledge is constructed from the field to fuel fieldwork and knowledge communications. We specifically discuss the production conditions of ethnographic writing, focusing on the ways in which images of the field that the researchers elaborate by means of notes, descriptions, pictures, videos, and narratives, are generated and transformed in the context of the folding and unfolding of the fieldwork, and particularly through the intertwinement of writing and reading. Drawing on the comparison with cinematographic composition of moving images, we argue that the position of the researcher is not reduced to the abstract point of view entailed by any image, a particular view, or selective angle of the field, but is part of a technical assemblage of operations, such as framing, cutting fieldwork into fragments, juxtaposition of these fragments, and projection of a continuous movement of the field. From the disposition involved in ethnographic field notes, to the composition of an ethnography, we stress how the place of the researcher is crossed by the technical and the aesthetical. We discuss methodological and epistemological implications concerning the role that reading ethnographic texts plays across the assemblage of ethnographic writing. We argue that the critical account of this intermediate place of the researchers has the potential to displace and suspend the problems of both the representation of reality and the authorship and authority of ethnographic knowledge, thus projecting the fieldwork to increasingly wider and open distancing positions that enable analysis, criticism, and thinking.