I’m interested in writing. Well you know that. But I’m not just interested in final texts. I’m particularly interested in the kinds of writing that we do during research. Yes, all of those notes, and jottings, and bits and pieces that we write when we have an idea or when we’ve read something particularly interesting.
My interest in these pieces of writing is hardly surprising. I do ethnography, well that’s what I do most of the time, and this is a tradition of research which is completely tangled up in writing. Ethnographers really can’t make sense of anything unless they are writing. Sure, they make still and moving images and conduct interviews and gather documents and artefacts – and these are important. But ultimately, doing ethnography comes down to being there and then writing about it. That’s the key way we ethnographer so sort out what’s going/gone on. It’s writing as a mode of analysis.
The kinds of writing I’m talking about are covered by the term “occluded text” – that is, texts that are generally hidden, and not often discussed. Together with Becky Coles, I’ve just written a paper about some of these occluded texts – what we’ve called ‘inbetween’ ethnographic writing.
This is the abstract:
BEYOND RECORDS AND REPRESENTATIONS: INBETWEEN WRITING IN EDUCATIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY
Ethnographers are particularly interested in writing. They have paid particular attention to the practices of making field notes and to the ways in which their public texts represent those that they have encountered and studied. To date there has been less attention paid to the kinds of writing that is used to make sense of experiences in the field. We call this inbetween writing. By examining our own processes of inbetween writing, and drawing on the work of James Clifford, we have produced a nine-part heuristic of inbetween writing. We argue that the heuristic could be used in research methods education to highlight the importance of writing to ethnographic sense-making and knowledge production.
An earlier version of the full paper is here. It’s in press and will be published in Ethnography and Education soonish. We’re still thinking about this topic, so we’d love any further must-read things on the same lines.