Reading group - Academic Silences and the Epistemologies of Vulnerability - the 12 February 2020

1. Academic Silences and the Epistemologies of Vulnerability

Silences “will not protect you” – such goes Audre Lorde’s famous belief in the power of language, the power of speaking out. Silences asphyxiate, silence deafens, silences isolate, we say, especially when muffled and pushed away to the academic margins, the inappropriate, the female, the vulnerable, the subjective. But silences also speak volumes: of frozen research traditions, of the hegemony of objectivity (or should one rather say, the anthropological inferiority complexes), of the “androcentric bias” (Gearing 1995) – bref, of the taboo of (narcissistic) self-revelation, of ethnographic “fixations” (Hanson and Richards 2017), these disciplinary expectations or ideals widely understood as requirements for ‘good’ ethnography ought to be.

We, young anthropologists entering the academic ‘field’, are “incarnate beings” (Wacquant 2015: 3), we state, sentient, suffering, skilled, sedimented and situated humans. Reflecting on our positionality, our emotions, the epistemologies of locations and embodiment, we state, are fundamental not only for the sake of our well-being, but also, epistemologically, breaking the silences that, wittingly or unwittingly, taint our ethnographies.

“Location is vulnerability”, Donna Haraway stated, and acknowledging location, “resists the politics of closure, finality” (1991: 196). Following this call and tracking into the paths led by Cuban-American anthropologist Ruth Behar, we set out to posit an “epistemology of vulnerability” against the hegemony of academic silence: the importance to reveal the ethnographic self and the refusal to conceal; not full-length autobiography, but the transformation of silence into shared language and, ultimately, collective action.

2. Reading Group Objectives

The objectives of our bimontly readings, as collectively defined during our first session: • creation of safe space to share opinions and experiences • insights into alternive epistemologies, increase reading and discoursing skills • practical tools and good practices

3. Organization and Themes

Bimonthly reading group - Room Doucy, Building S, Campus Solbosch ULB (Avenue Jeanne 1050 Bruxelles) - starting on Wednesday, February 12th 2020. Weekly mandatory reading to be discussed during the meeting, but to which we’ll add a number of additional readings for those seeking further insights - readings will be sent out a week ahead.

1st session, February 12th, 2020 - Introduction: Academic Silences and the Epistemologies of Vulnerability

2nd session, February 26th, 2020 - Studying up, Studying down: New encounters, New challenges

3rd session, March 11th, 2020 - The Intimate Field: Affection, Sex or the absence thereoff

4th session, March 26th, 2020 - Participants’ sugeestions and/or mid-track feedback

5th session, April 8st, 2020 - Violences in the field: A Gendered Perspective

6th session, April 22th, 2020 - Hacking Neoliberalism: Doing Resesarch in a Deadline Age

7th session, May 6th, 2020 - Navigating Privileges: An Intersectional Approach

8th session, May 20th, 2020 - Conclusion and, eventually, drafting good practices

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