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Close, Closer, Closest: Participatory Observation in my own Culture


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For many years anthropologists have researched other cultures. They were separate from the group they researched (Peirano, 1998). In recent years, anthropologists have started to conduct their research ‘at home’. Researching one’s own culture raises many questions regarding the position of the researcher in the field. It differs from a simple participatory observation since the researcher does not leave his or her own field, but belongs culturally to the field being studied, and as such gains access to more intimate topics. This special position the researcher has the advantage of being familiar with the field, but it may also cause conflicts and obstacles. This paper will reveal to the reader some of the experiences in the field and the mechanisms used to deal with these conflicts. In this chapter I situate myself as a Jewish Israeli woman seeking to explore my own community within the context of Jewish Israeli women in the Belgian Diaspora. Utilising the participatory observation approach I explore the questions concerned in "insider-outsider" research and the ethical considerations that underpin social science research of this kind. My starting point involves questions of "self" and identity before attempting to discuss my community; drawing on appropriate theorists, I explicate my particular religious-ethnic grouping with reference to the experiences, views and roles of women in this group. The chapter analyses the challenges faced by an anthropologist in conducting participatory observation into her own peer group, and in its conclusion will explain some of the mechanisms an anthropologist can incorporate in order to overcome these challenges. Looking into my own culture and conducting research into my own surroundings stemmed from the need to understand the steps leading to a person’s decision to migrate. I wanted to understand my own experience as an immigrant.




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103 - 116



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Tzadik, Efrat Close, Closer, Closest: Participatory Observation in my own Culture. Insider Research on Migration and Mobility: International Perspectives on Researcher Positioning. Ashgate. 2014: 103 - 116.  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-2829