Publication: "Bodily ethnography: Some epistemological challenges of participation"
In this article, Till Förster explores the role of bodily interactions in ethnographic fieldwork and the related epistemological problems.
Bodily participation provides insights that mere observation cannot offer. Based on an ethnographic vignette, this article explores how bodily interactions in ethnographic fieldwork raise awareness for non-observational knowledge and hidden social practices. It looks at how such encounters shape all participants, including the ethnographer, and how subtle bodily interactions constitute a social space that remains invisible to outsiders but where intersubjectivity unfolds. It then addresses differences between participation and observation in ethnography and the epistemological problems it leads to: First, bodily social practice is largely non-predicative, but ethnographers are urged to put it in words – which affect their relationship to that practice and how they can engage in it. The second challenge is the habituation of bodily practices. The longer ethnographers engage in such social practices, the more they will develop routines and no longer focus consciously on them. Both can distort the ethnographic account of bodily practices.