Angela Okune Annotations

How is research described?

Thursday, February 20, 2020 - 5:33pm

AO: After emailing this data to a non-Kenyan anthropologist I met in Nairobi, I received the following response:

“I went through the transcript and I really find it fascinating how respondents link research with development. It took me several hard-on collisions with scholars who work in political sciences, agricultural sciences and similar disciplines to realize how much this causality is assumed even by scholars themselves. Being raised in a postmodern science, such blatantly modernist assumptions were like a shock to me. That being said, I could not find much of it in my own interviews which were mainly done with men who mostly linked their participation with [redacted Org Name] with a concept of "work" or almost a contractual situation where they participate in order for [redacted Org Name] to develop the community as such (not so much about learning how to use computers, but giving away time and personal data so that [redacted Org Name] works on creating a better Kibera).” (email correspondence, February 20, 2020).

I was keen to include his response as a public annotation because his statement helps make the case for why sharing research data can increase the robustness of our understanding of complexity in a given site. Sharing data in this case offered a different perspective, particularly important when doing research on what might be heavily ossified terrain. Since his own interviews were mainly done with men "who mostly linked their participation with ... a concept of "work", looking at the data from my all-women group discussion gave him a different starting point to think with, which as a foreign man he may not have had access to otherwise (and which seems to have led him to begin thinking the issue in a different way).

When I shared this annotation back to him, he responded that it is probably very common for people being researched to assume that it is part of a developing or modernization process so perhaps it is a bit of a stretch to say that the additional interview data helped reveal that.

What they [the transcript/conversation] did, however, was to remind me of the importance how such demands are made and how they are framed politically, i.e. are they framed as unfulfilled collective rights or as offers delivered to individuals. I find it fascinating to start thinking through how research as delivering a neoliberal service to consumers clashes with research as advancing and experimenting with collective entities. (email correspondence, February 21, 2020).

This dialogue highlights additional value of open ethnographic archives. Beyond just the data, it is the opening enabled by the sharing of annotations and data back and forth. In this case, by sharing an annotation to ask: "is this what you meant?" the earlier statement could be further nuanced and qualified. Again here, through such on-going processes, ethnography is made more robust, increasing not only its ethical validity (increasing researcher accountability and representations of those we engage with), but also strengthening its research validity.

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