Published on November 26, 2007
Slide1: Reflexivity, Sociology and Cross-Cultural Research Start finish: Start finish Reflexivity: necessary self-awareness or ‘diary disease’? The westerner as ‘other’: Accounting for identity and difference Two examples: Young Russians and the hall of mirrors Returnees (‘forced migrants’) as ‘other Russians’. Cross-cultural research: practising epistemic reflexivity. The Lecture Reflexivity in theory: Reflexivity in theory Reflexive modernity The ‘double hermeneutic’ Reflexive subjects The social sciences are reflexive in the sense that the knowledge they generate feeds back into, and thus transforms, the social phenomena they describe. Subjects are said to be reflexive insofar as they possess the capacity to reflect back upon, and monitor, their own actions. Reflexivity is the capacity of society to confront itself with the risks that modernization has thrown up Reflexivity in practiceall talk?: Reflexivity in practice all talk? Critical anthropology: research as ‘text’ Fieldwork fetishism and ‘diary disease’ Seeing yourself as others see you False comfort: dislodging the sociological ‘I’ as the pivot of reflexivity A reflexive sociological practice: The role of cross-cultural research: A reflexive sociological practice: The role of cross-cultural research In order to enact reflexivity in sociological practice, we need to: Institutionalize reflexivity in training, dialogue and critical evaluation. This goes beyond acknowledging the social and personal drives of the individual researcher. It asks us to deconstruct the sociological self and scrutinize the very act of construction of the object embedded in theories, problems and categories of scholarly judgment (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992 p.40). In order to do this, we need to draw on poststructuralist critiques of the unified, rational (Cartesian) subject in order to tackle the question of subjectivity, identity and difference. By recognising that the subjectivity of one is predicated on the constitutive presence of ‘the other’, we liberate ourselves from the right to judge the other as object from the place of the self as subject (Bowmann 1997 pp.43-44). Cross-cultural research can facilitate this process within sociology because its very practice brings to the fore questions of subjectivity, identity and difference and makes transparent the complex construction of the self through language and culture. Russia and ‘the West’: The hall of mirrors: Russia and ‘the West’: The hall of mirrors Rationality Individualism Reserve Coldness Emotion Collectivism Directness Russia The West Warmness Sincerity Depth Spirituality Fun Falsity Superficiality Emptiness Boring Mirror Interpreting Western advertising: Interpreting Western advertising ‘Television advertising… changed an environment of shortage and regimentation into a fused promise of consumption and political freedom.’ (Beck 2000: 66) Holsten: Global youth?: Holsten: Global youth? The Holsten advert was seen as ‘western’, and thus ‘other’, not ‘global’. The advert was objectively appealing but not ‘close’. Legendary Harley Davidson: the spirit of freedom: Legendary Harley Davidson: the spirit of freedom ‘The landscape is 100 per cent American, people, motorcycles, sunset, sunrise, everything.’ (72, Moscow, 24 year old employee and part time student, male) ‘The spirit of freedom. For some reason I always associate freedom with America.’ (64, Moscow, 15 year old school student, female). Cultural affinities: the search for the unitary subject: Cultural affinities: the search for the unitary subject ‘The condor, the eagle, the whole environment is America. But the feeling of freedom, of space, I think, is also really close to Russians.’ (103, Ul’ianovsk, 18 year old university student, male) Difference: the illusion of the unitary subject: Difference: the illusion of the unitary subject ‘But the freedom is not that of the vast expanse [prostor] of Russia but that of a wolf that knows its boundary. It’s not the same freedom. When I watched [the advert] the first time, it was really nice but there was something unpleasant about it too, because it isn’t a Russian [nasha] advert. Something isn’t quite right. We have the kind of expanse that means that if you walk, then [you keep on walking ] to the very edge.’ (96, Ul’ianovsk, 15 year old school student, female) Whose freedom? Power and the symbolic order: Whose freedom? Power and the symbolic order ‘...western countries remind me of a community of ants because there are very few people left there who really think about what and why things are happening around them...’ (51, Moscow, 24 year old postgraduate student, male) ‘They [Americans] shout it out on every street corner, that they are all free... they try to personify that freedom themselves to be its embodiment.’ (68, Moscow, 15 year old school student, female) ‘Other Russians’: The Russian ‘self’ displaced: ‘Other Russians’: The Russian ‘self’ displaced Markers of ‘difference’ among Russian returnees: Markers of ‘difference’ among Russian returnees Slide15: We arrived like that...the east is like that. We were taught like that there. The Uzbeks, the Tajiks they are all like that. For them the main thing is the family...that is why we have got more in common with the newcomers ('priezhie') than with the locals. There is a big difference between us and them... (20, Orel region, Russian migrant from Uzbekistan, female) Hybrid identities and ethnicised ‘others’ Of course it grates to hear the word 'emigrants'... They don't know the meaning of the word simply... They [want to] show their superiority, that they are boss here and that we are nobody. So they say 'they have swarmed down'... We are outsiders ('chuzhie'). We are simply outsiders... (43, Orel region, Russian from Tajikistan, male) ‘Here...we are simply Kyrgyz, they call us Kyrgyz, and the others are called Kazaks...’ (93, Orel region, Russian from Kyrgyzstan, male) ‘Other’ Russians: ‘Other’ Russians ‘Our [my emphasis] Tajiks are very hospitable, our republic is called little Switzerland, it is very beautiful.’ (9, Orel region, Russian from Tajikistan, female) ‘...we don't even understand the Russians. When we arrived the first time, we could not understand the Russians, how they speak, the language. We could not understand. They [my emphasis] don't understand us, and we them.’ (31, Orel region, Russian, female) 'at home there' ('u nas tam'), 'them here' ('oni - tut') Conclusion: Am I a Russian?: Conclusion: Am I a Russian? Cross-cultural research forefronts questions of identity, subjectivity and difference because it places the researcher on the ‘front-line’ of the construction and fixing of ‘difference’. This does not imply a version of reflexivity that produces an endless circularity of texts but points to subjectivity as a fragile moment in the dialogic circuit that connects ‘us’ with our ‘others’. Practitioners of cross-cultural research find themselves routinely challenged in their status as scientific observer. This facilitates the enactment of a radical (epistemic) reflexivity.