Fieldwork as witnessing. Anthropological knowledge-making between openness, blind spots, and personal involvement
This essay discusses poses of identities available for anthropologists in relation to increasingly salient issues of contemporary anthropological knowledge-making. Starting with a critical evaluation of the idea of the anthropologist as a witness by George Marcus (2005), we outline cornerstones in current debates on the positionality of the researcher, such as the implications of the end of meta-narratives, the call for epistemological openness, the crisis of representation, the delimitation of fields and the discussion on human rights. In a second step, we highlight how, at first glance, the concept of witnessing seems to provide a solution for these dilemmas. Yet, witnessing entails blind spots and other limits which are often overlooked. These concern relationality, memory, involvement, understanding, and the question of how to intervene in the scenarios we observe. In sum, the essay redefines the conditions of anthropological knowledge production in an age of witnessing.
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