Against Method: Listen and Act before You Write
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This session takes as its premise an all too common event among graduate students and professional ethnographers: whatever prospectus one wrote about methods becomes trash on arrival at a research location. The presenters have experienced this event with mixed feelings, those liberation (the methods just weren’t going to work) and anxiety about what to do next. Toward this end—the what next—the presenters agree (more or less) on a tried and true strategy; one has to learn the native “language.” Herein lies the rub. People of the Americas communicate with different languages. People speak languages of course, often revealing a variety of ways of speaking. They also use the languages of play, work, food preparation, ritual, and habit among others, combining linguistic and metalinguistic communication for any number of outcomes. The presentations explore the different mediums, often with an eye, ear, or feeling for form and content, tracking poetic, rhetorical, and/or performance elements that people deploy on the fly to realize their lives, what they have been, are, or might become. The presentations advocate following suit, methods on the fly, whereby ideas and procedures emerge from events involving participants, their activities and direction that eventually give form and content to ethnographic writing.

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The content of this abstract should be familiar to any of you who might still, as I do, read Briggs’s Learning How to Ask. The final portion provides opportunity for people to address a site specific approach to developing methodological and ethnographic form and content. Papers that show the results of this process are most welcome.