In the field, anthropologists spent lots of time playing football or learning to dance: Could such enjoyable pastimes be considered a kind of work? Could play be used as a research technique? The new issue of Anthropology Matters is out. Its topic: From Play to Knowledge.
Seems to be a very interesting issue. Here some excerpts from the editorial by Susanne Langer, Emily Walmsley, Hannah Knox, and Mattia Fumanti:
In the first article Jonathan McIntosh reflects on his research with children in a Balinese dance studio. (...) Without a degree of linguistic competence he would not have been able to understand the children's songs and games he was interested in, let alone able to join in (...). Being able to participate did not only add an important embodied dimension to McIntosh's research, but also changed his relationship with the children. Balinese adults tend to be figures of respect, who may initiate games, but tend not to play themselves. By being an atypical adult, McIntosh was able to let the children take the lead and become his teachers, allowing him to learn about their everyday games and the role music and dance play in their lives.
Lucy Atkinson (...) played with children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who were living in a refugee camp in Northern Zambia. (...) [H]er aim was to create a space for the children to express themselves freely, using a variety of creative media, such as drawing, drama, or film, as well as techniques derived from participatory consultation and decision making processes to achieve this. (...)
However, the incorporation of these incredibly rich sources into standard academic accounts has presented Atkinson with a challenge. (...) In particular the children's drawings, she contends, are not mere illustrations of the writing, but should be seen as more akin to quotes. However, she admits that this new status of the pictorial will require a major change in the conventions of how ethnographic writing is received.
In his research, Will Gibson was interested in the intersubjective knowledge involved in the production of improvised jazz performances (...). Dissatisfied with the degree of detail that conventional interviews produced, he decided to record incidents when he was playing with experienced performers. Gibson then played the recordings back to them, inquiring about their motivations and decisions when playing a sequence in a particular way.
This approach allowed him to learn about conventions, a player's personal preferences, and the considerations concerning the skills and experience of other players that had influenced their improvisations. This innovative approach enabled Gibson to tease out the ways in which players orient themselves to each other and to the conventions of jazz improvisation.
Articles in this issue:
Jonathan McIntosh: How dancing, singing and playing shape the ethnographer: research with children in a Balinese dance studio
"In this article I contribute to the debate on research methods in ethnomusicology. To do this I illustrate how active engagement in the activities and learning processes of children better enables the ethnographer to gain insights into children's musical worlds."
Lucy Atkinson: From play to knowledge: from visual to verbal?
"This article relates my experiences using playful child-centred research techniques whilst undertaking research with Congolese refugee children in Zambia. Such techniques generate rich and varied information, and often in unexpected ways."
Brett Lashua: The arts of the remix: ethnography and rap
"In this paper I take note of 'the arts of the remix', in which techniques of producing hip-hop music with First Nations young people in Canada involved remixing both music and research practices."
Will Gibson: Playing in the field: participant observation and the investigation of intersubjective knowledge in jazz improvisation
"I describe an approach to participant observation in which recordings of the researcher and research participants improvising musical performances together were used as 'texts' for framing discussions."
Katrín Lund: Making mountains, producing narratives, or: 'One day some poor sod will write their Ph.D. on this'
"This paper looks at ways of narrating mountaineering experiences in Scotland. What anthropologists can learn about their own ways of organising and abstracting their experiences from examining the material culture of mountaineers."