Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research

Edited by: Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett, Julien Danero Iglesias

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Multilingual Matters
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234mm x 156mm
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Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research breaks the silence that still surrounds learning a language for ethnographic research and in the process demystifies some of the multilingual aspects of contemporary ethnographic work. It does this by offering a set of engaging and accessible accounts of language learning and use written by ethnographers who are at different stages of their academic career. A key theme is how researchers' experiences of learning and using other languages in fieldwork contexts relate to wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. The volume aims to promote a wider debate among researchers about how they themselves learn and use different languages in their work, and to help future fieldworkers make more informed choices when carrying out ethnographic research using other languages.

Power, privilege, hierarchy, and dependence shape and often complicate ethnographers' forays into unfamiliar languages. These thoughtful, reflexive essays, addressing an impressive range of field experiences, incisively reveal and explore the shifting ground of the authors' linguistic interactions in relation to dynamics that are often invisible, usually risky, and always unpredictable.

Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, USA

This refreshing collection of articles reflects on issues of language in ethnographic research that anthropologists have tended to sweep under the carpet: The delicate issue of the ethnographer's language competence; challenges of language learning; complications of multilingual fieldwork settings; and the ethnographer's anxieties related to their own incomplete language mastery. Highly valuable for anyone doing ethnography in a language that is not one's own!

Axel Borchgrevink, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

What does learning a language well enough to conduct research really require? This treasure trove of fifteen rich case studies takes readers on a global tour of anthropologists' searching inquiries into their sophisticated linguistic travels and travails. The joys and confounding challenges of mastering a foreign language will never again appear either opaque or generic.

Alma Gottlieb, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Fieldwork is an accessible, insightful and dynamic volume that aims to demystify the epistemological, methodological and practical aspects of multilingual ethnographic fieldwork, reassuring researchers that their anxieties surrounding their learning and use of languages are a normal – and inevitable – part of life in the field.

LSE Review of Books, July 2020

Robert Gibb is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow, UK. His research interests include asylum procedures, the state, borders and translation.

Annabel Tremlett is Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, UK. Her research investigates the differences between public and self-representations of minority or marginalized groups.  She is particularly dedicated to understanding the everyday experiences of people from these groups and challenging misleading representations.

Julien Danero Iglesias is Principal Policy and Projects Officer at Camden Council (Housing) and an Affiliate Researcher at the University of Glasgow, UK. His research interests include nationalism, discourse, borders and minorities.

Chapter 1. Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias: Introduction

Chapter 2. Lydia Medland: Language Learning as Research Rehearsal: Preparation for Multi-linguistic Field Research in Morocco

Chapter 3. Susan Frohlick and Carolina Meneses: Emergent Collaborations: Field Assistants, Voice, and Multilingualism

Chapter 4. Laela Adamson: Learning Language to Research Language in Two Tanzanian Secondary Schools

Chapter 5. Robert Gibb: 'Demystifying' Multilingual Fieldwork: On the Importance of Documenting and Reflecting on Language Learning in Ethnographic Research

Chapter 6. Dominic Esler: Dealing with Diglossia: Language Learning as Ethnography

Chapter 7. Teresa Piacentini: Language Learning and Unlearning in Ethnographic Fieldwork: 'Speaking Asylum' and 'Doing Small Talk'

Chapter 8. Lara Momesso: One Language, Two Systems: On Conducting Ethnographic Research Across the Taiwan Strait

Chapter 9. Annabel Tremlett: Breakdowns for Breakthroughs: Using Anxiety and Embarrassment as Insightful Points for Understanding Fieldwork

Chapter 10. Daniella Jofré: Andean Ethnography and Language Learning: Reflecting on Identity Politics and Resistance Strategies of the Chilean Aymara

Chapter 11. Julien Danero Iglesias: How I Tried to Speak a Language Like a 'Native' and how this Influenced my Research

Chapter 12. Iolanda Vasile: 'The Language is Mine. The Accent is Yours': Doing Fieldwork in Angola

Chapter 13. Matthew Blackburn: Being 'Proficient' and 'Competent': On 'Languaging', Field Identity and Power/Privilege Dynamics in Ethnographic Research

Chapter 14. Charo Reyes: Plurilingual Focus, Multilingual Space, Bilingual Set-up: Conducting Ethnographic Research in Two Catalonian Schools

Chapter 15. Wine Tesseur:  Listening, Languages and the Nature of Knowledge and Evidence: What We Can Learn from Investigating 'Listening' in NGOs

Chapter 16. Sarah Burton: Becoming a Multilingual Researcher in Contemporary Academic Culture: Experiential Stories of (Not) Learning and Using Languages

Chapter 17. Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett and Julien Danero Iglesias: Conclusion

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