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Tragic Encounters and Ordinary EthicsPalestine-Israel in British Universities$
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Ruth Sheldon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781784993146

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784993146.001.0001

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Finding the words: towards ethical ethnography

Finding the words: towards ethical ethnography

(p.36) 2 Finding the words: towards ethical ethnography
Tragic Encounters and Ordinary Ethics

Ruth Sheldon

Manchester University Press

This chapter explores ethnography as an ethical process. I begin with the relationship between ethics, epistemology and social theory in approaching questions of justice. Through a detailed account of the development of my fieldwork, I explore the ethical limitations of binary theoretical languages for communicating about the Palestine-Israel conflict and begin to imagine and inhabit alternative vocabularies, which I learnt in my relationships with students. By attending to themes of proximity and distance in fieldwork, I explore how, as ethnographers, we never fully know ourselves but rather engage in a process of learning. This insight is shaped and exemplified through an account of my own ambivalences, exclusions and transformations in the research process; I go through a process of renaming myself as I learn to engage with my research subjects differently. This becomes part of a questioning of moral traditions, embedded in the university itself, that call on people to abstract themselves from everyday relationships so that they can exist as rational, ‘objective’ moral selves. As I introduce alternative resources for approaching questions of ethics and justice, I also build on Judith Butler’s appeal towards post-secular diasporic traditions as offering important ethico-political resources for responding to the Palestine-Israel conflict.

Keywords:   language, naming, Wittgenstein, Cavell, knowing, proximity, distance, methods, social theory, imagination

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