The Egyptian Church stripped bare by its children?
The contemporary renewal of taranim (singular: tarnima) and the production of videos inspired by these songs are a product of the development of a Coptic ‘mass culture’ in contemporary Egypt. Regarded by most Copts as the current expression of a centuries-old culture, taranim give concrete expression to the sense of belonging of the community. But these songs – and the videos that have been associated with them for around a decade – intersect with, or are stimulating, a diversity of social, religious and cultural practices that deviate at times from the code of behaviour prescribed by the Church. Combined with the attraction that charismatic currents and the ‘born again’ Christians have exerted over Christian youth in Egypt over the last twenty years or so, taranim in renewed form show Coptic dissatisfaction with clerical dogmatism. They also bring into play a vision of the individual and faith opposing that of the Mother Church.
Palestinian rap, political contents and artistic explorations
In Gaza, Ramallah and Nablus, and in Lebanon, Jordan, Israeli towns and East Jerusalem, for the past decade, rap bands and singers have grown out of the fertile soil of the new Palestinian generations. By combining entertainment with the ethics of protest, rap songs have become a powerful means to broadcast political and social messages that translate in artistic terms the contemporary experience of a segment of the Palestinian youth, and of young Arabs in general.
‘There’s nothing to do in al-Karak!’ You hear this litany time and again from young people who dream enviously of the bright lights of the capital, with its high-tech cafés and chic restaurants. Here, far from Amman, in the villages and housing developments worn away by the dust of the bordering desert, entertainment consists primarily of watching TV – it is switched off only when guests are received – and in interminable visiting, from house to house, between neighbours, relatives and friends. It is on these occasions that the learning of a subtle knowledge takes place. It is a knowledge that is both knowing a skill (savoir-faire) and knowing how to be (savoir-être); it means listening, to the point where one knows them by heart, to the sawalif, the anecdotes about particular persons that mark out the network of associates and relatives as allies, Christian and Muslim, among the Karaki tribes; conforming properly to obligations to provide hospitality; and learning, along the way, how to ‘hold yourself’ and speak well.
In early 2011, in Sana’a, as in other large cities of Yemen, contentious mobilisations calling for the departure of President Ali Abdallah Saleh quickly took the form of permanent occupations of public space. Sit-ins and revolutionary camps/squares were established, some of which lasted until April 2013, well beyond Saleh’s formal resignation in February 2012. Street art, which its protagonists define as the use of various artistic techniques on and in public space without prior authorisation, fed on the Yemeni revolutionary context and contributed to visually translating political demands much like photography or painting. Each of these artistic practices was nevertheless more or less subject to experimentation. Gradually, contentious street art transformed the walls of Sana’a into a centre of interest that mixed playful, artistic and political practices. A turning point for this transformation took place in March 2012 at the crossroads of Zubayri and Da’iri streets in Sana’a, when following the initiative of a young artist named Murad Subay, painters, amateurs and ordinary citizens joined the project of painting the walls of their streets. In this chapter I will explore how walls came to speak, telling stories that intersect leisure, artistic professionalisation and political commitment.
Recursive exits and returns to the fuzzy field of a community library across a decade of austerity
This chapter is drawn from the author’s doctoral multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in urban public libraries impacted by UK austerity localism between 2010 and 2020. Reflecting on a single empirical site from this study, a community branch library in Southeast London run by activist-volunteers, the chapter charts the author’s complex and enmeshed relationality with the library from multiple subject positions, entries and exits. Her intersecting roles of researcher, volunteer, employee and activist in the library’s lifeworld created a complex positionality which shifted over time, along with the mutable shape and capacity of the library itself, generating a durational push-and-pull relationship with this site. Exploring the ‘fuzziness’ of the field through a recursive and reflexive methodological lens, this chapter examines productive analytical tensions arising from iterative processes of (re)entering and exiting and considers the importance of volitional, affective and ethical dimensions in the author’s oblique relationality to the field. The chapter works through a series of time periods in this circuitous research journey, concluding with three lessons on the difficulties and opportunities produced by entanglement and extraction dilemmas. The author argues that methodologically messy and longitudinal back-and-forth movements between leaving and returning, theory and practice, provide a challenging yet powerful analytic opportunity for enriching what ‘the field’ and one’s position in, around and through it can mean in both ethnographic discourse and activist praxis.
This chapter draws on the authors’ experiences of leaving and returning to the field in research with people living with dementia as part of an ESRC-NIHR-funded five-year longitudinal study of the neighbourhood experiences of people living with dementia and their families, friends and care partners. The authors deployed a range of approaches and methods that placed fieldwork and the sustained, repeated engagement with participants in particular places over a period time. The ‘field’ they were concerned with was not simply a geographically bounded location such as the neighbourhoods where participants lived, but also temporal – incorporating change over time, and social – incorporating relational ties with other people regardless of their location. Dementia can be associated with a range of symptoms including cognitive change such memory loss, declining physical abilities and communication difficulties. Over time, these can make it difficult for those participating in the research to cognitively and physically access, recognise or locate themselves in the social and spatial fields the authors were exploring. Participants may also be unable to remember previous interactions with the research team or the experiences they previously have shared. The authors’ repeated interactions with participants and their associated social networks, in the places they visited or where they lived, prompted a messy process of entering, ‘leaving’ and re-engaging with what the authors came to recognise as the field. This chapter seeks to question what it means to leave, return and remember the field as a cognitive as well as a physical and temporal location.
The dissonant meeting of ‘field self’ and ‘author self’
In this chapter the author reflects on his experiences of respondent validation following a publisher’s acceptance of a book proposal, which was based on ethnographic fieldwork he had conducted with a social work team for his doctoral thesis. The author was surprised to find that the participants in his study were initially resistant to the idea of the publication of the book, and he experienced guilt as he realised that he had presented two distinct versions of himself to participants: his affable ‘field self’ and the more critical ‘author self’. The author’s experience of leaving, and then returning to, the field has provided insight into the way that social life can create conflicting selves that exist authentically, depending on the social context. The self is a dynamic, performative process, not a state of being, and its forms coalesce according to people, place and time. Most of the time, we shift between selves smoothly and without giving our fragmentation thought. Doing ethnography can force us to confront the dissonance of different selves that are equally real and authentic, because, by its very nature, it requires that we encounter the field self from the perspective of the authorial self. Engaging in respondent validation lays the otherwise hidden ‘author self’ bare to participants, and this provides an unsettling challenge for the management of field relations.
Research relationships and the impact of criticism
This chapter focuses on the aftermath of an ethnographic account of the lawyer–client relationship under criminal legal aid in England. The fieldwork involved the researcher spending a year at one court centre, accompanying three local legal firms as a participant-observer. Over the course of the fieldwork, the researcher developed strong relationships with the lawyers being observed, extending to social events and leisure time. The chapter centres on how the researcher navigated the relationships with the lawyers who were being researched, exploring some advantages and disadvantages of developing bonds with participants of research. In particular, it focuses on the impact these relationships have when it comes to analysing, writing up and publishing the research. A central issue considered in this chapter is how the researcher dealt with the situation in which he felt compelled to comment critically on the work of the lawyers with whom he had grown friendly. The chapter looks at the difficulties of balancing being honest to the research with the pressures that come from interpersonal relationships, which were especially prominent in this study that became known for taking a negative line about the practices of the lawyers being studied. The chapter also looks at the fallout in terms of critical commentary about the author’s research among the communities being studied and difficulties in recruiting from these communities for future studies. The chapter will be of value in helping those planning future research projects to consider the relationship dynamics they seek to foster in their research.
The messy longitudinal dynamics of never leaving the field
This chapter is about the messy complexities and dynamics of leaving the field of martial arts. From Karate as a teenager, to various martial arts, with Muay Thai and Jeet Kune Do as a main focus, throughout university studies and up to present times. The author’s martial arts journey was highly intermittent and fragmented over a lengthy period. Doing martial arts was an essential part of his bodily capital that enabled him to perform longitudinal studies of bouncing (Calvey, 2017). However, the martial arts community was never aware of his covert bouncing studies and martial arts academic interests. The management of the author’s ‘divided self’ was a source of continued guilt as he built bonds and friendships. Gaining an embedded covert insider view of his martial arts journey also had a ‘spoiling effect’ on his field. This chapter reflects on situated scenarios, moral ambiguities, guruism, ethical dilemmas and the lessons learnt from the author’s field experience. The logic is the central appreciation of creatively recasting absence, loss and liminality in our field journeys. Existentially, the field became a very blurred part of the author’s identity politics and was written on his body. Exiting the field is a profoundly messy and artful business, and the author never fully left. His field was an emotional and moral labyrinth and lifestyle that he could not cleanly exit. He still trains in martial arts and remains on a type of sociological duty.
What happens when the field expands in ways that mean there is no exit?
Researchers often have concerns about how to leave the field and end the relationships they have forged with communities. However, in some cases the field expands, and the researcher moves from being at the periphery to become a full participant within the networked relationality of a community of practice. This chapter explores this experience of becoming fixed within the field. Reflecting on research with care-experienced children and young people in Wales, an ongoing journey of increasing nearness, rather than increasing distance, is considered. The original study led to impact activities and further research, within a field of young people in care, care leavers and partner organisations, in which the researcher became immersed and gained an ongoing sense of permanency. In considering this position of ‘no exit’ the chapter draws on déjà vu and jamais vu. Déjà vu, already seen, occurs when one feels as though a situation is familiar, despite evidence that the situation could not have been experienced before, resulting from familiarity-based recognition, or recognition based on feelings of familiarity that occur without identification of their source. Jamais vu, never seen, occurs when things seem unfamiliar and there is little connection between long-term memory and perceptions from the present. In becoming more than native and embedded in the emotion, policy, practice and mediation of care experiences, the chapter presents encounters and relationships with partners and young people that generated feelings of déjà vu and jamais vu through the complexities of familiarity, shifting positionalities and self-contained worlds of common understanding.