DOI: 10.1177/10778004231193764 ISSN:

A Self-reflexive Positionality to Navigate the Invective Latency of Ethnographic Relations: Insights From Lebanon and Germany

Irene Tuzi
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology

Positionality has become increasingly important in ethnographic and autoethnographic research. The recent “reflexive turn” in migration studies has encouraged scholars to discuss the concept from different perspectives (e.g., gender, ethnicity, and class). Yet, positionality is relational: It is the result of ongoing interactions between how researchers present themselves in the field and how research participants perceive these presentations. Because self-positioning and positioning of others are mutually bound to each other, positionality reflects a continuous negotiation between actors who may be motivated by different interests. For this reason, it is necessary for researchers to analytically reflect upon the implications of these mutual positionings to more fully understand how to navigate research fields. This is especially important for sensitive research fields—like migration and forced migration—characterized by inequalities, hierarchical structures, and unequal power relations. The present article uses insights from fieldwork conducted among Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Germany between 2017 and 2019 to show how configurations of “humanitarian paternalism” and researchers’ false expectations to save the world can frame positionality as a meta-invective action. Positionality informed by self-reflexivity can help to explore the invective latency of field relations and let contradictions, discomfort, and disharmonic elements emerge. This does not mean that field relations will become more equal and that power structures and inequalities will be reduced as a result. However, being aware of these invective elements offers the opportunity to explore a level of analysis that is often overlooked and make steps toward decolonizing research methodologies and knowledge production.

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