The ethnographer’s body as heuristic instrument – Between autoethnography, carnal sociology and Becoming-the-Phenomenon-based Ethnography

Convenor: Chiara Bassetti (Università di Trento – C.N.R.)


The body is something we have, we are, we do. The workshop invites contributions that consider the ethnographer’s body and embodied experience as heuristic instruments: both in traditional ethnography (think, for instance, to Goffman’s notion of bodily attuning), and, most prominently, in other forms of fieldwork, such as Wacquant’s carnal sociology, or what I call, leveraging on Mehan and Wood, Becoming-the-Phenomenon-based Ethnography.

Common-sense knowledge is largely tacit and embodied, habitual; therefore, it is used pre-reflexively, often by the ethnographer too. To overcome such problems, and to be able analyse such a knowledge and its ordinary practical exploitation and (re)production, one can choose as a central tool the ethnographer’s –observed at lenght, accounted for, reflected upon– lived experience and day-by-day process of becoming.

Why is the ethnographer’s body important? What does it allow for? What does it make us grasp (that other instruments/techniques do not)? Which dimensions of social life, and which “kinds” of knowledge does it make us reach? But also, and this is particularly relevant with respect to that composite group of techniques that goes under the name of autoethnography: How should we treat the ethnographer’s body and embodied experience in order to produce a relevant ethnography?

Ultimately, the workshop invites contributions that, by drawing on ethnographically-founded empirical material, discuss the process of acquiring –as an adult ethnographer and in an observed way– an embodied (set of) competence(s), an habitus, a new corporeal schema, and that contrast such a method with other auto/ethnographic ones.

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