Brigitte BeckerKatharina Eisch-AngusMarion HammUte KarlJudith KestlerSebastian Kestler-JoostenUlrike A. RichterSabine SchneiderAlmut SülzleBarbara Wittel-Fischer

The Reflexive Couch. Fieldwork Supervision as a Method in Reflexive Ethnography

Feldforschungssupervision in der Ethnografie

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Abstract

This article introduces ethno-psychoanalytically informed supervision of fieldwork as a methodological instrument of reflexive ethnography to the methodological debate of the discipline, and aims to strengthen this approach in research and teaching. The authors identify a contradiction between recurrent calls for reflexive research practices and the simultaneous fending off of (self-)reflexive modes of interpretation, which are frequently dismissed as overly psychologising or ‘narcissistic’. Using a case study, they show how in research supervision the process of associative interpretation within a group mirrors the irritation of the researcher and the emotional dynamics of the field situation. Taboos, power relations, structures of meaning and agency within the field are made visible as scenic arrangements and opened up to reflexive interpretation and objectivation. Supervision helps to resolve research blockages and to establish the necessary reflexive distance in relation to the field, because of the close relationship between psychoanalytical supervision methods and an open, processual and dialogical ethnography. On an epistemological level, both supervision and research reflection are grounded in the mutual interdependence of the (researching) subject’s experience and overarching socio-cultural structures of meaning. The methodological-theoretical parallels between ethnopsychoanalysis and Bourdieu’s understanding of scientific reflexivity are developed, leading to a discussion of the conditions of ethnographic research in academic institutional settings with their mechanisms of exclusion and potentials for suppression and distortion, which are identified as a desideratum in the discipline’s selfreflection.

Keywords
This article introduces ethno-psychoanalytically informed supervision of fieldwork as a methodological instrument of reflexive ethnography to the methodological debate of the discipline, and aims to strengthen this approach in research and teaching. The authors identify a contradiction between recurrent calls for reflexive research practices and the simultaneous fending off of (self-)reflexive modes of interpretation, which are frequently dismissed as overly psychologising or ‘narcissistic’. Using a case study, they show how in research supervision the process of associative interpretation within a group mirrors the irritation of the researcher and the emotional dynamics of the field situation. Taboos, power relations, structures of meaning and agency within the field are made visible as scenic arrangements and opened up to reflexive interpretation and objectivation. Supervision helps to resolve research blockages and to establish the necessary reflexive distance in relation to the field, because of the close relationship between psychoanalytical supervision methods and an open, processual and dialogical ethnography. On an epistemological level, both supervision and research reflection are grounded in the mutual interdependence of the (researching) subject’s experience and overarching socio-cultural structures of meaning. The methodological-theoretical parallels between ethnopsychoanalysis and Bourdieu’s understanding of scientific reflexivity are developed, leading to a discussion of the conditions of ethnographic research in academic institutional settings with their mechanisms of exclusion and potentials for suppression and distortion, which are identified as a desideratum in the discipline’s selfreflection.

APA citation
Becker, B., Eisch-Angus, K., Hamm, M., Karl, U., Kestler-Joosten, S., Kestler, J., Richter, U., Schneider, S., Sülzle, A. & Wittel-Fischer, B. (2013). Die reflexive Couch: Feldforschungssupervision in der Ethnografie. Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, 109 (2), 181-203. Retrieved from https://www.waxmann.com/artikelART101343