Speaking for the ‘other’? Representation, positionality and subjectivity in ethnographic fieldwork in Danish and Kenyan education institutions
Keywords:Representation, ethnographic fieldwork, Denmark and Kenya, narrative, participant observation, subjectivity in fieldwork
This article explores how issues of representation, subjectivity and positionality during ethnographic fieldwork may inform the question of representing ‘the other’. The aim is to start a critical discussion about how representation can be thought of and achieved under which circumstances, rather than recommending certain ways of doing fieldwork instead of others. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Danish and Kenyan education institutions, the article suggests exploring the dilemma of speaking on behalf of ‘the other’ rather than letting ‘the other’ speak for themselves as an issue of power, subjectivity and positionality. Rejecting the idea of neutrality and objectivity, and replacing it with subtle realism, makes it possible to acknowledge that partisanship will always be present in representations. Yet ingraining constant reflexivity and the comparison of multiple voices and subjectivities in fieldwork processes make it possible to understand representations of the other as partially situated and constructed.