WP150 Ethnographic monitoring and the study of complexity.

Van der Aa & Blommaert
Collection: Key word


This paper explores the value of long-term fieldwork in the context of ever-increasing complexity in social life, itself a real challenge for civic society in key areas such as healthcare, social work, education, union work and so on.? This demands a change in academic approaches, covering not only our theoretical apparatus and fieldwork, but also the concept of ?science? itself: from an ontology grounded in synchronic and observable units to a science that has ?change? as its object of analysis, and ?dynamic details? as its units of study.? To achieve this purpose, we propose an investment in longer-term fieldwork projects that allow for the development of a more social action-oriented linguistic ethnography in which feedback, valorization, ?theory from below? and ?slow science? are key concepts. We first explain Hymes? concept of ?ethnographic monitoring? (1980, 1981); we then illustrate this approach by presenting an example from an ongoing project in Antwerp with children and adolescents in ?family care?; and finally we reflect on the implications of this methodology for ?theory?, illustrating the quasi-inseparability in (linguistic) ethnography between theory and method. Finally we argue that it is only possible to achieve an outcome in which complex issues are not reduced, if we massively ground our research in the social fields that need it most. If we realize an in-depth cooperation with and within those social fields, we will be subject to their ?ethnographic inspection? of our proposed analysis.