WP57 Historical bodies and historical space

Collection: Key word


Theoretically sophisticated ethnography is rare, and it takes an effort to discover it, because sometimes it is found in work that does not announce or present itself as ?typical? ethnography (the fieldwork-based monograph is still the ?typical? ethnographic product). The work of Ron and Suzie Scollon is a case in point. Much of their major works do not look like ethnography. There are no lengthy introductions about the fieldwork which was conducted, for instance, and the main drive of their work is to contribute to semiotics and discourse analysis. Yet, they systematically insisted on the ethnographic basis of their work (e.g. Scollon & Scollon 2009). And this paper will argue that their work contains very useful, even momentous, interventions in ethnographic theory and method. If we talk about sophisticated ethnography, the work of the Scollons certainly qualifies for inclusion into that category. I will focus in particular on two efforts by the Scollons: Nexus Analysis (2004) and Discourses in Place (2003); I will try to show that both works contain and articulate a theoretical overture towards history ? an overture I find of major importance for ethnographic theory and method. The works do that, respectively, by means of a theorization of embodiment in the notion of ?the historical body?, and by a theorization of space as agentive and non-neutral. Taken together, these two interventions offer us a key ingredient necessary for transcending the danger of localism and anecdotism in ethnography, by allowing ethnography to move from the uniquely situated events it describes to structural and systemic regularities in interpretation. This has implications for ethnography, to be sure, but also for a broader field of studies of human conduct, including linguistics and sociolinguistics.