Title: Inside the Companionship for Minors. Troubles and Weaknesses of an Ethnographic Approach to Deviance and Education
Authors: Alfredo Berbegal, Researcher, Department of Methods of Research and Diagnostic in Education (MIDE), University of Zaragoza, Spain
Fernando Sabirón, Research Director, Department of Methods of Research and Diagnostic in Education (MIDE), University of Zaragoza, Spain
Patrick Boumard, Research Director, Department of Philosophy, Breton and Celtic Research Center (CRBC-CNRS), University of Western Brittany, France
5. Reporting the project
First and foremost, ethnographer is a writer (Lapassade, 2001). Nowadays, ethnographic worries about writing, authorship, textual representation, rhetoric language, rationalities translations, etc. leads to an explosion of deliberate textual inventions by postmodernist (Reynoso, 1991), on the one hand, and natural consequences of the method of participant-observation by ethnographers of experience, on the other. The result is a great proliferation of new genres, experimental and experiential ethnographies (Clifford & Marcus, 1986). I avoided these interesting debates. In my report, I wished to link the reality I researched and what I wrote. Not only my research demanded an reflexive epistemology (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992), but also an educational engagement.
5.1. Ethical Issues
Crimes, drugs, sexual abuses... plus...
psychological and social difficult situations... multiplied...
by minors... divided...
research... in base...
I was not a mole. I did not feel like one. I got involved as professional. My research and my practice were articulated in a symbiotic way. The Other was not a stranger for me. In any case, I was a stranger for myself. However, I had a great ethical dilemma: anyone could not be identified in my work. I eliminated any explicit or implicit reference to any minor or professional. The name of the correctional institution and its location (city, village) remained anonymous. The final analysis became my doctoral thesis, addressed to the Academia, my first and exclusive audience (Richardson, 1992). You can view the Full Text Digital Doctoral Dissertation, published by the University of Zaragoza, Spain, at http://www.tesisenred.net/TDR-0224109-113932/index_cs.html. So, I revised all my diaries and entered participants' names under pseudonyms.
5.2. Multiple Writer
My Participant-Observation formulation can be depicted by the following ethnographic foci (Poewe, 1996): 1) Data (information): ethnographic self; 2) Empirical Data (doing): native ethnography, auto-ethnography; 3) Experienced Data (heeding and happenings): fieldwork memory, diary; 4) Both (doing & happening): ethnographic autobiography (experiential ethnography). Such focusing influenced on my writing, a writing for three voices:
Personal, professional and institutional situations were not mutually exclusive. One was produced by and producer of the other one.
- My "I". First person singular. Disassociated Self. My methodical doubt (reflexions) and my suspended doubt (impressions). My experiments and my experiences. My theoretical dissertations and my therapeutic digressions. I was not a witness. I was one of the major figures of the story. The consciousness.
- Our "We". First person plural. The Companions. It was not only my alter ego. It was the Other like me, and me like the Other. Sometimes, I bore witness to his point of view. Another times, I questioned my place in my relationship with him. There, where I was seen as, I saw myself as and/or where I saw the Other as "member". The life.
- Their "We". Third person singular. The Academia. Authority and authorship. The distance. The language to translate "life-world". The impossible translation, but the necessity of drawing its important limits and its desperate attempts. The second order of reality. The scientificity demarcation. The non-reduction of "person", but without making "it" trivial. The politic, but as ideological reflexion. The analysis.
5.3. The gap
This Ethnography of Education was interested in a rationality that allowed me to question not only the method, but also the professional educational thought (Aguado, 2003; Peyron-Bonjan, 2003; Sousa, 2000; Wulf, 2002). In the final report, this double compromise was eventually more theoretical than practical. But, what is really the difference? My research had been formulated by an intuitive epistemology of complexity and yet, at the same time, this formulation had been orienting my own socio-educational intervention and my own professional socialization. Consequently, my final proposal was defined in terms of professional macro-competences (vid. Diagram n° 24, p. 7)
- Macrocompetence 1. The interaction. Different levels of inter-subjectivity were produced and regulated by specific interpersonal interactions (professionalized, institutional, profane).
- Macrocompetence 2. The companionships play. The companionship implies always a dilemma-situation. It required a "polyglot" intelligibility. Assistance professionals was constantly "before" (I guide), "next to" (I am) and/or "behind" (I exist).
- Macrocompetence 3. The multi-referential deviance. Professional intervention was predefined by an aprioristic deviance (pathologic, universal, correctional). Nevertheless, it was necessary a comprehensive multi-reference to settle the minor into the deviance universe.
- Macrocompetence 4. The trust relationship. This is usually a situation of non-knowledge and the starting point is always the distrust. Trust was one of the fundamental notions to discuss further educational opportunities.
- Macrocompetence 5. The communicational action. Strategic, psychological and technical communication processes, natural conversations... the research wondered about complex alternatives to surpass the well-known dichotomy system and life-world (Habermas, 2001).
In other words, I could say that there was a reincarnation of a particular "attitude" in the praxis, even when I wanted to understand the praxis from that "attitude". This was the link between educational research and professional practice. This really was my writing commitment.
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