“Of Things They Are Not in Quest of”: How Pivoting and Intangibles Shape Interpretive Work


This case explores the role of emotion and chance in shaping the course of interpretive research. Specifically, I focus on how emotives like fear and experiences like serendipity can become a crucial part of the research path and can result in pivoting, or moments in which the course of your work is altered. I task students to attend to intangibles through the explication of a long-term research project on war reporters, which has transformed from an ethnography of exotic dancers in New Orleans to an interview project on combat journalists. This project has been shaped through emotional connections to people and their experience, but also happy (or awkward) accidents and has now expanded to a co-autoethnography that I will take to spaces of conflict in the Middle East. The major objectives are to articulate these points through concrete examples and also provide some practical insights for people interested in fieldwork in dangerous contexts.

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