Social and Cultural Geography has recently published a paper that took me many years to write and to think upon — it is called The ethnographic novel as activist mode of existence: translating the field with homeless people and beyond. The paper is about the way in which I ‘translated’ my fieldwork with homeless people in Turin into something more powerful than ‘bare’ academic research — namely, a composite book called ‘Il numero 1’ made of a full-length ethnographic novel, a participant introduction, 21 illustration by Eleonora Mignoli and a political essay at the end. The book was oriented toward an activist interventions that I call, following Latour, ‘mode of existence’: a way of doing and living research that exceeds the boundaries of canonical forms of knowledge production and engagement.
I hope this paper will inspire people to experiment with creative methodologies in ways able to de-centre ourselves (as researcher) and re-centre the meaning of what we do in empowering ways. The abstract is below and the paper can be downloaded on S&CG’s website or, for free, on this website or on Academia.edu.
The ethnographic novel as activist mode of existence: translating the field with homeless people and beyond
The paper argues in favor of creative methodologies as tool for relevant academic praxis. It provides the analysis of a concrete case in which a non-academic text – a composite book made of a participant’s introduction, an ethnographic novel, 21 graphic illustrations and a political essay – allowed for a meaningful re-appropriation of a fieldwork with homeless people in Italy. Such re-appropriation is understood and theorized as a research-activist ‘mode of existence’, namely as a way to use creative methodologies to pursue active and emancipatory engagement with vulnerable groups. The paper analyses this ‘mode of existence’ as a process made of several ‘translations’, or orientation toward the same interests, and it clearly shows the role of non-human agencies in their unfolding. Through its more-than-human narrative, the paper provided an innovative contribution to debates on research-activism and a new reflection on how to engage meaningfully with vulnerable groups. The conclusion highlights areas of improvement to further strengthen the activist-research mode of existence presented in the paper.
ps: More about the novel at the centre of the analysis can be found at this page (in Italian).