Chapter

Fieldwork Experience, Collaboration, and Interlocution: The “Metaphysics of Presence” in Encounters with the Syrian Mukhabarat

John Borneman

in Being There

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780520257757
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943438 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520257757.003.0009
Fieldwork Experience, Collaboration, and Interlocution: The “Metaphysics of Presence” in Encounters with the Syrian Mukhabarat

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This chapter examines the relation of presence in fieldwork to interlocution. Within anthropology, two kinds of criticisms of the fieldwork encounter have emerged: that fieldwork experience and presence do not generate any unique knowledge and that the power/dominance of the (Western) ethnographer ethically taints the knowledge derived from encounters. This study explores the relevance of the “metaphysics of presence,” to fieldwork and to the notion of “interlocution.” Furthermore, it investigates the notion of collaboration, usually construed as a kind of dialogue, a working together, to include a second referent. It also explores presence in the field, when the arousal of suspicion of collaboration in fieldwork encounters causes an “assumption of subjectivity.” The assumption of subjectivity leads to a mode of ethical engagement wherein people are arrested together with their interlocutors in a series of acts of perception and misperception through encounters with the Syrian Mukhabarat (secret service).

Keywords: fieldwork; interlocution; metaphysics; presence; collaboration; Syrian Mukhabarat

Chapter.  8134 words. 

Subjects: Theory and Practice of Anthropology

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