AAA Preview: Research on ethnographic ethics and on representations of white masculinity

Event Date: 

Friday, November 17, 2017 -
1:30pm to 3:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Education 1205

In this LISO session, four UCSB graduate students will preview their presentations for the upcoming annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Abstracts are provided below.

“A menos que seas migra”: Negotiating consent in a mixed-status workplace
Joyhanna Yoo Garza (Linguistics, UCSB)
The drawbacks of IRB-mandated consent forms have been considered for various ethnographic contexts (e.g., Mangual Figueroa 2016; Metro 2014; Mortensen 2015). In my ethnographic project of the Los Angeles Flower Market, I quickly learned that the one-size-fits-all IRB policy regarding consent forms falls short.
Changes in immigration patterns to Los Angeles in the last five decades have contributed to a largely Mexican and Korean immigrant workforce. These shifts are evident at the Los Angeles Flower Market, where workers often discussed immigration status and many expressed apprehension and suspicion towards outsiders. My project also coincided with a sharp change in immigration policy and public discourse, including a rise in raids and hate crimes. Workers’ reticence towards institutions, and my research by extension, caused me to reevaluate the ethics and politics of securing informed consent.
In this paper, I discuss how I responded to the ethical limitations of the written consent form, which became increasingly evident as discussions in and outside of an ethnographic methods class challenged and informed my changing position on informed consent and its surrounding ethics.
I also reflect on the ways in which workers refused (Simpson 2007) or negotiated participation through language and embodied practices throughout the project, which ultimately led me to further consider refusal as an important form of participation and an acceptable alternative to my own research agenda. Importantly, my own participants’ refusal resulted in my own refusal to pursue research that could be potentially fetishizing of narratives of pain (Tuck and Yang 2014b).
One Teacher-Researcher Exploring Pedagogical Practices and Ethical Ethnographic Decisions
Jenny Sperling (Department of Education, GGSE, UCSB)
Many ethnographies outline the ethical responsibilities of participant observers in classroom settings, and the extent to which building rapport is key to ethically appropriate data collection. Yet, little ethnography in education, specifically those conducted by people in academia, acknowledge the ethical responsibilities and delicate balance of dual positionalities – those of teacher and researcher. In this paper, such dimensions and dilemmas are explored, as my role as teacher and researcher is challenged while working with both ‘children’, or legal minors, and adult students in one continuation high school classroom. Enrolled students do not provide assent/consent to be part of the high school learning environment and classroom. However, as those to be researched, all possibly-participating minors and adults students must provide signed assent/consent. This ethical process has enduring effects, especially when the content of classroom discussion is complex and investigates internalized perceptions of marginalization through personalized narratives of lived experiences. In fact, there is a dearth of educational research that focuses on the ethical dimensions of protecting the identities, voices, opinions, and perspectives of children (Rogers et al., 2016) and the necessary steps in maintaining IRB’s promise of “minimal risk”. This paper will address such questions as: how do teacher-researchers balance the affective dimensions and student constructed explanations or insights while simultaneously protecting confidentiality of identities and overall trust of the researched students, some of whom remain under the age of eighteen? And, what ethical responsibilities do teacher-researchers have when met with student resistance or refusal at any stage of the research process?
“Flipping the Gaze”: Critical Reflexivity while Working in Politically Conservative Student Groups
Jamaal Muwwakkil (Linguistics, UCSB)
In recent history, many linguistics actively engaged in research with the expressed goal of effecting social change (Rickford 1997; Johnson 2013; Milroy and Gordon 2003; Rice 2007; Wolfram 1997).  This activity comes up against a notion that, “You cannot raise the standards against oppression, or lead into the breach to relieve injustice, and still keep an open ear to the cold voice of doubt.  I am satisfied that a scholar who tries to combine these parts sells his birthright for a mess of potage: that, when the final count is made, it will be found that the impairment of his powers far outweighs any possible contribution to the causes he has espoused.” (Hand 1939: 139) Maintaining distance so as to ensure scientific “objectivity” has merit, but given the history of who has been studying whom, this positionality seems to be one of privilege and comes at a necessary cost to the group being studied. To explore these issues, I will engage in critical reflexivity regarding my work with politically conservative student groups.
I am a Black politically liberal researcher doing ethnographic work in majority white politically conservative community.  I conduced my work by attending events, meetings, and regional conferences with the College Republicans and the Young Americans for Liberty, while also facilitating audio recorded interviews with individual members.  My talk will detail ethical challenges I encountered while doing this work, specifically related to ideas of representation.  I reflect on the feasibility of analysis divorced from my own positionality, and highlight potential consequences of my decisions.  
Reversing the racializing gaze through the linguistic construction of the “straight white boy” on Tumblr and Twitter
Kendra Calhoun (Linguistics, UCSB)
White speakers’ practice of policing the language of racialized speakers is well documented by linguistic anthropologists (e.g., Hill 2008), as are the raciolinguistic ideologies that “conflate certain racialized bodies with linguistic deficiency” (Flores & Rosa 2015:150). Raciolinguistic scholars (Alim, Rickford, & Ball 2016) have investigated myriad ways that racialized speakers have responded to discriminatory practices engendered by these ideologies, including satirical linguistic performance (Chun 2016) and strategic racialization (Alim 2016). Both strategies have been adopted by users on Tumblr and Twitter, digital spaces in which hegemonic racial and linguistic discourses and ideologies are consistently contested (Bonilla & Rosa 2015; Calhoun 2016).


Since at least 2014, Tumblr and Twitter users have been subverting raciolinguistic ideologies through the construction of the “straight white boy.” Through the Tumblr blogs Straight White Boys Texting and Straight White Boy Problems, the hashtag #straightwhiteboys, and the use of “(straight) white boy” or SWB as a social label, users are “playing on the personhood” (Mason Carris 2011) of SWBs and position their ways of speaking as laughable through imitation and satire. Like portrayals of white speakers by comedians of color (Rahman 2004), SWBs’ language is a strategic essentialization of white speech that frames otherwise “idealized” language (i.e., that of white middle class speakers) as undesirable. Through this reversal of the white gaze that normally privileges whites’ views of others’ linguistic and cultural practices (Flores & Rosa 2015), racialized speakers remove the white male speaking and listening subject from his position of social dominance in this online context.