How to Do Ethnography When You Dislike Your Research Subjects? Fieldwork Within Right-Wing Groups in Italy

Colloquium | April 11 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 2538 Channing (Inst. for the Study of Societal Issues), Wildavsky Conference Room

 Martina Avanza, Senior Lecturer, Political Sociology, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

 Center for Ethnographic Research, Center for Right-Wing Studies

Ethnography does not seem to be suited for situations in which the ethnographer dislikes the group she or he studies. Some fieldworkers even think that ethnography without empathy is almost impossible to achieve. That is why scholars tend to do ethnography of left-wing or subaltern group mobilizations and to study the right from a distance, with an etic perspective.

Building on my experience as an ethnographer working on right-wing groups in Italy (the Lega Nord party and the “pro-life” movement), I will talk about the challenges of this kind of fieldwork and also about possible contributions not only to the field of right-wing studies, but also to the ethnographic literature. In particular, I will address issues of ethics and reflexivity that are particularly acute in this kind of fieldwork.

 cer@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0813