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3 INTRODUCTION The Anatomy of Ethnography: Diagnosing Folkloristics and the Conceptualization of Disability —Andrea Kitta andTrevor J. Blank In the wake of everyday life, where individuals and communities routinely navigate the tenuous social constructions that contextually define normalcy, the byproduct of its brooding inverse—stigma—simultaneously takes shape, coloring folk perceptions of what is normal and abnormal,sane and insane.It is a collaborative effort and countereffort, etched in symbolic interaction and internalized, then reinforced, through vernacular discourse. But “normal” is challenged,perhaps most spectacularly,in notions of disability,mental illness, and trauma.Indeed,these areas present a rich convergence of meaning where the boundaries of normalcy and “otherness” may become blurred, revealing valuable insights into the underexplored dynamics of the human condition. Diagnosing Folklore follows in a long line of folkloristic scholarship dedicated to the study of health and stigma.1 While past scholarship has certainly covered multiple topics from concept to practice, this volume’s interrogation of ethnographic practice is meant to further stimulate dialogue on theory and fieldwork methodologies in conceptualizing folkloristic approaches to the study of disability, health, and trauma. We have chosen to bring particular attention to these three areas because, while present in many enthusiastic conference papers, panels, and academic discussions over the last five years, there is a comparative absence of corresponding,published folkloristic scholarship on the intersection of disability, health, and trauma, with a few notable exceptions.2 This volume aims to fill the existing void by not only showcasing current ideas and debates,but also by promoting the larger study of disability, Andrea Kitta andTrevor J. Blank 4 health, and trauma within folkloristics and helping bridge the gaps between the folklore discipline and disability studies. The road to understanding disability, health, and trauma is paved in subjectivity . Stigma arises at the moment of diagnosis, the very point when the condition is named and the narrative begins. Employed as a metaphor, the word diagnosis aptly underscores some of the methodological challenges and considerations facing ethnographers in the study of health. Ethnography is reflexive; it is personal (Behar 1996; Campbell and Lassiter 2015:1–14; Lindahl 2004:173). By extension, ethnography is also imbued with methodological expectations and moralistic ideals that mediate and sometimes complicate the process of conducting fieldwork (Fine 1993; Fine and Shulman 2009). Accordingly, researchers must conscientiously look to the moment of diagnosis —the moment they realize that they perceive something different—to contemplate their roles, influence, and obligations in order to see beyond it. Only then should they attempt to understand the complications and impact of normalcy, mindfully self-aware and empathic yet grounded and objective. Of course, approaching the study of disability, mental illness, and trauma necessarily problematizes the role of ethnographer and folklorist.Diagnosing people—informant or otherwise—as “the folk” inherently frames them as an individual or group that needs to be rescued, saved, or given a voice, thereby assigning them the label of “other”or“not normal.”While these intentions are certainly well meant, seeking to give a voice to those who do not have one, it does beg the questions: Who are we to decide who needs to be given a voice? What marks people as“other”or“not normal”?What is the role of the ethnographer /folklorist in working with these individuals and communities? These are complicated issues that require researchers to consider both intentions and methodology. It would be difficult to argue, at first, that disability, trauma, or mental illness is often romanticized by those who study it,3 especially when disability is studied in the context of advocacy.However,this structure occurs in redemption narratives where the disabled person serves as nothing more than a lesson to those who are “normal.”4 Instead, scholars should attempt to act as more than ventriloquists,5 making sure that the primary purpose of their scholarship aligns with the intent of their participants. The field of folklore has been plagued with the romanticism of “the folk” (Abrahams 1993; Mullen 2000; O’Connor and Hufford 2001; Roberts 1993; Whisnat 2008), but folklorists have not always recognized their place in that romanticism. Historically, folklore scholarship has diagnosed subjects as disadvantaged “other” and the folklorist’s role as savior who attempts to rescue them.Amy Shuman suggests that the “phenomenological concept of mutual understanding (especially Introduction:The Anatomy of Ethnography 5 through empathy and the erasure of stigma) continues that legacy”(2011:151). Even when operating in the best interests...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781496804297
Related ISBN
9781496804259
MARC Record
OCLC
919202352
Pages
240
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-11
Language
English
Open Access
No
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