Relating as conocidos : observing a social practice in an island context
This thesis examines a form of relating, relating as conocidos, which involves requesting and granting favours and deals with issues of reciprocation across a temporal and spatial dimension. Conceptually, this research distances itself from normative and instrumental approaches to networks of relations. It proposes an understanding of relational processes in which non-unitary subjects engage dynamically in reciprocal activities which hold them accountable. The thesis draws on theories of reciprocation and gift giving, and resorts to Bourdieu's theory of practice as a frame for understanding relating as conocidos. The fieldwork relies on two complementary methods of investigation, participant observation and unstructured interviews, and was undertaken over the course of three visits to the rural towns of Hermigua and San Sebastian in La Gomera, an island of the Canarian Archipelago. Observations were recorded daily in a fieldwork diary, and the interviews were analysed with the help of ATLAS/ti. Empirically, the thesis explores the relevance of temporal and spatial markers in practising relations. It looks at the contextual code of practice, within which people engage in intricate strategies in order to perform relating as conocidos under community surveillance. Finally, the thesis examines the discursive realm in which relating as conocidos is understood, identifying the citizen's discourse, based on ideas of equality and the islander's discourse, based on ideas of fairness and performed through trust. The thesis ends with a discussion of the relevant conceptual and empirical contributions, and provides alternative ways of making sense of the practice of relating as conocidos. The tensions and co-existence of these two discourses introduce relating as conocidos as an accepted practice in caring for others or as an unacceptable form of corruption.