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Title: Ethnography of alterity : margins, markets, morality
Author: Evans, David
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2006
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The focus of this thesis is alterity. More accurately, the possibilities of an alternative to the predicament of demoralisation (Fevre, 2000). Demoralisation is a theoretical concept that attempts to account for real world problems. My own reading of the term suggests that these problems are threefold, encompassing: the absence of moral certainty and guides to action, the absence of morale or happiness and a deficiency in social integration. In sum, it can be thought of as a modern day version of anomie that hints at problems with morality, (post)modernity, market hegemony and the everyday. Alterity is studied here as a possible arena in which to subvert and escape this predicament. Over a year was spent conducting fieldwork using participant observation ethnography. Fieldwork was conducted at multiple sites including an intentional community, a Buddhist retreat centre, a fair trade shop, a real food market that sells local, organic and fair trade produce, a world music festival and a 'new age' dancing group. These sites were selected in the course of the research because they constituted themselves as alternatives to the problems of mainstream, modern, market driven and everyday living. The empirical focus is on the ways in which alterity can occasion cultural and affectual forms of subversion (rather than political and ideological ones) because demoralisation - like anomie - is a cultural and affectual predicament. In terms of methodological innovation, my PhD represents a contribution to the development of multi site ethnography (Marcus, 1986). It pioneers the strategy of 'tracking analytic themes' to do justice to the range of contexts in which alterity appears and the multiple manifestations it takes. Similarly, it develops ways of flunking about the relationship between theory and empirical research. As an ethnography, this thesis makes connections (Strathern, 1991) such that an evocation (Tyler, 1986) of alterity is offered alongside attempts to engage in myriad theoretical debates. The empirical research is used to displace and develop existing social theories without attempting to falsify them or offer new theories in their place. The theoretical areas of interest are: alterity, marginality, ethos, embodiment, the nature of modernity and processes of social ordering, the nature of transgression, the nature of individuality/identity, the nature of community/sociality and the interface between the market and morality. Additionally, there is a commitment to social philosophy. Here, concepts such as deconstruction (Derrida, 1967) the fold (Deleuze, 1993), heterotopia (Hetherington, 1997), motility (Munro, 2001 1992 ) and the relation (Strathern, 1995) are borrowed from continental philosophy and contemporary social anthropology to make sense of the data and to mount a defence of the social against postmodern tendencies. The central conclusion of the PhD concerns the fieldwork sites in relation to demoralisation. Noting the impossibility of a wholesale escape from demoralisation, the PhD considers how the fieldwork sites engage with and utilise the things they seek to subvert in order to fashion 'pockets of refuge' and occasion morality. In this spirit, it is concluded that something is better than nothing. With this, it is argued that an appreciation of heterogeneity, complexity, movement and balance can provide forms of subversion and a way forward that does not rely on a return to outmoded, one dimensional certainty.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available