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[FIR 5.2 (2010) 180.

192]
doi: 10.1558/fiel.v5i2.180

Fieldwork in Religion (print) ISSN 1743.0615


Fieldwork in Religion (online) ISSN 1743.0623

Nadge Mzi

Wi, se kretynn mwen ye


(Yes, I am Christian):
Methodological Falsehood in
Fieldwork
Nadge Mzi is a PhD student in anthropology
at the University Paris Descartes. She chose Haiti
as her fieldwork site. She stayed there two years
studying the verbal interactions in the evangelical community.

ParisV-Ren Descartes
Dept. of Anthropology
Paris
France
nadegemezie@yahoo.com

Abstract
During a field study of a year and a half in the Haitian mountains, I was forced to re-evaluate my
research strategy, and consequently the object of my study, after a setback that denied me access
to the American evangelical mission, which I had hoped to study from within. This failure to
integrate as a non-Protestant researcher, led me to adopt a methodological falsehood to allow me
to penetrate the Haitian evangelical mission. The researcher who chooses methodological falsehood has to fashion a passing and superficial redefinition of his/her appearance, beliefs and
practices, and live his/her new religious identity according to the prevalent beliefs and norms. This
article will focus on the fieldworkers daily performance in her role of Christian woman, and the
strategies put in place to respond to the prescriptive criteria of the role being played.
Keywords: evangelical; fieldwork; methodological falsehood; participant observation; required
identities; strategies; tools.

Participant Observation and Reflexivity


Fieldwork and participatory observation are the two specifics by which ethnologists define their discipline.1 We recognize Malinowski as one of the fathers of

1. I would like to thank James Kapal and Stefania Trayagnin for inviting me to this
workshop, and to Simon Gillman and James Kapal for translation and support.
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ethnology because he was one of the first to methodically and specifically practice
the extended stay in the field and a thorough living observation. From the first
pages of Argonauts he postulates the foundation stones of ethnographic work; which
gconsist mainly of cutting oneself off from the company of other white men, and
remaining in as close a contact with the natives as possibleh (Malinowski, 1984: 6).
He continues a page later: gThere is all the difference between a sporadic plunging
into the company of natives and really being in contact with themh (1984: 7).
Malinowski also said gin touch with the natives.h For the first ethnologists, a
lengthy immersion in the group studied permitted the understanding and detailed
explanation of all the domains of cultural and social life. Since then, participant
observation in the field of study has been essential for the student, a rite of passage
to attain the status of ethnologist, fieldwork has become gthe basic constituting
experience both of anthropologists and of anthropological knowledgeh (Stocking,
1992: 282).
Nevertheless, during the 1960s and 70s ethnologists have subjected this practice
of their elders to critical examination. They have deconstructed all the political and
poetical aspects of both fieldwork and ethnological literature. I would cite the work
of James Clifford and George Marcus (Clifford and Marcus, 1986; Clifford, 1988).
Today, to overcome a certain scientistic limitation, ethnologists have accepted the
necessity of an introspective anthropology. Researchers on the ground cannot
disregard their subjectivity; they are present in body and soul, and their presence
influences the course of events. Their points of view and their preconceptions lead
them to select from the reality things they could not gather impartially. A reflexive
anthropology that James Clifford calls the gself-reflexive fieldwork accounth
(Clifford, 1986: 14) allows an analysis of the gIh in relation to oneself and others, to
understand the place given to the ethnologist by the group he/she is studying, and
finally to give the keys to read the ethnological text, which is only ever one version
of reality amongst the many possible.
The area of religious studies throws particular light on the reflection on
epistemology and methods in anthropology. Graham Harvey writes:
the trajectory and pursuit of religious studies may cast interesting light on some
of the academic debates about methods and positions in all academic subject.
This is all the more so because religious studies typically engages with communities and matters that call for, and sometimes insist on, participation, engagement, commitment, and enthusiasm. That is, religions proffer an immediate and
almost inescapable challenge to the kind of objectivity often required by and of
academics (Harvey, 2004: 169).

The work of reflecting on onejs fieldwork practice is even more indispensable than
the study of the beliefs and religious practices of a proselytizing group such as

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Christian evangelicals as it must take place in the binary context of being a Christian ginsiderh or being outside. Indeed, as I have experienced, ethnologists must
respond in every moment to their beliefs; they are subjected to an gevangelical
pressure,h coming from all believers, and their integration into the group is more
or less determined by their acceptance of Christ as Saviour.

The Ethnographer Faced with Exclusion


I chose Haiti as my destination without having decided on a research question
beforehand. In a certain way, I wanted the subject to impress itself on me, I wanted
to be attentive to what is currently important for the Haitians. From my first weeks
in the capital, at certain times, various actors tried to convert me. I thus learned
that the family I was staying with were evangelicals, and the oldest of their
children took me to a religious service of a church run by American missionaries on
the first Sunday after my arrival. The first French people I encountered were
missionaries who prayed for the success of my thesis and for my conversion. The
network of friends that I made therefore comprised above all of evangelicals, and
the closest were the leaders of the Pentecostal and Baptist communities. Daily,
people asked me if I was a missionary and wanted to know which denomination I
belonged to. In the course of conversation with members of the family where I
lived, I had to defend my atheist position, vigorously attacked on all sides. They
became resigned to this only when, asked if I would call to God if the engine on the
plane I was taking exploded, I answered gno.h I was then, in their eyes, incurably
atheist, though this did not damage our relationship, because the family continued
with their open and progressive form of Protestantism.
With the violence in the capital, I went to the provinces, in the mountains in the
south-west, where the Baptist family of friends of mine in Port-au-Prince received
me. I was driven there by a very young pastor holding views that I would qualify as
fundamentalist, defending creationism with fervour, adopting a literal view of the
Bible, and relegating women to the home. I shared some of my reservations with
this, advancing the name of Darwin, but I avoided taking a clear position, because I
had decided to take the evangelical explosion as the main theme for my doctorate,
as it was changing the religious, social and political configuration of Haiti.
In these early days, I gave all my time to observing the activities of the American mission, sited a few metres away from the Alcide family, who were lodging me.
The mission was quite open to me as Madan Alcide worked there as a cook and
childminder for the American missionary Pastor John and his wife. As for her
husband, Alcide, he was a well-known leader who had helped with the establishment of the mission. I naturally went to see Pastor John to let him know that I

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envisaged putting his mission at the heart of my study plan. This first meeting
proved to be the only one.
I detected no antipathy towards me from this affable, mild-mannered man.
Speaking in Creole, he told me of his family and childhood in Haiti, and it was only
at the end of our conversation that he asked me about my religious adherence. I had
obviously prepared for this question, and answered in an evasive manner gwithout
religion but you know I am looking for meaning in lifenh I had deliberately avoided
the term atheist, which seemed to me too provocative and would have had the
consequence of alienating him from me. He invited me to attend all the services
and he told me that he would lend me a Bible with a commentary. However, little
by little I understood that my presence was neither wanted nor hoped for, and that
I was refused access, by order of Pastor John, to the clinic and the food programme.
For several weeks I did not manage to speak with him, I could see he was avoiding
me. Nobody could help me to clarify the situation, which was going from bad to
worse. Then, Madan Alcide, after a prolonged absence due to illness, was dismissed
from her job as cook. I did not have any difficulty understanding that this decision
had been brought about by my closeness to her, and she had made no secret of her
affection for me personally. I did not want to confront Pastor John in a declaration
of war, which could have poisoned the situation and made the problems of the
Alcide family worse. I opted for a strategy of avoidance, followed by retreat, pure
and simple. Pastor John repeatedly asserted the necessity for the gtrueh Christian
to cut himself off from the world and all its subversive elements. He wanted to
create, as he had tried to do with the mission, an ideal family where all would share
the same beliefs and values, whilst protecting itself as much as possible from the
outside. Several of these reasons seemed to make me an undesirable. He had no
hold on me and could not exercise any control. I was circulating freely amongst all
the little houses, in friendship with Catholics, Voodooists and evangelicals. I was
French and, for a young woman, I was very free and adventurous and an ethnologist to boot! Things smelled bad!
However, I could not resolve to keep away from the church, as I wanted to
observe the forming of a religious community, not only in its relationship with the
outside world, but also in the daily experience and worship of the divine. The
option that suggested itself to me, after the reversal at the hands of Pastor John,
was to lie.
I had repeatedly met a Pentecostal pastor, Pastor Nelson, from a little church in
a place not far from my house. I introduced myself to him and the congregation as a
young convert, seeking to grow in Christ, without hiding my status as an ethnologist. The welcome was very warm and my integration went without difficulty. I was

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not Nadege to them, but Sister Nadege, a sister in Christ, belonging wholly to the
church. I was thus able to study both the religious experience of my brothers and
sisters and my own with my new religious identity.

Required Identity as a Woman


The joining of a religious group requires the playing of a role fitting to it. Now, I
was a gyoung Christian womanh and I had to act as such accordingly. I had to incorporate, by watching and practising, the physical and linguistic behaviour appropriate to this social role. I had to go back to the level of apprenticeship in order to best
perform my role of gyoung Christian woman.h I was required to conform to the
gender requirements of the community around me.
Letjs start by looking at the performance of the feminine role as it is prescribed
in the Haitian evangelical cultural setting. The churches in my field of enquiry did
not have an austere or prohibitive attitude towards women. Even though there
were no women pastors, they were often leaders and participated actively in the
church. They had the right to speak as much as the men, and there were many of
them that did so. As for clothing, if the skirt was preferred to trousers and worn by
all, the few women who came from the town had the right to wear jeans. There was
no taboo on jewellery, make-up or hairstyle. On the contrary, the women were very
smart when it came to going to church. Madan Alcide always thought I was too
careless with my clothes, haircut and even my cleanliness! Madan Alcide was very
concerned about my body, to make it more feminine; she encouraged me not to cut
my hair, offered me sessions of manicure where she painted my nails, lent me her
perfumes, clothes she could no longer wear and even offered me her earrings. She
lent me a skirt and blouse to wear at the service, went to town with me to buy a
new outfit and always inspected me before I went to church. I had to be wellgroomed, with all traces of the red earth removed from my feet. I felt like a child
under the penetrating look of an adult; over time, a simple look was enough. I
looked like I had to look to be a gyoung Christian woman,h in skirt and blouse, with
freshly washed sandals, setting off with my Bible and hymn-book under my arm.
In many conversations, especially with women, I was asked if I was married and
had children. Astonished by my negative reply, they answered that the time had
come to think about it. Several suitors, more or less insistent, introduced themselves
to me, and Madan Alcide always showed me off to her younger brothers, with whom
I got on well. She only stopped this when I made it clear to her that it was a question of friendship, and only friendship.
In all these cases I avoided the question of marriage by re-iterating that my priority was to complete my thesis and after that there would be time to think about it.

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To speak of my sexual orientation would have been suicidal for the continuation
of my research. Homosexuality is considered a serious sin and pastors spoke forcefully against this vice. I had heard Pastor John explain Hurricane Katrina as divine
punishment against a city corrupted by homosexuals and black magicians. In Haiti,
homosexuality is related to voodoo, whose initiates can be possessed by the spirit
of the gender opposite to their own. Homosexuality is therefore doubly stigmatized
by the evangelicals; the vice of Sodom is equally the vice of superstition that must
be eradicated. Fieldwork dealing with an extreme ideology with political, sexual or
religious themes forces the ethnologist to keep her own convictions quiet, to hide
her private life or to dissimulate a facet of her identity. The sociologist Daniel Bizeul,
who spent three years in the field with the Front National, the extreme right-wing
party in France which is homophobe and racist, similarly hid his homosexuality and
friendships with coloured people by strictly separating, with considerable sacrifice,
his fieldwork from his private life. Bizeul equally insists on the fact that if one wants
to win the confidence and attention of the group being researched, it is necessary to
know how to acquiesce or approve of propositions that personally one would find
scandalous or absurd (Bizeul, 2003).

Required Identity as a Christian


The performance of my role as a Christian led me down some unexpected paths. On
arriving in the field, my theological knowledge was basic, but I had it in mind to
develop it. Every week I would meet with Pastor Nelson and his mentors, Pastor
Mercilius and Pastor Dieudonne, to study chapters of the Bible. Madan Alcide was
proud of my Christian zeal. At night we frequently read a psalm together, and we
attended several evangelical conventions and crusades in the towns of Cayes and
Port-au-Prince. By the end of my stay in the field, I was on a par with the young
church leaders on biblical questions. One of them, who replaced Pastor Nelson
during his absences, asked me to check through his sermon and offer my advice.
The most difficult thing was to learn to pray out loud for a long period of time,
and I never managed this. I made my excuses, invoking the inwardness of classical
Protestant prayer as was practised in France. With the first Creole phrases spoken
out loud, I would drop my voice down and mutter whatever came into my head,
never calling to God but often reviling the government for its inaction. I found the
material for my prayers in politics, which was familiar ground to me. Every evening, I listened to Madan Alcidejs prayers made lying on her bed, where with tenderness or anger she recalled the events of the day and offered her family to Godjs
care. I trained myself to pray in my bed, using the prayers I had heard during the
day as my model. In time, my prayers concentrated more on the people around me,

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I could advance the name of Jesus more easily and, as was often asked of me or
promised by me, I prayed for the healing of this one or the success of another.
At church, I joined youth and womenjs groups and was part of the choir. At the
event gDays for Young Christiansh Pastor Nelson invited me to make a presentation.
I had always refused to enter the pulpit, saying that I was not yet baptized but I
knew that Pastor Nelson would have been offended if I rejected his request. I prepared something that seemed to me more neutral than sermonizing, a theological
discourse on the relation between the Father (Abba) and the Son. When the day
came, I was faced with a hundred attentive people, a gathering of pastors and young
people from the area. The situation was comical, but I had sufficiently assumed the
physical and linguistic codes of the Christian as part of my identity that I came
through unharmed, and was even rather proud of my performance. Pastor Nelson
let me know that the theological college he had passed through accepted women,
and when my departure was approaching, he repeated that I should become a
missionary in my own country, that I should conquer France for Christ and convert
the President, Jacques Chirac!
At the end of my fieldwork, during the inauguration of the new temple of the
American mission, Pastor John told me, through a close relation, a Haitian pastor,
that he congratulated me for my conversion and he was happy to know that even in
the country of Voltaire, there was still a good reason to hope. This Haitian pastor
added that his conversion from the voodoo to the evangelical religion was much
like my conversion.

The Ethnographer as an Actor


gTo play,h gto conform,h groleh; this vocabulary invites us to compare ethnology and
theatre. This did not escape Kirsten Hastrupjs notice, as she suggested the similarity between these two areas because both theatre and anthropology relinquish
gthe petrified view of their subjecth (Hastrup, 1995: 79). Hastrup compares the
ethnographer with an actor on stage; gThe ethnologist, too, has to acculturate her
body to a new pattern of appropriate action. Fieldwork can be seen as a second
enculturationh (1995: 81). This enculturation allows ethnology to understand
implicit local knowledge and to make onejs body and senses the ground for a
cultural experience. Like the actor, the ethnologist acquires bodily and performance capacities and ordinary faculties of the role he is going to play. He shapes
himself, informs himself, trains himself and models himself on the contact with the
Other, from which he wants to learn and understand the reasons for actions and
beliefs. It is a way (amongst others) of engaging in a more comprehensive study of
practices and motivations. The ethnographer should get out of her own cultural

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logic in order to attempt to apprehend the protestant rural logic. She has to know
what is required to be done, to be said in any situation (or at least, in the more
probable situations). In the field, I had to think and act as a Christian. The
appearance was conducive to taking a more attentive look at the details which
could otherwise escape us (as the corporeal and pycho-logical characteristics of
Christian femininity), to act them out with more or less success. Here, the risk for
the ethnographer is to sink into the illusion of the fieldwork as a process of
indigenization. Clifford Geertz tells us that the ethnographer must not deceive
himself; gwe cannot live other peoplejs lives, and itjs a piece of bad faith to tryh
(Geertz, 1986: 373). The methodological falsehood does not claim to turn the
ethnographer into a native; on the contrary, he establishes by his immediate presence in the performance, a reflexive distance by keeping to appearances.
I am only converted in the eyes of the group studied, and if I adopt their point of
view it is only in a passing manner. As Daniel Bizeul explains gitjs not because the
researcher seeks to unite himself with those under study, to the point of identifying
with them mentally and emotionally, that he changes his life, beliefs, family or
friendsh (Bizeul, 2007). Bizeul speaks of different strands when he compares the
ethnographer, not to an actor like Kirsten Hastrup, but to a novel writer or police
detective.
The methodological falsehood therefore allows the ethnographer:
q
q

to join a group closed to foreigners and to integrate for a long period of


time.
to make the experience of the difference between himself and the study
group by, as Jean Bazin suggests, initiation ginto an unknown game, whilst
trying to have a placeh (Bazin, 2008: 372).

Tools and Tinkering in the Field


Letjs examine this question of the methodology of ethnology. For me, there is no
one way of doing fieldwork, but as many as there are researchers, and each
research process differs according to the terrain. A biological experiment in a
laboratory demands a rational approach, standardized and infinitely replicable. In
ethnology, studying the Pentecostalists in Nigeria or Orthodox churches in Russia
requires that the research be adapted to the specific political, economic, social and
cultural contexts. This particular nature and contextualizing of the fieldwork
excludes any general methodological form. We have to mend and make good. This
seems to me to be the best way to work on the ground because the ethnologist is
faced with subjects, not objects. She has no control over them but, on the contrary,
must work with them, and reflect on the place that is given or refused her
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according to her personal circumstances . age, gender, nationalityn . and that she
herself makes the experience of what she is studying. The field is not a neutral and
autonomous reality, but, as Silvana Borutti has written ga dialogical and pragmatic
constructionh (Borutti, 1999: 44). The ethnologist and those who receive her, enter
into the framework of negotiations and dealings for the whole of the stay in the
field, where each person brings resistance, offers compromise, contributes sincerely or withdraws in mistrust.
This complex of differentiated interests can lead to some critical situations.
Here I am thinking particularly of the case of the ethnologist Florence Brunois
(1999 and 2004). This French researcher studies the Kasua (New Guinea) and their
symbolic conceptions of nature. During her thesis she focused on the symbolic
perceptions of the forest. Once she arrived in the field, she found herself in an
awkward position between the evangelical missionaries, the population had nearly
all converted, and the forestry companies. Rather than stay behind, she privileged
the confrontation with the powers that be, and tried to emancipate the natives
from the alienation of the companies and the mission (for which the forest was
considered to be Satanjs domain). She became their confidante and collected their
reproaches that countered the mission and the companies. She made herself the
advocate of their claims. In her struggle, she found a powerful ally in the World
Wildlife Fund which gave her the authority that defaulted to her. The mission was
defeated and left. In this case, the ethnologist is no more the researcher who is
trying to fit in, with more or less naivety, within the landscape but an essential
actor in the fieldwork, not to say the author of some events in the field. Without
her, the history of Kasua would certainly be completely different. This choice (a
sort of mix of militant action and research), which is absolutely the opposite of
mine, is, of course, controversial, it contravenes the Weberian distinction between
the researcher and the politician. But it compels us to think about some fundamental issues such as how to place oneself in the field and what place the inhabitants give us? Can we step aside, can we keep silent when some events occur that
are in total contradiction with our values and our convictions, or even that threaten
our field? It is not the place to answer these questions here. But these issues are
important and we have to think about them, especially when we are in the field
with extreme religious or political positions.
Several relational tools can be called upon to establish the possibility of relations with another, who can sometimes have a political or religious character in
total opposition to our own. Certain groups that are stigmatized, suspicious or
segregationist can oppose or reduce access to researchers who defend their neutral
status. The ethnologist, if she takes a proselytizing community such as the

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evangelicals for her fieldwork, is often enjoined by her studies to make a choice. To
place oneself outside the social group, to abstain from taking part, is to be nowhere,
and what is even less tenable during a long stay is to alienate oneself from what one
is trying to study. To avoid this restriction on essential data, I chose the methodological falsehood to work with the unspoken, the blurred, the omitted, and these
tools are part of the bits and pieces of the odd-jobber in the field.
Methodological falsehood consists of keeping quiet or lying about one of the
facets of onejs identity, whether it be religious belief, political leaning or sexual
orientation. The lie is a method in as much as it offers the researcher a strategy to
dissimulate one or several traits of identity in order to integrate with a group which
rejects such traits. The ethnologist is often seen on arrival as a foreign element, an
intruder, and to win confidence and integrate, she has to conform to the norms and
values of the group studied. To conform, therefore, one must accept the social role
which is presented, to be consistent in our deeds, gestures and our convictions
when faced with the study group.

Limitations and Bias of the Methodological Falsehood


However, as with any strategy, adopting a position means that one has to reckon
with the limitations and bias inherent within it. The fact of calling myself a Christian, or simply the knowledge that I was one of the faithful of the Pentecostal
church of Pastor Nelson, prevented me from accessing some information concerning Catholics or voodooists. I was indeed considered by them to be an evangelical,
or even sometimes a missionary, and the conclusion they took from this came from
the way they conceived of my religious identity. As evangelicals unanimously condemn voodoo practices, sometimes violently, I only rarely obtained accounts from
those practicing voodoo and a large majority assured me of their forthcoming conversion and asked me to pray for them. This self-censured and stereotyped speech
exasperated me on many occasions, but it was the price to pay for joining the
church. I often hid my relations with voodooists from Pastor Nelson, and I visited
voodoo ceremonies outside the area where I lived.
My position in religious circles brought a certain limitation and bias into the
(poorly-named) collection of data. Becoming aware is to tread the path of reflection. Madan Alcide urged me to avoid certain characters, whom she said were not to
be visited, and who were in fact voodoo priests, some newly converted. I would do a
round of hide and seek in order to meet them without word reaching her ears. She
knew of my encounters with Kesner, whom I went to see on the pretext of fixing
my bike. Kesner belonged to no church, received medicines from CARE for being
HIV positive, and had a very bad reputation in the area; the Christians only rubbed

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shoulders with him because he was a renowned mechanic. Several weeks before my
departure, Madan Alcide made some veiled reproaches about my friendship with
him. Her enemies should have been mine.
As a final example, I had decided to go to the most important pilgrimage of the
country, Saut djeau pilgrimage, which gathers vodouists and Catholics celebrating
the appearance of the Virgin. I proposed to my friend Jean to come with me. Jean
was a pastorjs son and was himself a young leader in the church. He was really
interested in my study. He accepted to come, gI am curious, I want to know how my
compatriots liveh he told me, but he didnjt want to tell his father and Pastor Nelson
where we were going. In the pick-up that led us to Saut djeau, we were surrounded
by vodooists. They were singing, calling the spirits. Jean, couldnjt stand anymore,
he heckled a woman, and exhorted her to confess that Jesus is the only saviour.
Then came a heated conversation. It was awkward, listening with attention without
sitting on the fence. After a moment, I made the point to Jean that if one engages in
an ethnographic study, one has to look and listen without looking for imposing
onejs point of view. Jean answered me that as a Christian, he had to announce the
victory of the Christ on all gsuperstitions,h he told me that he couldnjt manage to
keep silent, that he wouldnjt keep silent. He had his eyes riveted on mine. Did he
want to signify with this insistent look that my status of ethnologist excluded me
from being a grealh Christian and that the ethnological study did not match with
the Christian faith, as he himself conceived it? Anyway, during the rest of the pilgrimage, he did not try to set himself up as an evangelist among his pagan brothers.
This episode shows us that sometimes the recall of the status of ethnologist, by the
claim to neutrality, can be seen as a betrayal to our close relatives on the field. The
ethnographic place of distanced observation can, sometimes, appear inadmissible
for them, who are committed body, mind and soul in the situation. As a result they
expect from the insider ethnologist that he responds in accordance with the norms
of the group in which he is integrated.
To finish, I would like to defuse some possible and proper criticisms which may
be seen in my use of methodological falsehood as a new form of domination or symbolic violence towards the group being studied.

A Pack of Lies or the Rebuttal of Ethical Extremism


Does the ethnologist have the right to lie to those she is studying? Is the use of a lie
justified by the aim of getting to know them? It would not be true to say that the
relation between the researcher and the researched operates in transparency and
symmetry. On the contrary, it is not cynical to accept that the relation is asymmetrical and unequal. Anyone afraid to violate the gprinciples of professional

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ethicsh should not engage in fieldwork. I side with Gary Alan Fine in thinking that
girresolvable moral dilemmas are endemic to workh (1993: 268). The ethnographers
as gall workers are caught in a web of demands that compel them to deviate from
formal and idealistic rulesh (Fine, 1993: 269). G. A. Fine chips away ironically at the
accommodating portrait painted by the ethnologists of a kind, lovable and virtuous
ethnography practised in fieldwork. On the ground, the ethnographer is captive in
a situation where the researched can, at their leisure, refuse her access to data, lie
to her or ignore her questions. To refuse to respond in their manner could lead to
the impoverishment of the research. Guile, lies, and false naivety are characteristic
of ordinary exchanges2 and the ethnographer trapped in a social role cannot usually
manage without her daily strategies. To not contravene the ideals lauded by the
profession, she can depict herself in the colours of integrity, reverence and honesty, and it suits her colleagues to erect the ramparts of professional ethics, which
is only a manifestation of our incurable feeling of guilt; we take without giving.
Letjs be clear, though, Ijm not advocating using people. If the aim of fieldwork is
to contribute to written anthropological knowledge that should never allow the
ethnographer to misrepresent others. The methodological falsehood is not intended
to do harm to anyone, nor to wrongfully extort information. The ethnographer combines loyalty and duplicity in her relations with others (Bizeul, 2007). In time and
with confidence established, she can express more freely her positions and polemics,
establish nuances that show a little of a facet or facets of identity that have been
hidden, and build a relation that one would want to be reciprocal and authentic.

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2. I refer the reader to the analysis of Erving Goffman (1982).


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