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Knowing otherness: the experience of doing educational ethnography in a Chinese community

Mokhtarzadeh, Amir A (2014) Knowing otherness: the experience of doing educational ethnography in a Chinese community. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This doctoral research is a reflexive ethnography, having as its aim, to understand and learn about 'others.' It is an educational journey to explore the methodological issues related to ethnography, and to get to know and write about, another culture. The elements that are drawn upon to address a given problem, and influence interpretations, differ from culture to culture. Drawing in Foucault and Agamben, I explored such elements in terms of what is called a 'dispositif' (or its English translation, ‘device’ or ‘apparatus’). Such issues and problems in fieldwork are difficult to solve without knowing key dispositifs operating in peoples’ lives. Methods for collecting data, including interview and observation, enable us to gain insight into the ways of seeing and acting, that members recognise, as being like an insider. This led me to exploring language as having a central role to understand those key dispositifs. Identity-in-question, pattern of thinking, and language, are involved in coming to understand the aesthetics of communication, and are steps for building trust relations, through which, one becomes visible for others as an insider. Then, analytical methods, to draw identity boundaries, such as, polythetic and monothetic, would be appropriate. I also looked at the ways in which dispositifs are operationalized through schooling and public pedagogy in order to capture behaviours, and in order to empower themselves through creative educative acts. However, when these dispositifs are hijacked by power, to shape behaviours, creating obedience, and managing consents, the issue is raised of how the legitimating practices of the multitude are to be managed. Thus, this thesis has discussed and contributed insights into the significance for ethnographic researchers, of coming, to understand the key dispositifs through which members of communities come to see their worlds and legitimate their activities.

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