UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A traveling ethnography of voice in qualitative research Magnat, Virginie


This interdisciplinary exploration of voice seeks to open a space for the nondiscursive performative power of vocality in qualitative research. In the first part, I focus on anthropology and ethnographic practice to identify the ways in which “voice” gets muted when transformed by scriptocentrism (see Dwight Conquergood) into a conceptual abstraction or a metaphor. Given anthropology’s colonial legacy and the implication of ethnographers in what Anthony Kwame Harrison defines as the project of literatizing non-literate societies, I argue that the potentially scriptocentric dimension of ethnographic practice must be taken seriously in light of the travels of ethnography across disciplines and its increasingly widespread usage within qualitative inquiry. In the second part, I foreground philosopher Adriana Cavarero’s critique of the devocalization of logos in Western philosophy and its analysis by interdisciplinary voice studies scholar Konstantinos Thomaidis, who investigates the systematic exclusion, marginalization and silencing of voice through Eurocentric constructions of logos as reason and as language. By means of an imaginary visit to ancient Greece, I scrutinize Plato’s anxiety vis-à-vis performance through an ethnographic encounter with the Ion, a dialogue between Socrates and a well-known champion of rhapsodic contests. On the basis of this performative ethnographic fieldwork, I suggest that conducting qualitative research on the significance and relevance of vocality today requires listening to, engaging with, and learning from the voices of ancient and contemporary oral cultural practitioners.

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