Making fieldwork public: repurposing ethnography as a hosting platform in Hackney Wick, London

Isaac Marrero Guillamón
Goldsmiths, University of London

In early 2011 I started what should have been an ethnography of artistic work produced in relation to the Olympic-led transformation of East London. According to the plan, fieldwork would consist in a series of case studies, in which I would follow the work of artists, I kept it for approximately two hours, the time I took to recognise that the position of the engaged observer was untenable in a context in which all hands were needed to meet the project’s deadline. The aim of this chapter is to conceptualise this trajectory, not as an example of ‘going native’ or methodological opportunism (my own interpretation for quite a while), but as a process of transforming ethnography into a device of knowledge co-production. Entering into these relations of collaboration meant producing particular epistemic technologies. I’m particularly interested in discussing situations in which these collaborations failed or became difficult – moments in which the difference of positions, objectives and forms of knowledge embodied by the participants became apparent and had to be articulated.

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Isaac Marrero-Guillamón is Lecturer at the Department of Anthropology, Goldsmiths, University of London. His work is concerned with the entanglements between politics and aesthetics. He is interested in how activism, artistic practice and cultural artefacts may contribute to the production of new conditions of possibility for collectives. He has explored this ethnographically, focusing on conflicts and controversies in which a given state of affairs is ruptured and new distributions of expertise, entitlement and participation are enacted. His first two projects, in Barcelona and London, were situated in the context of ex-industrial areas affected by state-led urban renewal plans which triggered novel activist alliances and registers. He’s currently researching the conflict surrounding the mountain of Tindaya (Fuerteventura), at once a protected natural site, a mining resource, an archaeological site, and the location of a monumental public art intervention. In the course of these projects, he has experimented with a range of visual and collaborative methodologies, including film, photography, public events, textual objects and exhibitions.