The Study of Reflexivity
“The politics of friendship, fieldwork and representation within ethnographic studies of young people” authors Shane Blackman and Gemma Commane focus on the politics of fieldwork and the representation of young people in ethnography. Both researchers study the friendships and culture of a group of youthful men and women in different settings. As ethnographic research is often based within field sites where non normative identities and behaviours may represent, there is always a risk. The journalist Hunter S. Thompson (1996:283) used participant observation with Hells Angels is the archetypal example of danger, leading to a ‘fractured skull’ risk not only covering the personal safety of the journalist as they negotiate the lives, identities and spaces of the researched, but also what the participants say or do when being observed.
In field research the friendships built over time show how trust, respect and a sense of togetherness is vital to how the field is understood and then conceptualised. In William Whyte’s research (1943), the relationship between him and ‘doc’ in ‘street corner society’ is seen as a defining moment of contemporary reflexivity between researcher and the researched. In a similar way, Brian Wilson (2006) and Rachel Colossi (2010) developed research friendships within their respective communities to understand the social world participants occupy and its constraints. If the researchers identity fades overtime and is eventually seen as one of the group then this shows how successful this method of research and gaining information is.
Geek Hierarchies, Boundary Policing, and the Gendering of the Good Fan
While reading Stasi’s paper and listening to her panel, her findings displayed to us how the female fans at Comic-Con (mainly Twilight fans) are marginalised at this event as they are deemed as ‘not good enough fans’ making them seem less important.
What could possible further Stasi’s paper is by discussing what the ‘good fans’ are considered to be at Comic-Con, this would help create understanding to people who are not familiar with the hegemonic discourse at Comic-Con and will be able to see what a good fan is; by doing this, it would help to reinforce her points about the Twilight fans being binary opposites to the other fans at Comic-Con.
Kristina Busse talks about the fan community in general, which could be anything from movies, books or tv series. She describes the fan as someone who is constantly interested and up-to-date with a certain subject. Busse underlines the fact that gender plays a very important role in the fan community. When referring to women, people are expecting them to act in a certain way, and when they do, they are feminists, but whey they do not follow the pattern, their actions are questioned. Male fans are expected to crave certain things, even if it is female figures, thus they are being considered “virile”.
The paper also covers a great aspect in terms of how far a fan should or need to go. She gives the example of Elizabeth Osderm Buzznet representative, who rejects the “superfans” and encourages the consumers, the ones that keep in touch with the things they like but not getting too much involved- an idea we disagree with, as it encourages consumerism and puts passions in second place.
In Busse’s paper, she mentions the tv series- The Big Bang Theory, and the difference between the mainstreaming of the geek. For the male fans of the show they look up to the protagonist Leonard, a geek with a hot blonde girlfriend-Penny, whereas for the female fan base, Penny is assumed to be the favourite. This suggests that the fans are expected to like the character of the same gender. As active fans as well, we have to disagree with this concept, as we consider it to be very stereotypical and sexist. Society expects us to look a certain way or to do things in a certain way just because we are a fan of something or someone. The fat, pimply boy from school might not be into games at all and the sweet lady that lives next to us might not be a fan of romantic books.
You are triggering me! The Neo-Liberal Rhetoric of Harm, Danger and Trauma
In his paper, Jack Habelstarm discusses how the discourses of offense and harm have changed over the last five decades. He puts into perspective the changed attitudes of feminists in relation to humour and language, and how the segregation of lesbians has evolved over the years. He speaks about the ‘stiffness’ surrounding people in the 1970s and 1980s, when humour was considered inappropriate and people were over-sensitive to what is now considered ‘normal’ (e.g. wearing perfume at the workplace).
Moreover, he emphasizes the newly appeared sensitivity towards what are the appropriate terms to be used for the queer communities – a subject causing many controversies.
He gives examples of students who were ‘triggered’ and had some forms of trauma following the language used in some classes they attended at university on subjects such as queerness or colonialism. In his opinion, the basic definition of trauma has been ‘over-simplified’, implying that the term traumatized is too easily used in today’s society, and that trauma is actually a much more complex discourse involving memory, political abuse or violence.
What strikes us throughout his paper is his dismissive attitude towards these subjects- he tries to be objective, but fails by giving the impression that language and terms is an issue we shouldn’t be bothered about, as long as some of the people involved do not feel offended by it.
He uses satirical images all through his paper, in order to express his own views on the subjects he is debating, trying to diminish their meaning and importance in this way. Social activism is considered plain censorship in his opinion, and calls traumatised teens merely ‘communities of naked, shivering, quaking little selves – too vulnerable to take a joke, too damaged to make one.’ In our opinion, the quality and importance of his article has been disparaged by his own personal views, which might be considered thoughtless by others.
- Busse, K. (2013) ‘Geek hierarchies, boundary policing, and the gendering of the good fan’ Participations 10(1): 73-91.
- Halberstam, J. (2014) ‘You are triggering me! The neo-liberal rhetoric of harm, danger and trauma’ Bully Bloggers 5th July 2014
- Commane, G. and Blackman, S. (2011) “Double reflexivity: the politics of friendship, fieldwork and representation within ethnographic studies of young people” inInnovations in Youth Research. Heath, S. and Walker, C. (eds). London, Palgrave, 229-246.