Friendship in anthropological fieldwork: some ethical doubts
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Friendship is a relationship and at the same time a sort of feeling, which may take on a permanent character. This article shows that it can be and often is something else, namely a tool in anthropological fieldwork. The author tries to answer the following questions: 1. whether a certain emotional relationship called “friendship” between researcher and researchee is necessary as a cognitive tool in the process of anthropological fieldwork, 2. whether it is possible to reconcile the procedure of intellectual and empirical insight into social reality – which requires considerable distance, impartiality, the descriptive “objectivist” attitude that sees the researched reality, including the researched people, as objects – with friendship which is engaged and not at all impartial, and 3. whether friendship between researcher and researchee is morally neutral. I discuss the story of the friendship between a poet and writer, the first specialist in Roma culture in Poland and an excellent fieldworker, Jerzy Ficowski, and a Gypsy (Polska Roma) woman, Bronisława Wajss (Romani name: Papusza), as an instructive example. The fate of Papusza, unfortunately, was tragic. Ostracized by her tribe and banned as a disloyal person, transgressing the most important norms of romanipen, lonely and sick, she ended her life. Her case demonstrates the way in which ethical sensitivity in research is a hard exigency.
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