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2017 Conf. - Ethnographic Sensibilities and Issues in Transnational and Transdisciplinary Research
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Ethnographic research in applied linguistics and related disciplines has flourished over the past several decades, reflecting a greater emphasis on, and appreciation of, ecologically valid, socioculturally infused understandings of situated language learning and use as they unfold over time and across space, media, genres, and interlocutors. The insights gained from prolonged, personal engagement in fieldwork have typically been presented as “realist” observational accounts of particular linguistic, social, and educational phenomena.

However, new questions arise with an increasing amount of research now taking place in nontraditional, multilingual and transnational contexts, often involving virtual sites and media, and auto-ethnographic reporting. In addition, research in more typically immediate and identifiable local contexts must be disguised and transformed in various ways for ethical reasons. What does it mean, then, to be sufficiently “present” and adequately reflexive and transparent in conducting and presenting such research, to report candidly and sometimes quite critically about social and linguistic phenomena and meanings, and to convey plausible, and theoretically interesting explanations for observed linguistic investments and practices?

Applied linguists are navigating a growing range of epistemological, methodological, and representational choices and alternatives when conducting, interpreting, and presenting research. In this talk, I discuss issues arising from recent ethnographic studies I have been involved with where a variety of dilemmas have surfaced, sometimes mitigating the potential catalytic validity and impact of the studies in question, but in other cases providing powerful testimony to the lived experiences, convictions, and actions of participants and researchers.

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