Sexual Harassment and the Construction of Knowledge: The Case of Ethnography
Patricia Richards, Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies, holds the Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professorship at the University of Georgia. She is an affiliate faculty member with the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute and the Institute of Native American Studies. She received her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002. Richards is the author of Pobladoras, Indígenas and the State: Conflicts Over Women’s Rights in Chile (Rutgers 2004) and Race and the Chilean Miracle: Neoliberalism, Democracy, and Indigenous Rights (Pittsburgh 2013). Her forthcoming book with Rebecca Hanson (University of Florida) is called Harassed: Gender, Bodies, and Ethnographic Research. It will be published in 2019 by the University of California Press.
Abstract: It is not uncommon for women researchers to experience sexualized interactions, sexual objectification, and harassment as they conduct research. Nevertheless, in ethnographic research, these experiences are often left out of ethnographers’ “tales from the field” and remain unaddressed within our discipline. Drawing from over 50 interviews and analysis conducted together with Dr. Rebecca Hanson (University of Florida), I will use women’s experiences with harassment in the field to interrogate the epistemological foundations of ethnographic methodology, examining three “fixations” of contemporary ethnography that inform understandings of and reactions to harassment in the field. These fixations are solitude, danger, and intimacy. Our data show that these fixations not only put researchers in danger but also have implications for the construction of ethnographic knowledge. They contribute to silence surrounding sexual harassment, and are motivated by and reproduce androcentric norms that valorize certain types of fieldwork. This case study of harassment in the context of ethnographic fieldwork indicates the urgent necessity for antiracist feminists to take control of the means of intellectual production in order to transform the academy.
This Provost’s Lecture will be held on Wednesday, November 7, from 1 pm to 2:30 pm in the Humanities Building, Room 1008. It is co-sponsored by Concerned Women of College of Arts and Sciences; Center for the Study of Inequality, Social Justice and Policy; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department; Department of Sociology; Department of History; and The Humanities Institute at Stony Brook.