Anxiety as a Tool for Critical Disability Studies Fieldwork

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Joseph Michael Valente


fieldwork, anxiety, deaf culture, psychoanalytic ethnography


In this article, I draw on an incident where I was called a “fake deafie” by informants and a follow up interview transcript about this episode to consider the role of emotional response and anxiety in fieldwork. I use emotions and particularly the tracking of anxiety as a tool to productively explore the subjective, intersubjective and intrasubjective dynamics that give shape to encounters in fieldwork. This focus on affect in fieldwork allows me to productively attend to the ethical and methodological dilemmas that materialized as a bicultural, or an in-betweener, ethnographer (Author, 2011, 2014a, in review). Importantly, attending to affect in fieldwork also allows me to draw attention to an integral component of conducting critical disability studies fieldwork, that is, the affective dimensions. I conclude by arguing for the need for researchers in critical disability studies to have a theory of anxiety. This theory of anxiety needs to be a part of the critical disability studies researcher’s reflexivity toolkit.

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