21 Feb 2019

The ball is in your court: A research ethics event with Jan Zienkowski (Université Saint-Louis, Brussels) on Dec 18, 2018

Jan Zienkowski (Université Saint-Louis, Brussels) visited JYU from 16 to 19 December 2018, at the invitation of the RECLAS Research Ethics Working Group (“Ethics and Ballgames”). On Tuesday December 18, Jan directed a one-day research ethics event “The ball is in your court”: Ethics as basis of research in applied language studies in Ruusupuisto Lucina.

The morning session consisted of an extended lecture entitled On the ethics of articulating other voices: Research ethics in the analysis of interviews with ethnic minorities, media discourse on nationalist definitions of racism, and Alt-Right conspiracy theories about cultural Marxism (see abstract below). 

The recording of the lecture is available on JYU video portal Moniviestin (pathkey: ethics297) and also here below:

Lecture slides also available on Prezi.

Those of you interested in the notion of metapolitics can find more information in Jan's article.   

In the afternoon, we had an interactive seminar in which we collective analyzed one of the ALT-right videos Jan had selected.



On the ethics of articulating other voices: Research ethics in the analysis of interviews with ethnic minorities, media discourse on nationalist definitions of racism, and Alt-Right conspiracy theories about cultural Marxism

Jan Zienkowski  (Université Saint-Louis, Brussels)

Many questions linked to research ethics boil down to problems linked to the re-articulation of the voice(s) of research subjects. Concerns with research ethics cannot and should not be reduced to matters of law and liability. Ethical modes of conduct are born out of a concern with emancipation, power and domination. Ethical practices operate through a reflexive awareness of the risk that any act of rearticulation has a potential for violence and domination.

Social scientific research practices consist largely of acts of (re-) articulation. Whenever we write up a research proposal, collect and transcribe data, write analyses and reports, we engage in de- and recontextualization of discursive data. At the same time, we create new links between the voices of those we study and the academic voices we rely on in order to generate a more academic set of meanings, inevitably generating new meanings. Whenever we combine two or more discursive elements – e.g. words, concepts, arguments, narratives, repertoires, genres, identities – the signifiers articulated with each other will undergo subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in meaning. While these shifts in meaning are unavoidable and even desirable in research, this implies that we are in a constant risk of overpowering the voices, discourses and identities of those we study.

I will draw on two research projects in order to explore the implications of considering research ethics as an attempt to regulate the violent potential of articulatory practices. Firstly, I will focus on the question how to represent the voices of intellectual minority members involved in debates on diversity, integration and assimilation. Focal points include: (a) the problem of interviewers and interviewees using similar categories (e.g. culture, politics, integration) in overlapping or distinct ways; (b) the complex choreography of voices rearticulated in any interview; (c) the question of anonymizing data as an act of disempowerment. Secondly, I will focus on a discourse analysis of right-wing nationalist assertions of racism being relative in order to problematize different types of academic and non-academic critique. Even if we criticize arguably unethical political statements, we inevitably rearticulate the voices of those we criticize, adding to the dispersion of the statements in question.

In order to deepen the discussion, we will collectively analyze and discuss a third case. Here, we will explore how ethical and reflexive research practices relate to the ideological stances of researchers and research subjects respectively. Many authors in critical discourse studies occupy anti-racist, anti-colonial and feminist positions grounded in critical socio-political theories (e.g. neo-Marxism, post-Marxism, deconstruction). The problem is that all social and political actors engage in practices of re-articulation. Researchers are not alone in this game. One therefore has to ask how critical researchers can (re-)articulate discourses that undermine the very bases for these types of critique. This question is especially relevant in a societal context where specific types of theory and research are being dismissed as ‘fake science’ or ‘ideology’ (e.g. gender studies, left-wing sociological research, ‘fun sciences’, etc.). In order to render this problem more concrete, we will zoom in on the way the contemporary Alt-Right rearticulates the ideas and the legacy of the Frankfurt School. We will take a close look at a popular AltRight YouTube video on the Frankfurt school and explore (a) the acts of (re-)articulation that we can identify in the video, and (b) the question how this type of discourse can and should be rearticulated on critical discourse studies or other forms of ethically guided research.  

Si­gurd D`hondt

About the author

Si­gurd D`hondt

Associate professor, University of Jyväskylä

Jan Zienkowski

About the author

Jan Zienkowski

Guest professor, Post-doc researcher, Université Saint-Louis, Brussels