Report to the dancefloor : journeys by experience and writing into raving and anthropology
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This work is an ethnography about raving. As such, it is based on the author's actual, inter-subjective and historical experience of that contemporary international social phenomenon in Britain and in Goa (India) during the late 1980s and 1990s. It is written from the position of an involved, participating subject over time. This ethnographic approach and the emphasis placed upon subjective experience, history and knowledge 'from within' throughout the work is aimed, critically speaking, at tendencies within contemporary forms of anthropology which favour academic introspection, inter-textuality, textual notions concerning social life and overinterpretation. This commitment to ethnography is also used in the final section of the work, within a critical-historical appreciation of the discipline, to argue for a re-statement of Malinowski's radical 'science' of ethnography in the face of a routinisation of 'science' as a legitimating discourse within the discipline during the twentieth century. Furthermore, the ethnographic approach is also set out, in a way which attempts to make the work relevant not only to practitioners of anthropology, as a way of producing public knowledge and accounts of social life which are very different, ethically and politically, from those produced within other public practices and contexts, such as by the media and government agencies. Representations and accounts produced by such public agencies are situated and questioned in the work through attaching them, as loaded products, to Michel Foucault's political notion of modern 'governmentality ' Within such a politicised account of representation, the author has used long-established, humanist notions surrounding the practice of ethnography, regarding participation and empathy, in order to produce accounts of raving as a human social practice. These humanised and politicised accounts of the phenomenon are offered as a contrast to the predominating public accounts of the practice, produced through distanced and disinterested discourses, which mainly focus upon its ability to animate certain powerful social categories and forms of exclusion, such as 'the criminal' and 'the addict', and socio-political discourses, such as that on 'drugs' and 'the war against drugs'. This contrast, and the opposition and demand for human tolerance it expresses, forms part of a wider project within the work which resists dehumanisation; that is, the treatment of human beings and their practices in terms of self-serving discourses (monologues) as opposed to the humanising and politicising effects of experience, interaction and empathy/understanding (dialogue). Within this general framework surrounding the politics and ethics of representation, other areas which are explored are the position/role of the anthropologist and the use of subjectivity within the research process, the use of creative writing as a source of humanised ethnographic knowledge about diverse social worlds, and an exploration into the possible uses and limits of academic theorisation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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