Analyzing personal embodied experiences: Autoethnography, feelings, and fieldwork

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Author: Sari Hokkanen
Date: Jan. 1, 2017
From: Translation & Interpreting(Vol. 9, Issue 1)
Publisher: University of Western Sydney
Document Type: Report
Length: 5,683 words
Lexile Measure: 1450L

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Abstract: The embodied, emotional experiences of the participant-researcher during fieldwork can yield useful information on the social setting influencing interpreting practices when analyzed as part of ethnographic research designs. This paper presents examples of methods for collecting and analyzing somatic and affective field experiences, occurring during the simultaneous interpreting of church services, as well as the insights gained from the analysis of such experiences. The discussion is based on my autoethnographic PhD research on simultaneous interpreting in church.

Keywords: embodiment, emotion, fieldwork, ethnography, autoethnography, research methods

1. Introduction

The idealistic image of scientific research entails strict adherence to objectivity and emotional neutrality, much like the idealistic image of interpreting (Bahadir, 2004, p. 807). This image has, however, been contested, both regarding practicing interpreters (Bahadir, 2004; Bontempo & Malcolm, 2012) and interpreting and translation researchers (e.g. Bahadir, 2004; Baker, 2001; Koskinen, 2008). Indeed, insofar as interpreting and translation are regarded as social phenomena, the inevitable influence of the researcher as a social being on the research process becomes difficult to circumvent. The ethical benefits of reflecting and reporting on such influences are obvious and highly important; however, they remain outside the scope of the present discussion. In this paper, I focus on some of the methods with which we can examine our subjective, embodied experiences as researchers conducting fieldwork and the analytical benefits such examination may yield. More specifically, my discussion draws on traditions in anthropology and ethnography in that it focuses on participant-observer fieldwork. The paper is based on the autoethnographic study I conducted for my PhD, examining simultaneous interpreting in church (Hokkanen, 2016). Thus, fieldwork in this paper is understood as a prolonged activity involving first-person experience, reflection, and writing in a setting where the researcher already has one or several social roles besides that of a researcher.

In the remainder of the paper, I first discuss theoretical and methodological grounds for analyzing embodied field experiences in interpreting research, after which I move on to presenting three examples of such experiences. In connection to the examples--feeling rushed, disgust, and joy--I explain the methods with which I 'translated' the embodied experiences into analyzable research material as well as the methods of analysis. A central tenet of my argument is that writing is treated, not solely as a means of reporting, but as "a method of discovery and analysis" (Richardson, 1994, p. 516). I will also highlight some of the findings gained from the analysis, even though the focus will remain on methodological issues. The paper concludes with a discussion on the limitations and possible benefits for Interpreting Studies of analyzing the researcher's embodied field experiences.

2. Embodiment and feeling in autoethnographic fieldwork

In this section, I present a theoretical and methodological background for the discussion on analyzing embodied field experiences. First, I define embodiment as it is used in this paper and discuss the social underpinnings of embodiment and feelings. Second, I introduce the methodology of autoethnography that was used in the study on which the paper draws.

2.1 Embodiment, feeling, and the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A506656930