Co-operation and/as Participant Observation: Reflections on Ethnographic Fieldwork in Morocco

Simon Holdermann

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Abstract

This contribution carves out the co-operative foundations for ethnographic fieldwork, and participant observation in particular, by reflecting on the so-called ‘entry to the field’ as well as the establishment of rapport between ethnographer and interlocutors. Drawing on my fieldwork experience in the Moroccan High Atlas, I propose to understand the ethnographer’s delicate position as being both apprentice and expert simultaneously. Focusing on this relation enables methodological reflections on the workings of ethnographic research, the necessary co-operation of ‘researcher’ and ‘informants’, and the involved media practices. To take this tension seriously makes another insight possible: that the ethnographer, too, is being observed and under constant scrutiny. In this light, successful ethnographic research is possible precisely when successful conditions for mutual exchange and interaction can be situatively created and maintained. It is therefore a process of continuous co-operation that is mediated and necessarily involves media and even produces a range of different media practices.