Methodological issues I would like to discuss are drawn from my own research while preparing my PhD thesis in urban anthropology. My research is being carried out in Zagreb, Croatia. It is focused on New Zagreb, the part of the city built intensively between the 1960s and the 1980s, as part of the socialist urbanization. I am using various data (master plan, demographic data, newspapers etc), but my main research tool is interviewing.The main theme of my open interviews is everyday life. I have collected a significant corpus of urban experiences/oral testimonies of living in New Zagreb. Following that material I address a number of issues with regard to living in socialist/post-socialist city: the relationship between the architectural percepts, ideological discourse and everyday life; stereotyping of the urban setting; community building; identity of city inhabitants and community attachment; conceptions of home; reflections of the contemporary political, economic, social and cultural transition at the level of everyday life in New Zagreb neighborhoods.Two methodological issues follow from my own research experience that I would like to discuss. First, there is an issue of constructing the field of study. Although anthropology has shifted its optics from "there" (far away indigenous cultures) to "here", the research still demands the basic "otherness" (in terms of ethnicity, class, race, gender etc.) , to fulfil its perspective. My reasearch is not based on the presumption of "the other", but it is aimed at understanding of "the own". This shift in perspective underlies the basic position of the researcher, as deeply immersed within her/his filedwork. The position of "I know everything, I know what is going on" has to be broken down in pieces since it is only an illusion that would finally lead to no need of research because everything is already known. I argue that significant efforts have to be made to "wonder" critically about one's own culture or urban life. The "openess" towards the research into space someone is living in has to be far greater than in other fieldwork situations. The border between the fieldwork and the researcher's life and experience is blurred. This perspective does not call for researcher's "entering into" the fieldwork (as defined in classical anthropological research methods), but for his/her "stepping out" from it, not to "come closer" but to become "distanced from" in order to understand culture better. In other words, the cultural familiarity of "living in known and own" has to be recognized in its critical potential for understanding contemporary culture.Second, there is an issue of interpretation of collected interviews. Specifically I would like to call attention to the fact that in studying researcher's own culture he/she himself/herself could become his/her own informant. That means that the researcher is not only relevant in aspect of making fieldwork notes, but in the sense that he/she is the participant of his/her own research project. What is the value of the researcher's own experience/testimony in relation to other oral testimonies? To what extent could someone use it, or should it be dissmissed?I hope that this two methodological insights would provoke wider discussion. Although they are not new issues, I argue that they are not specified enough both in methodological as well as in ethical aspect. Any kind of research into one's own contemporary culture places the researcher into peculiar double position of (experientially) insider and (scientifically adequate) outsider. The auto-ethnography could be the new genre of anthropological writing. All of mentioned methodological themes are challenged from and illustrated by the process of my own research.
Bibliography: p. 7
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Constructing urban memories: the role of oral testimony