Lessons from Field Resistance

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Michel ANTEBY , Harvard University, Boston, MA
Close-up examinations of economic life are necessary to understand the complex dynamics and cultural meanings of commerce. But what happens when these inquiries apparently fail? Put otherwise, what happens when a scholar is faced again and again with strong resistance from field participants to the point of almost derailing a project? Relying on a comparison of forms of resistance in three field-settings that I investigated, my paper aims to draw lessons from field resistance that go beyond any given inquiry and argues that a better understanding of forms of resistance can advance our scholarly work. The diversity of settings discussed (i.e., an aeronautics factory, whole-body donations programs, and a business school) as well as the variety of forms of resistance encountered (e.g., aggression, threats, and silence) motivate, in part, this analysis. The first example entails a study of factory theft and centers on retirees of a French aeronautics plants. The second example is an examination of commerce in human cadavers for medical education and research in New York State. And the last example looks at faculty socialization dynamics at the Harvard Business School, one of the U.S. centers of business education. Overall, the goal is not only to classify forms of resistance in ethnographic inquiries, but also showcase how such a classification exercise illuminates the broader pursuit.