When I Disliked My Choice of Topic

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:22
Oral Presentation
Ina SCHAUM, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
During the research for my M.A. thesis entitled “Being Jewish (and) in Love” for which I interviewed young Jewish adults about their “dating stories”, I suddenly found myself seriously disliking my choice of topic. I had set out to analyse dating as an embodied gendered and racialized process of orientation, guided by the question “[w]hat difference [it makes] “what” or “who” we are oriented towards in the very direction of our desire” (Ahmed 2006:1). Through a reconstructive and sequential analysis of the dating narratives I thus retraced the course of action during the search for a partner to have sex with and/or live, dwell, and share your body and life with, towards understanding how an embodied ‘being Jewish’ is constructed in the process. However, I had turned a blind eye on my ‘being German’ and a non-Jewish researcher. Did I continue a legacy of a dubious ‘scientific interest’ in ‘Jewish bodies’ as unequal ‘other’ in German society – exercising the "conquering gaze" (Haraway 1991: 188) of a German who studies Jews to know what and who they are, what they do and with whom they do it? I remembered Elie Wiesel’s (1979:241) observation on the violence inherent in modes of knowing in relation to Shoah survivors: “What do they feel when you tell them their story? When you claim to know more about it than they?” How could I bridge the chasm between “this woman who is writing about others, making them vulnerable” and those who are “more likely to be the ethnographized”? And “[w]hat, as she blithely goes about her privilege of doing research, is the story she isn’t willing to tell” (Behar 1996:27; 20)? In my contribution, I will try to tell this story.