Tracing ethnography: A performance approach to the ethnographer’s dis/appearance.

Chaim Noy

This lecture is informed by the epistemology of “traces,” which, according to Jacques Derrida and Susan Stewart, function as material links that connect contexts and allow situated meanings to be performed and grasped. The lecture employs reflexive methods with the aim of critically examining the production of academic knowledge. Empirically, the focus is on an ethnography conducted in a national memorial museum located in Jerusalem. The ethnography explored commemorative discourse and representations thereof, as these are embodied in the museum’s visitor book and in the writing practices that it enables. In the ethnography, the visitor book was conceptualized performatively, suggesting it is not a linguistic or thematic corpus that should be analyzed, but a situated stage on which multimodal performances are accomplished by the visitors (Noy, 2008a, 2008b). But within the economy of museums’ exhibits and performances, research itself is implicated by the semiotics of performance and commemoration. While the ethnography sought visitors’ and tourists’ traces on the pages of the visitor book, its material—observable and public—presence at the site, had created it own effects; its own traces. Ethnographic practice is thus deconstructed with the aim of shedding light on how in-situ research is itself an ideological and aesthetic move. Ethnography in the put on the same footing as museum visitorship, i.e. as situated, performative accomplishments. In line with the conference’s Deleuzian theme, the lecture concludes by suggesting that performance (experimentation) and not interpretation is the leading semiotic resource is late-modernity.