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Soundtracks of War: Contesting the Temporal and Experiential Boundaries of War Ethnography

07/24/2019
Author: Muzna Al-Masri
 
Number: Working Paper No. 4
 
Date: July 2019
 
Abstract
This article explores the value of attention to sensory experiences in the study of conflict and war, and in particular those of the ethnographer herself when she has previously lived through war and violence. It is at once an invitation for greater sensitivity to auditory and olfactory dimensions in researching violence and a critical questioning of the perception of a limited temporality in the fieldwork experience. Living through war involves repeated encounters with violence and a prolonged ‘living-in’ its shadow. Every encounter with violence bridges different temporalities: the present moment, memories of past violence and concerns about their recurrence in the future, all create a sense of we-ness among subjects. The lived experience of war is cumulative; it etches its marks on its subjects’ souls and bodies, its impact varying as its subjects go through different life stages. It is also intergenerational as the individual experience of violence is often closely tied to the experiences of past generations and expectations for future generations.
 
Keywords:
Sensory methods; auto-ethnography; conflict and war; violence, Lebanon; living-in
 
 
About the Author
Muzna Al-Masri holds a PhD in Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. She is currently a researcher and consultant for several UN and international organizations. Her most recent research reports include analysis of the conflict context in various Lebanese regions, examining the linkages between social cohesion and humanitarian interventions. She has held postdoctoral fellowships from the Arab Council for the Social Sciences (2016-2017) and the Orient-Institut Beirut (2018). She is currently preparing a book manuscript, which ethnographically explores the relationships between political elites and their constituencies, looking specifically at the emergence and production of the model of “entrepreneurial elite” in post-war Lebanon.
 

* The copyright of this work is retained by the author.

 


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