On becoming ‘la sombra/the shadow’ PAOLA JIRóN
DOI link for On becoming ‘la sombra/the shadow’ PAOLA JIRóN
On becoming ‘la sombra/the shadow’ PAOLA JIRóN book
German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote about the use of phenomenology to understand the experience of being in the world (Heidegger 1999). According to Seamon (2000: 161), this implies that it ‘is impossible to ask whether person makes world or world makes person because both exist always together and can only be correctly interpreted in terms of the holistic relationship, being-inworld’. This experience is always already situated in a world and in ways of being. This chapter proposes a hybrid and interdisciplinary methodology to understand the experience of mobility in the city of Santiago de Chile from a phenomenological point of view. This approach accepts that the totality of experience can never be fully apprehended by the researcher, and she will never fully understand how the experience of being in mobility takes place, as this will always be partial, incomplete, in process, becoming. As Bruner explains, ‘we can never know completely another’s experience, even though we have many clues and make inferences all the time’ (1986: 5). How do we address this limitation? Geertz (1986) suggests listening to what, in words, images and actions, people say about their lives. This chapter suggests embarking on a reflexive and intersubjective process from not knowing anything about the multiple and hybrid experiences of mobility to becoming increasingly closer to them, by getting very close, but never fully being, as, in Heidegger’s sense, this being is always someone else’s. This reflexive and intersubjective process entails reassessing methods as experiences become unveiled, accepting one’s position and experience as part of understanding the other’s and situating the experience in a broader context. Getting closer to experiences requires moving with people both physically and in interaction (in dialogue and embodied interaction), and one way that this chapter suggests doing this is to accompany urban travellers by shadowing their practices. Shadowing involves ‘following selected people in their everyday occupations for a time’ (Czarniawska 2007: 17). For this, an ethnographic approach is presented as the most adequate, given the possibility of immersing oneself deep in the observation of a practice by being there and providing an indepth description of it through fieldwork. Thus ‘becoming the shadow’ of mobility practices, as a reflexive endeavour, involves not only acknowledging routines,
but also entering into practices, into dialogue and interaction in a constant engagement with the people whose lives they constitute. Throughout, the researcher’s position and the methods of inquiry need to be adapted reflexively. A deeper understanding of multiple and hybrid mobility experiences is important, because mobility is such a pervasive feature and is constitutive of contemporary living and urban space. By looking closely at experiences, the ideas of fixity, permanence and duality present in most urban analysis are questioned and mobile experiences emerge as fluid, multi-scalar processes in their situated complexity. This way of analysing mobility practices is part of the mobility turn that is enabling considerable theoretical, methodological and practical advances in the social sciences and their role in shaping contemporary societies. The mobile methods presented here attempt to capture the ways in which mobility is experienced in cities today; this involves adapting, combining and modifying traditional research methods. It also means that, as important as knowing how much, at what time or in what mode people travel, research on mobility needs to examine the experiences of mobility practices, that is, the way people enact, experience and give meaning to mobilities in the way they prepare, embody and construct them on a daily basis. This requires innovative methods of inquiry, analysis, representation and negotiation, which necessitate flexible and dynamic methods as opposed to strict adherence to predefined tools. The proposed mobile methods are always in construction, always becoming. Moving with people – in the case of the research at hand, urban dwellers in Santiago de Chile – in this way allows the researcher to witness and share everyday mobility experiences and practices (Kusenbach 2003; Ingold and Vergunst 2008). To explain the methodology adopted, this chapter is divided into three sections, starting with a description of the various ways in which mobile methods have evolved. It then explains the ethnographic shadowing approach adopted for this research. It concludes with a description of one case study on how mobility practices in Santiago de Chile were studied by using narratives, time-space mapping and photography.