Socialist biography and post-socialist ethnography: On the ethical dilemmas of trust and intimacy during fieldwork

Grit Wesser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This paper explores how issues of trust and intimacy became entangled in the course of my fieldwork ‘at home’. The research focused on the contemporary secular coming-of-age ritual Jugendweihe (‘youth consecration’), a ritual frequently referred to as family tradition, but which is closely associated with the former German Democratic Republic, and which also forms part of my own biography. I illustrate how my ethical doubts and anxieties emerged in the context of researching a society that has become infamously known as ‘Stasiland’. Yet because I was also a historical subject, I was aware of the parallels between the anthropological project and that of an unofficial collaborator of the former East German State Security (Stasi). These concerns emerged through a shared moral practice under state socialism in relation to a particular configuration of the public/private dichotomy. Jugendweihe itself was a locus for connecting individuals, families, and the state. As in other papers in this collection (see Goddard, Sedgwick, Stafford, Weston), tackling my own ethical dilemmas thus enabled me to understand the core of my research project – the intricate relations, based on intimacy and trust, between kinship, politics, and the individual.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-73
JournalSocial Anthropology
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • kinship
  • the state
  • intimacy
  • trust
  • East Germany

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