Conclusion: Catching a Glimpse of Peripheral Wisdom
How does peripherality challenge methodology and theory-making? This book examines how the peripheral can be incorporated into ethnographic research, and reflects on what it means to be on the periphery—ontologically and epistemologically. Starting from the premise that clarity and fixity as ideals of modernity prevent us from approaching that which cannot be easily captured and framed into scientific boundaries, the book argues for remaining on the boundary between the known and the unknown in order to surpass this ethnographic limit. Its ethnographic case studies engage with a series of empirical and theoretical issues, including: What is at the centre and what is at the periphery of what we do? How can we represent what lies beneath the threshold of verbal reasoning, or does not respond to the criteria for widely recognised forms of knowledge? Does learning entail unlearning? Peripheral Methodologies shows that peripherality is not only to be seen as a marginal condition, but rather as a form of theory-making and practice that incorporates reflexivity and experimentation.
The article deals with a very recent phenomenon – the three communities of Orthodox Old Believers that appeared in the Republic of Uganda in the 1990s. This faith originated in Russia, but in Uganda all its adherents belong to the native ethnic groups and converted to Old Believers from other religions in adulthood. The general description of the Ugandan Old Believer communities is based on field evidence collected in 2017 by the expedition of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences – 125 questionnaires, 34 structured interviews, hundreds of photo and video records.
The article discusses the scholarship, methods, and theoretical approaches that have been involved in the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies from the early 1980s through the early 2000s. It traces the changes in methodological orientations and examines the specificities of ethnographic fieldwork in the STS area, as well as suggests the criteria for evaluating the outcome of research and offers ways of its advancement.
We analyze the research practices of sociologists in solving ethical dilemmas arising during the ethnographic fieldwork. In ethnographic research, where a close proximity to people under study is a fundamental principle, ethical issues are the most acute. Situations faced by researchers using the ethnographic method, do not often fit into the formal framework of procedural ethics, defined by the corpus of universal rules for conducting research “on people”. Based on expert interviews with Russian sociologists, the paper considers practical ways to overcome ethical dilemmas, as well as research reflection associated with them. It was found that researchers often have to act according to the circumstances, relying on their assessment and perceptions of acceptable behavior. The permissibility of this position is justified by the moral law, which Russian sociologists recommend thinking about before immersion into the field.