Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Comprehending Intolerance: Reflections on the ‘Uncomfortable’ Research Subjects
Ibnu Nadzir

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 707
Date: 2019-07-26 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Last modified: 2019-06-18


To study group of people or community whose identity marker defined by strong sense of rejection toward other groups whether based on ethnicity, sexual orientations, religion or any other identity marker has always been delicate matter for anthropologist. In order to grasp the natives point of view and also heavily influenced under the notion of cultural relativism, anthropologist tend to empathize with their research subject. The strong sense of empathy could easily be found on different kind of research subject ranging from remote tribe in the tropical rainforest to virtual community participated on gaming platform. Yet, similar empathy could not easily exercised on research subject whose views opposed the disciplinary view of anthropology. The dilemma as pointed out by Edelman (2001) might explained why research on conservative, racist, intolerant, or hate groups relatively rare in anthropology or even social sciences in general. Should anthropologists able to empathize with point of view of such groups, they still pose another problem which to present the research without justifying or normalizing perspective of such groups.

However, despite such limitations, there are still some anthropologist dare to take that risk on studying those uncomfortable research subjects. These works whether in underlying assumptions, theoretical frameworks, or themes are not developed within traditional disciplinary tendencies of anthropology. Rather, these are influenced by tools or perspectives developed more commonly in political science.  Drawing from those previous works and also personal fieldwork experiences, this paper then will explore the contributions and limitations of anthropological tools on studying those tend to be portrayed as the uncomfortable subjects. Furthermore, the paper will also discuss how paradigm and methodological exchange with political science might be fruitful for future development of both disciplines.