Preliminary Ethnographic Thoughts on POPREBEL International (English Language)

I see a few interesting tensions emerging in the coding so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these materialise in the SSNA.

One is about bubbles and encountering difference. Community members, on the one hand, find escaping the bubbles they grew up in (this often manifests in the concrete experience of deciding to leave one's home country and go somewhere else) leads to personal growth and change. The bubble-worlds of their home countries, while sometimes feeling safe, feel limiting.

But there’s an interesting thing that happens after that – often, they seek another kind of bubble in another place-- this time, around shared beliefs and values rather than shared national identity.

There’s an interesting tension that emerges here, though. Many community members say that it was in encountering difference (people from different places, with different worldviews) that they developed as a person, grew and developed their own values.

However, there is another kind of difference that community members avoid – they cite a values mismatch between them and other people (sometimes these are people from their home country, who haven’t changed their ways of thinking, or people in the new country whose politics and ways of life seem alien and wrong).

My first research question proceeding from this, then, is: what kind of encounters with human difference are enriching, pushing you outside of your comfort zone to grow as a person, and which kinds of difference do you avoid because you see it as damaging? How do you know this beforehand?

I find it fascinating that encounters with difference have the capacity to both grow us and negatively affect us, and am interested to dig deeper into the kinds of pushing outside of one’s bubble that are productive, and which are not. As a follow-up question, I’d like us to interrogate the bubbles more: When is a bubble a way of hiding from other views that might lead to the kind of expansion of worldview that many community members cite as central to their growth and development as humans, and when are bubbles a way of building safe communities away from threat? How can we tell the difference, when encountering difference (getting outside of bubbles) is often what pushes us to grow and change, too?

I’m also interested in interrogating the relationship between one’s origin country and one’s adopted country – there’s an emotional element to the writings on this by communities so far that have been interesting. Some find a deep emotional connection to the politics in their origin countries, even after having been away for years, that they cannot develop in new countries (often because they never feel totally a part of the culture in the new country, often hanging out only in bubbles with other transplants). Others try to immerse themselves in the new country and disconnect emotionally with the old. But it seems, by and large, that those old ties remain strong emotionally.

This leads me to ask about people’s decisions to stay or go, and then after that to stay connected or detach: community members have talked about this in terms of a kind of fight-or-flight response. So I’m interested in the question of how we decide whether to fight developments we see as negative, particularly in our countries of origin, and how we decide to detach and focus our limited energies elsewhere? This is related to the bubbles question – do you stay and work to better your old communities that were yours by birth and upbringing, or do you turn away from trying to change other people and instead build your own communities, of like-minded people? I want to be clear that there isn’t a right or wrong answer here, but I’m seeing different strategies emerge, both which have significant emotional impacts on people. Leaving is hard (physically leaving and emotionally detaching from politics): but so is staying.

There is another question worth exploring, which is: how do we design events that will be impactful in addressing and acting on actual issues that people face? I expect to see links in the SSNA between event planning, non-transformative, defining purpose, solidarity networks and building collaborations. This is, of course, a question near and dear to us at Edgeryders. Community members have attended a lot of non-transformative events, in which panels of ‘experts’ talk at them, with little visible connections to actual issues they face or little commitment to concretely producing social change. How do we invent better blueprints for transformative, impactful events? How do we move away from the same rote, flat scripts and formats? Can we fork, instead of fighting, or is fighting necessary to enact change in powerful spaces that refuse to change (e.g. spaces we all have to inhabit in which white dudes with power talking at everyone) – related to the above questions on bubbles and where to engage/spend your time and who to spend your time with.

Beyond these questions, I see topics that I expected to see: a dislike of patriotism, which many feel leads to alienation and exclusion of groups based on identity markers (race, ethnicity, class); overreach of institutions like the Church that perpetuatetraditional (harmful) values (though some see the Church as a potentially positive entity in political and social transformation), and how to tackle ignorance and indifference (though some think that cultivating indifference can be healthy, when it comes to things you can’t change (follow-up question: how do you decide when people or situations can’t be changed?).

I expect to see a lot more tensions and questions emerge as we go on, and would love to hear more voices and stories on the English platform to work on!

I’m also looking forward to reading the preliminary write-ups of the rest of the ethnography team: @Jirka_Kocian, @Jan, @Maja, @supernova.

@noemi @natalia_skoczylas @alberto @nadia @inge @johncoate @hugi

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Thanks, good read ahead of our workshops.
I wonder: should this be in the public Workspace instead?

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I wanted to put it here first for one of you to review before making it public, but I’m happy for it to be moved!

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Moved

This is a great question. But, while you can fork a small project, it takes historical events to fork a nation state. Also, would you say forking is similar to leaving?

huh, it is strange to me that patriotism would be bad as in my mind it is very different from Nationalism. Patriotism is associated to a constructive desire to improve or build on what is good in and for your country, it is a care extended to everyone who lives and loves within its borders, and those with ties to it. And it carries with it a sense of looking to the future beyond what is good for you. @hugi and I have had several conversations about this.

Quite distinct from the chauvenism and violence of Nationalism, an ideology at the heart of which is the idea that your country/people is somehow special/exceptional. The driving force is a kind of zero sum thinking where you want to further the interests of your own “people” at the expense of others. Including compatriots who do not share your zeal, or fit into your, often bigoted, classification of who fits in.

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Maybe a good question to ask is: When is patriotism good, and when is it harmful?

I have the same distinction in my head as you and @hugi , which is why I’m keeping an eye on that code. Here’s my codebook entry for patriotism, which speaks to your distinction:

Patriotism – invivo code, track (because it might be dangerous to assume that patriotism is always ‘bad’, see attachment to home country as possibly the ‘good’ side).

‘invivo’ meaning that community members using 'patriotism' have thus far used it only in the negative sense (and haven’t chosen to use ‘nationalism’) – if community members start to make a distinction, it will show up in the codes (because I’ll be sure to code to capture the nuance :slight_smile: )

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I’d say it maps pretty well onto the conundrum people have about either staying to fix a community or just creating communities of their own with (at least to some extent) like-minded people interested in creating the same kind of world. Both are legitimate solutions to problems/coping strategies – i’m very interested in seeing what the implications of each choice are, particularly in the context of POPREBEL.

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And, of course, forking can mean leaving in some cases, or it can mean remaining in the same space but focusing energies on something else/reallocating time or efforts. Depends on the context – like you say, a small project is different from a national political situation.

I think CEU is a decent example of a large institution trying to ask that question, and finding itself choosing the ‘leave’ answer.

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Another is the ballroom community in the us/ queer communities of people rejected from their homes.

Related to the topic but also because the remix is dope:

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pinging @Jirka_Kocian @Jan @supernova @Maja to remind – please give us a preliminary summary of your experience and thoughts so far, however partial! It will help our community managers and outreach teams with their work, as well as help us to be reflexive in our ethnographic practice.

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In the Czech forum, the topic that has caught up the most attention has been both physical and mental health-related issues. Not as much in the sense of its general quality and accessibility from the systemic point of view, which is, despite some center-periphery disbalances, considered to be reasonably good and mostly free of charge - rather some deeper structural dysfunctions and issues of approaching patients in the public system are coming to surface. When moving from general to specific level, the members of the community shared certain anxiety stemming from contradictory diagnoses and treatments to which they have been subjected even in the very same institution and they discussed possible ways out: patient empowerment; non-Western medicine; seeking health care abroad; reaching out to their acquaintances-insiders; or paying for their treatment in the private sphere. A related question arose in the terms of the quality of service provided by the immigrant medical workforce - specifically Ukrainian medical staff - where the general picture is quite ambiguous, though not necessarily xenophobic. However, entirely giving up on the public health care is not the preferred solution. It seems to be perceived as an important cornerstone of the welfare and social cohesion, an important item in understanding the post-transitional collective societal identity in the Czech Republic, therefore improvement rather than abandonment is the major issue.

The housing situation is another major problem reflected on the forum, with its current dire inaccessibility for low and middle-income groups, especially in the major cities. The incapability of the political representatives to steer the situation in the direction of adequate solutions has been criticized and community members push for a different conceptualization of the housing itself: they promote a paradigmatic shift from the neoliberal commodified one to understanding housing as a right and basic living necessity. For practical solutions, they look up to the local community-based activism, establishing associations that will continue sketching sustainable long term strategies and revitalization of unused and deteriorating objects with the purpose of creating housing capacities or public spaces. The general bottom-up push is understood as a vehicle of turning the attention on the level of political and administrative agenda from the immobilities market interests to these grassroots movements and precarized groups of tenants.

The third important topic emerging on the platform is environmental issues, which have been gaining overwhelming momentum in the country during the last 6 months. The community members express the need to overcome provincialism and push for understanding the Czech Republic in a wider, global context and contribute to setting the environmental concerns on the top of the agenda. Besides that, they have shared numerous experiences with partaking in community projects related to environmental preservation and communal waste limiting that seem to have slipped under the radar from wider attention, crediting them on the platform.

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Hi all!

Newly formatted English codebook is up in the shared drive. It took a while to do this with almost 200 codes, so make sure you convert yours to spreadsheet form sooner rather than later. Reminder that we are all converting to spreadsheet for uniformity @Jan @Jirka_Kocian @supernova @Maja. Make sure to save it in the Codebooks folder on the shared drive and make it editable / commentable. Thanks!

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Reminder to please reformat those codebooks ASAP. And to update them with codes as you are coding (with definitions as well). Thank you and looking forward to talking again soon.
@Jirka_Kocian @Jan @supernova @Maja

@amelia I am re-reading all of this to make my slides for the review meeting. And I wonder: why this emphasis on events? It does not seem consistent with the study’s scope.

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This point comes from coding of one of the stories (that a lot of people participated in and engaged with).

I don’t think it’s out of scope and plan to leave it in case it ends up being a theme , but if you don’t see how it’s relevant at the moment feel free to leave it out of the presentation.

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OK, noted. My slides are now finished and available here.