“Field Work: The Unknown Encounters”
Dr Arvind Kumar
Dr Arvind Kumar, Assistant Professor at Dr. K.R. Narayanan Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia started his lecture with a discussion on the importance of research in various disciplines. He approached the topic through the help of his case study “Caste in the City: Occupation, Segregation and Humiliation”.
Dr Kumar emphasised how the dynamics of research varies across disciplines, and how the same set of research protocols cannot be incorporated in different social environments. He further elaborated the fact that there are certain critical concepts of research that have to be tested through field work. He cited the case of Prof. M.N. Srinvas and pointed to the fact that his nature of research can be classified as a form of sociological research.
Further, Dr Kumar also pointed that the field work based research should be new and unique. It should not be similar to what already exists within the sphere of academic research. In engaging in such a process, there is also a process of extension of the already existing or established intellectual boundaries of the researcher to a new height. He further explained the process of field work while citing the case based on the issues of caste, and emphasised that field work is an important aspect of research which enables any researcher to test various concepts and to arrive at new findings which can offer better contribution to academics.
Besides, he also pointed the fact that field work is not governed by any rigid set of rules. Rather, such a form of research is more flexible and evolving in nature. It enables one to be open to newer forms of knowledge, explore the unexplored and unknown horizons.
He demonstrated how through constantly engaging within the field for data accumulation, the researcher is actually getting more and more exposed to its surroundings, and is better equipped to curate the information from its target environment.
Dr Subhashim Goswami, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shiv Nadar University, began his lecture by stating that ontological concerns in research are ‘extremely large’ and one has to arrive at some ‘definitional understanding’ of it. According to him, ontology is a ‘philosophical project’ that has a “grounding often collated and in intersection with logic”. For him, to know “what things are” is beginning of the formulation. However, what constitutes a fact and whether universals exist are the problems dealt through ontology. Therefore, whether an entity exists or not is an ontological question. To let the participants understand how universals are related to particulars, the speaker went into detail and cited few examples. Dr Goswami then shifted his focus towards ontological argument and explained how a researcher arrives at certain ontological arguments.
According to him “ontological arguments are nothing more than an argument from an analytic”. That is to say that a researcher while doing research continuously carves realities into categories. What is ontological then is, he says, “how we demonstrate the relationality between concepts and categories within a domain”. While explaining the ontological arguments, Dr Subhashim also made a mention of ontological materialism and ontological idealism. By former, he meant that reality exists even if there is no observer and the later denotes that what is real or what constitutes reality is the construction of mind. Dr Subhashim concluded by stating that “how any method or research constantly negotiates its own making while trying to unravel the object it seeks to decipher is basically an ontological proposition”.