Recently, Ohad and I published our first co-written article: Stuck Together: A Correspondence on Protocols between Scholars and Objects. The article wasn’t really planned. As the pandemic unfolded Ohad had started with his PhD project while I was well underway with my own. During this time, we started having regular video calls about all the things you needed to know ahead of actually doing the research. Your methodology, a clear demarcation of the topic of your research, and preferably even a clear outline of the supposed results.

Ohad and I are both trained in Cultural Analysis, a field that studies cultural representations and practices that by definition is interdisciplinary. It grew out of and draws from a variety of other fields, such as literary and cultural studies, anthropology and philosophy. Through our shared experience, we started discussing the difficulties surrounding the need to formulate a clear methodology ahead of your research. Particularly because, in Cultural Analysis, the methodology and object of study are closely tied together, and the relationship between them develops through the course of the research.

This is also where Ohad and I diverged in our approach. In my research I do a lot of close-reading: a method that originates from literary studies that focuses on the sustained analysis of (passages of) text. In close-reading you look at the text’s formal aspects, considering the relationship between the way the text is structured and what we might say the text is ‘about’. This method creates some distance between object and researcher, as the researcher says something about the object, but the method does not necessarily give an account of what the object does to, or says about, the researcher.

Ohad, meanwhile, was still looking for how he wanted to think through his methodology. In his earlier work, he had worked on what he calls an autoimmune methodology that combines a personal narrative approach with autoimmune theory, and also started to add ethnography for his PhD project. His method thus sought to actively construct an account of his role as a researcher in relation to his object of study.

As we talked about the differences in our methodological approaches, we realized that we also had a shared interest: the role of the body in research. Given that Ohad and I both theorize and write (about) the body, this became a focal point of our discussions. A body can seem a distant thing in academia. While researchers offer accounts of their own position and methodology in the research, it is often omitted how their body becomes implicated in and through the research. We started questioning to what extent becoming implicated in your own research was actually a matter of choice. How does a researcher becomes ‘stuck’ to their object of research? Or, in other words, to what extent does your object choose you?

This prompted us to investigate how scholars active in Cultural Analysis and ethnography theorize and justify the way in which we give accounts of how we approach the objects of our study. We decided to read these theories through the figure of the protocol. Etymologically, ‘protocol’ is a combination of the Greek prōtos (first or primary) and kolla (glue). We offer a reading of protocols as the original glue, the stickiness between scholar, object, and methodology. How do scholars, through constructing such accounts, become implicated in their own research? Happy reading! 

Lecturer and researcher at the Hague University of Applied Science

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