Bull sessies ter bescherming van intieme grenzen | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 22, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1385-1535
  • E-ISSN: 1875-7324


Bull sessions to protect intimate boundaries

Sven da Silva

During research for my MA thesis in Brazil I theorized slum politics by following a community leader. He was often bullying me. After an uncomfortable start of my fieldwork, I became interested in bull sessions, a term that describes well the development of my relationship with the community leader. Bull sessions encourage participants to speak about topics they would normally not talk about, yet participants are primarily concerned with impressing others rather that with the truth. These bull sessions guarded intimate borders. They masked a shared condition, namely that of the painful memories of being from the favela. I use this experience to make the methodological argument that – to create openness and stimulate and adventurous dialogue with informants – ethnographers should engage in bull sessions, but at the same time use their toolbox to separate performance from content. They should transparently place quotes in context for readers to make their own judgment.


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