I (Angela Okune) began to conceptualize establishing an instance of PECE in the middle of 2018, about 6 months prior to beginning my fieldwork in Nairobi in January 2019. I conceptualized the development of the RDS qualitative data archive under three distinct rationales. First, I saw it as an elicitation device and grounds for collaborative discussion and engagement, imagining that the deliberations about the archive that I would have with those in the field would be a basis for my learning. Second, it was an attempt to produce something of value to informants and respond to ethical questions regarding feelings of being “over-researched” in Nairobi that I had started my project with. At the very least, I imagined I could give a transcript and/or audio recording from the research encounter back to my interlocutor. Third, I anticipated that key questions would emerge through my own process of building and studying that would be valuable.
Over the course of the research, I found research data provided scaffolding upon which I could investigate the politics of knowledge production in Africa at its many scales. By intentionally forming an ethnographic data platform to both study and use myself, I reconfigured my relationship with the topic as well as my relationship with interlocutors, enacting a new form of collaborative ethnography that took my own complicity in the structures of knowledge as a starting point for theorizing how researchers might better navigate, organize and re-mix existing collections of data. Focusing on an object – data – that resulted from but was not of the researcher/researched relationship opened up discussions beyond critique and set in motion a new set of social relations to study. It also situated me squarely as a participant in the production of the very things I was studying.