Brief history of this research
The ash soap was investigated through interactions with eight individuals in three different regions of the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, the majority of whom were women: Maria Celeste, Margarida, Maria Benedita, Izabel, Aparecida, Rosa and Anésia. Two were from the same family, where there was also the only man in the group studied: Sebastião, son of Mrs. Maria Benedita. The teachings of making the soap were transmitted from generation to generation by their mothers, grandmothers or people from the community, suffering adaptations and changes over time according to the availability of new materials.
Izabel and the ash soap
In the first interaction with one of these women the sensation was to be into “another laboratory”, with similar processes related to those observed in the chemistry laboratories, but using different resources. Due to the influence of school science, the initial curiosity was to understand the ash soap making from this point of view, but to the extent that new interactions happened with other women it emerged “another science”: a proper way to know, do and talk about the soap. Then, it became necessary to transit through knowledges of sociology and anthropology to understand better what was being observed. Over the time, the way to see sicence, chemistry and the ash soap making was widening.
The interactions with the women occurred in their homes backyards and kitchens, almost around the soap´s making. Prior visits were done previously in order to know them and explain about the interest to know on the ash soap making to teach about it in school, but there was not receptivity and openness at all times. Some women demonstrated mistrust and fear, while others were more receptive. However, with time and persistence all offered their knowledge for the research.
Therefore, the procedures of making the soap were followed during the hours and days in which it was done. Sometimes, the practice was photographed and video-recorded. In others, some undergraduate students mediated the interactions and were involved in the research. In a particular interaction, an academic joined three women around the soap’s making and the conversation of the group was video recorded.
The field work data fed school experiences and the composition of an ethnographic hypermedia about this soap, created to mediate the women knowledge to classrooms and to students of teacher´s education courses. Parts of the hypermedia were incorporated on this environment and may be triggered by clicking over the blue characters. Enjoy it and have a good reading!