This article addresses the challenges and reflections of a junior anthropologist while developing research on the delicate topic of reproductive health and infertility in Maputo, Mozambique. Based on participant observation notes, entries in fieldwork diaries, and interviews, and assuming the character of a reflexive ethnographic account, the article concerns personal and research challenges and opportunities experienced during the preparation and development of a research project and a PhD thesis. While reflecting more broadly on processes of knowledge production, history and colonial relations, and on the writing of a scientific account, it provides insights into the pragmatics of research in medical anthropology by detailing the everyday life of doing ethnography, including networking, bureaucratic processes, boredom, the exploration of new fieldwork landscapes, and positionality dilemmas.
Navigating Research on the Fertility Quests of Mozambican Women and Men
Anthropological knowledge production in question
This article draws out some of the implications of the fact that what anthropologists claim to know, or want to say, is unavoidably and in complicated ways bound by the ethics of involvement, detachment, and institutional location. I will first consider the increasingly common practice of circulating the output of anthropological research within the social context of its fieldwork, among the various research participants and interlocutors. Second, I will try to account for the sometimes negative reception of ethnographic accounts, especially where the research has focused on organizations (e.g., NGOs), activists, or others professionally concerned with public representations of their work. Third, I will reconsider the notion of “speaking truth to power” by pointing to the unacknowledged power of ethnographic description. Finally, I will suggest that ethical concerns are generated as much by the theoretical framing of research as by fieldwork practice, and that these are matters of choice rather than inherent in the ethnographic method.
Deference and Influence in the Ethnography of Epistemic Elites
Paul Robert Gilbert
Through his enduring efforts to interrogate the regulative ideals of fieldwork, George Marcus has empowered doctoral students in anthropology to rethink their ethnographic encounters in terms that reflect novel objects and contexts of inquiry. Marcus' work has culminated in a charter for ethnographic research among 'epistemic communities' that requires 'deferral' to these elite modes of knowing. For adherents to this programme of methodological reform, the deliberately staged 'para-site' – an opportunity for ethnographers and their 'epistemic partners' to reflect upon a shared intellectual purpose – is the signature fieldwork encounter. This article draws on doctoral research carried out among the overlapping epistemic communities that comprise London's market for mining finance, and reviews an attempt to carve out a para-site of my own. Troubled by this experience, and by the ascendant style of deferent anthropology, I think through possibilities for more critical ethnographic research among epistemic elites.
their own final days of fieldwork. How were your departures? What did you snatch at? What did you take, what did you leave behind? What did you write in your field diary, on the very last page? Did your departure make it into one of your publications
The methodological implications of “studying up” in Pakistan
others. A few nights into my fieldwork, I sat in the smoke-filled home of my informants and new friends, Abid and Kaleem Afridi, in the wealthy Lahori neighborhood of the Defense Housing Authority, Pakistan. Introduced by a mutual friend, the brothers had
Side Stories from Molenbeek, Brussels
market, where I conducted fieldwork for my PhD dissertation, “Crafting Lives in Brussels: Making and Mobility on the Margins.” Out of ten participants, it was these two middle-aged men from Tunisia and Guinea who were eager to tell me their stories. Since
Ethnographic Anxiety and Its 'Telling' Consequences
Liam D. Murphy
In Belfast, Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, myriad problems of epistemology and research design confront ethnographers entering the field for the first time. While these often remain a permanently taxing wellspring of frustration and anxiety, their apparent resolution through experience can occasionally lull researchers into a false sense of security in the context of social interaction with field respondents. By exploring an instance in which the author neglected to apply his understanding of the important Northern Ireland phenomenon of 'telling', the article shows how method and epistemology should always be borne in mind during fieldwork situations—even those implicitly discounted a priori as nonethnographic. While such relaxation of self-awareness may precipitate various blunders and ethnographic faux-pas, it also opens up spaces of critical inquiry into the collaborative constitution of selves and others in field situations, and refocuses the ethnographer's awareness of his positioning as an outsider in webs of social activity.
Advice on Digital Ethnography for the Pandemic Times
Being a digital anthropologist who studies health communication, I was immediately aware that the pandemic would make my fieldwork change rapidly. It has suddenly grown in size, intensified, and become more timely and of interest to broader
Calibrating Co-presence in and of ‘the Field’
In January 2005, a third of the way through my PhD fieldwork in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, my UK-based boyfriend and I had a messy break-up. Frazzled, furious, heartbroken, I lay low, figuring out what to do next. By then, I had already told my
Calls for Local Agency and Good Fieldwork in Development Encounters
social sciences whose fieldwork involves a subject and object traditionally separated by cultural, linguistic and social boundaries. Existing assumptions and biases on the part of researchers, the role of interlocutors (who may be local elites) in