Fieldwork necessarily causes some degree of psychological stress for an ethnographer, although the nature and consequences of such stress vary individually. Rather than lament or conceal that fact, I suggest that an ethnographer’s idiosyncratic responses can provide particular insights. To illustrate the point, I consider what might have induced me, and perhaps others, to take on the necessarily disorienting role of an ethnographer. I then contrast my experience (as a middle-aged Western anthropologist) of a meditation retreat in Burma with my experience (as a recently divorced bisexual man) of a naked men’s yoga retreat in Texas. These brief vignettes are intended to suggest that my specific personal conflicts alert me to matters of more general anthropological interest.
The Genealogy of a Diary in Response to Rabinow's Reflections of Fieldwork in Morocco
Daniel Martin Varisco
In preparation for writing an ethnographic monograph on fieldwork in Yemen, I compare and contrast my field diary, written in 1978–9, with Paul Rabinow’s Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco (1977). The underlying question is what post-fieldwork reflections reflect meaningfully about the immediacy of ethnographic fieldwork? I criticise the reflexivist trope of privileging ‘writing culture’ over the significance of ‘being there’ in the field. Point by point, I examine the implications of graduate training in anthropology, culture shock, health problems, language skills, the unreflective male voice, visual ethnography and the rhetoric of narrative writing.
A Practical Guide
This article discusses structural, logistical, and administrative issues associated with the use of participant observation assignments in teaching the anthropology of religion. Fieldwork presents extraordinary opportunities for teaching students about the nature of cultural difference, but it also poses pedagogical challenges that require careful planning and supervision. The article reviews problems including the scope and nature of the observation, student preparation and guidance, connecting with fieldsites, presentation formats, issues of ethics and confidentiality, and university administrative considerations.
Into the New Century
George E. Marcus
Classic conditions of fieldwork research, to which anthropology remains committed, are difficult to establish today within far-reaching projects of neoliberal economy, governance and philanthropy. The forms of collaboration on which these projects insist, and those that ethnography encourages for its own research purposes, must be reconciled. On the bargains or adjustments that anthropology makes with neoliberal projects, within which it establishes scenes of fieldwork, depends its capacity to produce critique - its primary agenda since the 1980s. These issues are what are at stake in the widespread current discussions of, and hopes for, an 'engaged' anthropology.
Jeffrey A. Sluka
The ethnography of state terror is “high risk” research and there are real personal dangers for anyone who conducts fieldwork on this issue. Managing such dangers has particularly become an issue for those conducting primary research with perpetrators of state terror—the “rank and file” who apply the electric cattle prods and pull the triggers—and all of the researchers I know who have taken this path have been threatened in one form or another. Th is article reviews the core literature and latest developments in managing the physical dangers inherent in the ethnography of political violence and state terror, particularly fieldwork or primary research with the actual perpetrators themselves, makes practical recommendations for managing such dangers, and presents some ideas for developing risk management plans or protocols for researcher survival in perilous field sites.
In this article I explore links between fieldwork experience and different conceptions of time as they are encountered in what I term 'episodic fieldwork'. I use 'episodic' to emphasize the importance of absence and return for fieldwork relationships and the ethnographies that are founded on these relationships. I draw on Simmel's concept of sociability to explore the significance of the recurring updates that are so much a part of long-term and thus episodic fieldwork. Updating suggests participation, positionality, and transformation-as well as play and familiarity. The presumption of familiarity, which is at the heart of sociability, becomes a tool for exploring time and new social experiences and the ways in which chronology is interwoven with shifting social positions.
Is fieldwork as anthropologists do it simply a method among others? This article disagrees, drawing on the concept of “serendipity” as introduced by German scholar Ina-Maria Greverus. Beyond the prescribed way of any method, anthropology’s specificity articulates as “discovery”, in this case: an unexpected discovery of remains of the Soviet past in Estonia, through the author’s family life.
foundational, if contestable, concepts (e.g., culture, humanity) and its constitutive practice of ethnographic fieldwork. As a result, theology does not end with anthropology; rather, it becomes reconstituted within the latter’s secular syntax. Anthropology
Political Transformation and Recent Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran
Mary Elaine Hegland and Erika Friedl
In the 1970s social cultural anthropology in Iran was beginning to flourish. However, with the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent Islamic Republic of Iran, fieldwork in Iran became extremely problematic. Foreign anthropologists faced formidable obstacles to obtaining visas and permits. Anthropologists working inside Iran were also discouraged from anthropological participant observation. As a result, during the post revolutionary period, few anthropologists have been conducting fieldwork in Iran. Recently, some hopeful signs for a possible reestablishment of anthropology can be noted, among them the return of young Iranian anthropologists, from countries where they have grown up and gained an education, to their homeland for dissertation research. This article discusses the influences on fieldwork of politics—international, national and local—and projects, problems and strategies of some anthropologists who have conducted recent ethnographic fieldwork in Iran.
Time and the Field
Steffen Dalsgaard and Morten Nielsen
Prompted by the postmodern turn in anthropology, ethnographic fieldwork has been subjected to considerable analytical scrutiny. Yet despite numerous conceptual facelifts, definitions and demarcations of 'the field' have remained fundamentally anchored in tropes of spatiality with the association between field and fieldworker characterized as being maintained by distances in space. By exploring and unfolding the temporal properties of the field, anthropology can favorably complement and extend the (spatially anchored) notion of multi-sited fieldwork with one of multi-temporal ethnography. This approach implies not only a particular attention to the methodology of studying local (social and ontological) imaginaries of time; it furthermore unpacks the (multi-)temporality of the relationship between fieldworker and the field. This special issue may thus be taken as a fresh invitation to a temporally oriented ethnography.