We feature reflections on fieldwork. In particular, we invite thoughtful essays on the several dilemmas and serendipities that shape the everyday of ethnographic work.
27 May 2021
Absence in the Time of Covid
Absence tends to create disregard especially when the ethnographer is socially advantaged relative to her research subjects (which is almost always the case). Disparate levels of privilege and social realities encase the three years I will be separated from the place and people I study. I live in Canada, a welfare state with universal healthcare and paid parental leave. I have a tenure track job and earn a decent salary. I am rarely physically vulnerable or emotionally distressed. Perhaps Sextus lived in a world where Roman culture and Roman institutions were so ubiquitous, he could move anywhere in the empire and still be surrounded by the sounds, smells, food, sociality, daily routines, and basic expectations that surrounded him when he was physically close to his beloved. Maybe that’s why he was able to muster up the requisite love (and go further, aggrandize it!) while he was away. I frankly know very little about ancient Rome, so I am unable to verify this supposition.
20 May 2021
My Time with the Anons: Making My Digital Self with Conspiracy Theorists
When I told my advisor that I was going to pursue a broader study of QAnon, one that would require befriending many more conspiracy theorists online, she (understandably) offered cautionary advice and asked that I take the necessary precautions to not get harassed or put myself in unnecessary danger. In a sudden episode of paranoia, I decided that anonymity, not complete transparency, would be my friend. Anonymity was the primary safeguard against doxxing — the tactic of uncovering an online user’s personal information and leaking it to those who could target my university, employer, or friends and family with harassment and threats. My fears weren’t entirely unfounded.
21 April 2021
Confessions of an ethnographer: adapting to the new normal
Before the pandemic, eating local cuisine was one of the ways I participated in the daily lives of my research subjects. Rice, a variety of fish preparations, curries and the four to five daily cups of chai became a part of my field experience. In the field ‘you never say no to tea’ as denying a cup of tea can be taken as a sign of disrespect to the household, which meant I had tea with every family I visited. After seven to ten days in the field, I would often grumble about the sugary tea and only fish in my meals. But now, a year into the pandemic, my only wish is to return to field interviews, sitting with people as we sip tea and eat delicious fish meals.
29 March 2021
Playing a Different Game of Ball: Postdoc Memories
n this contribution, I trace the three years in which I worked, thought and changed within academia as a postdoc. Via a variety of poetic vignettes, I unpack feelings, thoughts and mo(ve)ments of irritation, growth, collaboration, success and failure within institutional structures of interdisciplinarity, intersectionality and different degrees of precarity. While these postdoc memories very much stem from my own lived experience, hopefully, they also stick and resonate with other academic workers such as postdocs-to-be, post-postdocs, or possibly postdoc supervisors. This poetic intervention gives insights into the working and living conditions of the many different postdoc positionalities, and aims to visibilize some of the stories, concerns and challenges that emerging academics struggle with.
06 March 2021
Writing Pandemics: A COVID Autoethnography
What I had not predicted about a COVID diagnosis was the guilt. I had spent months rearranging my life to protect myself from this virus. I had lectured my relatives about being “more careful.” I had passed judgment on people I thought were overly cautious, and I had passed judgment on people I thought were not cautious enough. Now it was finally here. If I die will you finish my book? I texted a friend, adding an ironic crying emoji to blunt the emotion. It was a kind of melodrama that I try not to betray myself to entertain.