We feature reflections on fieldwork. In particular, we invite thoughtful essays on the several dilemmas and serendipities that shape the everyday of ethnographic work.
20 January 2021
Ethnography on the Move: Doing Fieldwork on a Bicycle
Jonathan Shapiro Anjaria
I wondered, as the stereotypical image of the bicycle as the vehicle of last resort slowly crumbles, is there a space for new meanings, conversations, and ways of inhabiting the city? To answer this question, I first had to understand what the city looks like from the view of a bicycle. In the spirit of “ethnographer acting as a research instrument,” as Sam Ladner puts it, I made bicycling a key part of my fieldwork. I wanted to learn how traffic interacts from the perspective of a bicycle so I can understand how others learn that too. My goal was not to feel what other people feel on a bicycle, but to get as close as possible to other people’s experiences riding bicycles in Mumbai so I would know what questions to ask…
18 January 2021
Confessions from the Field
Anthropologists are the scientific storytellers of “culture.” But their stories and experiences of research are often left untold. Ethnography is inter-subjective; the anthropologist’s presence is the occasion and the context. To disregard the researcher’s experience in the field is both impossible and undesirable. The following essays document two very different experiences of fieldwork, both equally emotionally displacing. They raise questions such as: How far are you willing to go to complete your research? Can you justify crossing boundaries in order to find Self in Other? Who is your research really about? These stories turn the critical gaze back in on itself, in order to explore the arduous, complicated and sometimes confounding world of life in the field…
7 December 2020
From Hallway Hanging to Home on Zoom: What Happens to a School Ethnography During a Pandemic?
I used to sit in the back of Ms. Park’s first period class and observe the seniors repeating English III. I perched myself on the HVAC unit by the windows; that way, I could see the whole room without filling a student’s desk. It wouldn’t matter unless all the students showed up, which they never did. Still, I was always wary of taking up “too much” space when I was in the field. Now that the field is virtual, these worries are gone…