Saturday, December 5, 2009
LATEST ISSUE OF
Autumn 2009, Vol 11(2)
The latest issue of the Anthropology Matters Journal features an opening piece by Amy Pollard, which presents the results of her interviews with 16 PhD students concerning difficulties encountered during their fieldwork. The piece is both powerful and provocative, and will hopefully serve as an aid for thoughtful discussions in pre-fieldwork courses, post-fieldwork seminars, and departmental planning meetings. Anthropology Matters invited four academics – Christine Barry, Sara Delamont, David Mills, and Judith Okely – to start the discussion by writing brief responses to Pollard’s account. The journal issue then presents two in-depth accounts of fieldwork, by Larissa Begley and Julie Soleil Archambault. Finally, the issue is rounded off with a piece that moves from PhD fieldwork to collaborative field research with undergraduates, written by Laura DeLuca and five of her undergraduate students.
Anthropology Matters is an open access journal. All articles are available free of charge at http://www.anthropologymatters.com
FIELDWORK SUPPORT: INTRODUCTION, by Ingie Hovland.
FIELD OF SCREAMS: DIFFICULTY AND ETHNOGRAPHIC FIELDWORK, by Amy Pollard (Cambridge University). This study seeks to document some of the difficulties that PhD anthropologists at three UK universities have faced. It describes a range of feelings as experienced by 16 interviewees…
RESPONSE TO AMY POLLARD’S PAPER "FIELD OF SCREAMS", by Christine Barry (King’s College London)
FAMILIAR SCREAMS: A BRIEF COMMENT ON "FIELD OF SCREAMS", by Sara Delamont ( Cardiff University )
SILENCED? by David Mills ( University of Oxford )
RESPONSE TO AMY POLLARD, by Judith Okely ( University of Oxford )
THE OTHER SIDE OF FIELDWORK: EXPERIENCES AND CHALLENGES OF CONDUCTING RESEARCH IN THE BORDER AREA OF RWANDA / EASTERN CONGO, by Larissa R. Begley ( University of Sussex ). The current conditions of this region, which remains a conflict zone under tight government control, have contributed to feelings of isolation, frustration, fear, distrust, insecurity, and with no clear way to seek support for both the informants and the anthropologist. This paper will address these challenges and the ways that they impact on the research process itself, as well as the effects they have on the anthropologist…
BEING COOL OR BEING GOOD: RESEARCHING MOBILE PHONES IN MOZAMBIQUE , by Julie Soleil Archambault (SOAS). My paper tackles issues of acceptance and rejection. As I sought to gain acceptance amongst youth I found myself participating in various controversial and, at times, dangerous activities that made me the victim of intense gossip and outright rejection by some. In this paper I present the challenges of “being cool”, while also “being good”, and the repercussions of my research choices on my social standing. I then discuss how, instead of compromising my research, this predicament had a positive outcome…
LOST AND FOUND: LESSONS FROM COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH WITH UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS ON THE LOST GIRLS OF SUDAN, by Laura DeLuca ( University of Colorado ), with assistance from Katherine Bruch, Lauren Rhoades, Lindsay Eppich, Jordan Olmstead, and Jackie Holder. This article focuses on the challenges and rewards of working with undergraduate research assistants. Five undergraduates share their reflections as neophyte anthropologists…
All articles can be found at:
ABOUT ANTHROPOLOGY MATTERS
Anthropology Matters is the postgraduate arm of the Association of Social Anthropologists in the UK and Commonwealth (the ASA). Anthropology Matters runs a website (http://www.anthropologymatters.com), an open email list, and an online journal. If you would like to join the email list, please sign up through the website.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
EDITORIAL: FIELDWORK IDENTITIES - INTRODUCTION, by Ingie Hovland.
PRIEST, DEVELOPMENT WORKER, OR VOLUNTEER? ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH AND ASCRIBED IDENTITIES IN RURAL MOZAMBIQUE, by Michael Madison Walker (Michigan State University). During 16 months of ethnographic fieldwork in central Mozambique I was mistaken for a priest, alleged to be a spy, and assumed to be a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. In this article, I explore how my identity, and the identities ascribed to me, shaped my interactions with people living in rural Mozambique and structured the types of relationships and data I was able to collect...
BEING AN IDENTITY PROP: SOME ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS, by Joel Busher (School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia). During recent fieldwork in Namibia I noticed that the people I worked with often took care to arrange our public encounters so that onlookers did not interpret our relationship in ways that might be inconvenient. I was cast as a friend, colleague, employer, customer, acquaintance. My presence created opportunities for the extension of people's "repertoire of identities" in both desirable and undesirable directions, and their choreography of our public encounters can be seen as part of their "impression management"...
BEING SIMILAR: OTHER-IDENTIFICATION DURING FIELDWORK, by Olumide Abimbola (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology). The paper discusses instances of other-identification when the other is similar to the self, and when difference is brought out by the similar. The fact that the fieldworker is a native of sorts helps overcome some difficulties, while at the same time throwing up others. This paper discusses some forms of such identifications and difficulties, and the constant negotiation that is present in the identification process...
MULTIPLE IDENTITIES: GENDER, POWER AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE, by Ngambouk Vitalis Pemunta (Central European University, Budapest). This article discusses my "outsider within" status in terms of gender, age, nationality, race and perceived positionality and alliance with the "Whiteman" (by virtue of my western educational status) during my fieldwork. My research centered on the contentious debate over female circumcision in Southwest Cameroon...
BEHIND THE SCENES: REFLECTING ON CROSS-GENDER INTERVIEW DYNAMICS IN MEXICO CITY, by Mariana Rios Sandoval (University of Amsterdam and GIRE, Group of Information for Reproductive Choice). During the summer of 2007 I set out on a qualitative exploratory study in Mexico City focused on conversations with a group of men about everyday practices, expectations, ideas and feelings related to parenting, and this was an entry point into exploring constructions of fatherhood and masculinity. As I stumbled through my first in-depth interviews I felt excited, thrilled and touched, but also uneasy, overwhelmed and undeniably puzzled by a whole range of dilemmas...
"IF YOU GIVE ME SOME SEXING, I MIGHT TALK TO YOU": RESEARCHING THE SENEGALESE BEACH-BOYS "AT MY SIDE", by Emilie Venables (University of Edinburgh). This paper examines some of the difficulties that I encountered during my doctoral fieldwork on aspirations of migration amongst young men and women in Senegal. I discuss how my fieldwork with the beach-boys of the Casamance often led to compromising situations that I had not experienced in other areas of my research. Using one interview in particular, I describe the discomfort and guilt I often felt during my fieldwork, and show how I felt torn between being loyal to myself, my work and my informants...
PARENT AND ETHNOGRAPHER OF OTHER CHILDREN, by David Poveda (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and University of Wales, Lampeter). In this article I examine the role my parental identity and my daughter's presence in the field played in the relationship I established with a group of Gitano (Spanish Roma) children and their families. This study was conducted as part of a linguistic ethnography focused on children's peer interactions and social organisation during their informal daily activities. The discussion addresses the more general issue of how researchers from various social disciplines incorporate their own children into the research process...
"SISTER AKUA, THEY SAY YOU SHOULD DANCE": NEGOTIATING ROLES IN PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION, by Elizabeth Graveling (University of Bath). Relationships, and specifically the relationship between the fieldworker and the research subjects, are at the core of the process of all anthropological and ethnographic research and to a very large extent determine the outcomes of the research. Drawing on experiences of recent ethnographic fieldwork among members of churches in a village in southern Ghana, this paper explores aspects of identity that contribute to the ambivalent status of the fieldworker. It considers the extent to which the researcher has control over her research roles...
IS A HAPPY ANTHROPOLOGIST A GOOD ANTHROPOLOGIST? By Katherine L. Smith (University of Wales, Lampeter). The purposes of this paper are to introduce and contextualise my recent doctoral fieldwork research in Higher Blackley, North Manchester, England, and to discuss the difficulties in understanding and monitoring the fragmentation of the self in fieldwork. How do we deal, as ethical but also politically motivated human beings, with responses or actions which make us cringe, make us afraid, confused or unhappy? How do we reconcile our own moral, ethical and political perspectives with those of individuals who hold very different perspectives in the field? ...
DANCING MY TRUE DANCE: REFLECTIONS ON LEARNING TO EXPRESS MYSELF THROUGH ECSTATIC DANCE IN HAWAI'I, by Lucy Pickering (Oxford Brookes University). While I was doing fieldwork with hippies and drop outs in Hawai'i, my mother came to visit. During her visit I took her to an ecstatic dance. At this dance one of my research participants, Stan, told me, "Lucy, I've been watching you dance today and you've really learned to express yourself". Discussing it later, my mother remarked, "Yes, but what he meant was that you've learned to dance like everyone else". In this paper I explore how the same piece of dance could be interpreted so differently...
IN SORCERY'S SHADOWS: A CRITICAL APPROACH TO A NARRATIVE GENRE, by Bartlomiej Walczak (University of Warsaw). This paper is concerned with the researcher/fieldwork relationship as expounded in Paul Ricoeur's thesis about a mutual configuration/refiguration relationship between the verbal and the textual perspective. Using Paul Stoller's project for eidetic anthropology as an example, I seek to demonstrate the boundaries of cognition in anthropology: the limitations of integrating two different cultural perspectives in one narrative...
HOW MUCH CAN A KAP SURVEY TELL US ABOUT PEOPLE'S KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDES AND PRACTICES? SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY RESEARCH ON MALARIA IN PREGNANCY IN MALAWI, by Annika Launiala (University of Tampere and University of Kuopio, Finland). Knowledge, attitude, and practice (KAP) surveys are widely used to gather information for planning public health programmes in countries in the South. However, there is rarely any discussion about the usefulness of KAP surveys in providing appropriate data for project planning, and about the various challenges of conducting surveys in different settings...
All articles can be found at:
ABOUT ANTHROPOLOGY MATTERS
Anthropology Matters is the postgraduate arm of the Association of Social Anthropologists in the UK and Commonwealth (the ASA). Anthropology Matters runs a website (http://www.anthropologymatters.com), an open email list and an online journal. If you would like to join the email list, please sign up through the website. The Anthropology Matters Journal aims to promote innovative perspectives, critical reflection and questioning of established anthropological boundaries. We encourage submissions from PhD students and early-career anthropologists. If you would like to submit a paper, please contact the new editor, Amy Pollard.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Adam and Eve, c. 1550, Museo del Prado, Madrid
Monday, May 11, 2009
The first anthropologist I read on this topic was Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, who writes about the symbolism of a "standard" birth procedure in a US hospital in the early 1990s. She maps out various associations tied to the wheelchair that greets a woman in labour at the door, the hospital gown, being hooked up to an electronic monitor, the IV drip, the bed, and the offer of pain medication before the woman requests it. As Davis-Floyd puts it: "all these convey to the laboring woman that she is dependent on the institution. She is also reminded in myriad ways of the potential defectiveness of her birthing machine," namely her own body. "Routine obstetric procedures cumulatively map the technocratic model of birth onto the birthing woman's perceptions of her labor experience" (452, 455). Yet Davis-Floyd points out that within this richly symbolic ritual, as in any ritual, there is also space for women to revise and add their own meanings to the space that they are surrounded by (e.g. viewing the wheelchair as unnecessary, viewing technology as a resource that they are free to utilize or ignore), and to occupy this space differently.
Other anthropologists whose work I have just become aware of are James McKenna, who runs the mother-baby sleep lab at Notre Dame University in the US, and Helen Ball, who runs the parent-infant sleep lab at Durham University in the UK. So much interesting research, there's never enough time to read it all...
--- Davis-Floyd, Robbie E. 2005. Gender and ritual: Giving birth the American way. In Gender in cross-cultural perspective, 4th edition, eds. Caroline B. Brettell and Carolyn F. Sargent, 449-461. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
"It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything. I'm a little anxious. How am I to bring off this conception? Directly one gets to work one is like a person walking, who has seen the country stretching out before. I want to write nothing in this book that I don't enjoy writing. Yet writing is always difficult."
- Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary, London: Harcourt, 1953, on p. 25.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
[Jesus said,] “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
What was interesting about the discussion in our study group was how strongly most of us reacted to this passage. Even though in our church we are used to taking part in the Eucharist, the bodily imagery that is used by the author of the Gospel of John still retains some shock value: eat flesh, drink blood. I must admit, though, that I think the shock is well-placed by the author, and that I'm happy he does not fall back onto any facile resolution of it at the end of the passage; rather, he simply leaves the impenetrability.
This is the only text in the Gospel of John that could be said to pertain directly to the ritual of the Eucharist. In other words, the author of John may have given these words to Jesus in the text while thinking about how the Eucharist was already being practiced in the early Christian community of which the author was a part. And it intrigues me that his understanding of the Eucharist is so fleshly and material. He seems to have had a very robust idea of the importance of the bodily aspect of communal rituals - and the bodily aspect of people's ideas of God.