Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology

By Roger Sanjek | Go to book overview
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Adventures with Fieldnotes

This essay presents my experiences as a fieldnote-taker, both in Africa and in the West, and considers the interest of others in my notes—city officials and foreign colleagues in Uganda, and community information brokers and academics in the United States. As an anthropologist I have faced the same issues that confront many others: issues of protecting my data from misuse and of protecting my informants in a highly charged political situation. But as a Third World anthropologist, I have found my experiences with Western academics also mirroring the historical relationship between the West and the so‐ called "people without history" (Wolf 1982. See also Asad 1973; Chilungu 1976; Gough 1968). My fieldnotes were a record of my findings and feelings, yet on occasion they seemed to take on a life of their own in the social situations that surround fieldwork. Sometimes they were perceived by others as tokens of power. My adventures with fieldnotes opened for me a window on the politics of anthropological knowledge.

To Share or Not to Share

The concern over who should have access to fieldnotes is an ethical problem for all anthropologists. Once others read them, the uses made


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Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology


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