Emotions in the Field: The Psychology and Anthropology of Fieldwork Experience

By James Davies; Dimitrina Spencer | Go to book overview

4

Using Emotion as a Form of Knowledge
in a Psychiatric Fieldwork Setting

Francine Lorimer

THIS CHAPTER is WRITTEN AS AN EXPERIMENT for two audiences: a psychoanalytic audience and an anthropological one. It presents a case of countertransference that I experienced while doing fieldwork at a Danish psychiatric hospital, and it contributes to the discussion in anthropology of whether a psychoanalytically learned mode of knowledge can provide useful information within a context of anthropological fieldwork. The fieldwork, conducted for one year in 2004–05 and made possible by a research grant from the Danish Social Science Foundation (SSF), involved researching patients' experiences of treatments for depression in a psychiatric ward that specialized in depression, which I will call Ward 4.1 This was my second fieldwork stint. My first fieldwork was in 1993–94 and focused on Southeast Cape York Kuku-Yalanji Australian indigenous people's struggles with cultural identity in a time of rapid change. This essay is not about fieldwork among Kuku-Yalanji, but I mention my first fieldwork experience in order to compare my fieldwork methodology then with the methodology I used while in the psychiatric hospital. The contexts were very different: my first fieldwork experience was towards a Ph.D. in anthropology; my second was conducted while I was doing psychoanalytic training at the C. G. Jung Institute, in Zurich. While I have always worked within a tradition of reflexive critical thinking, the nature of this reflexivity has changed radically as a result of my interest in psychoanalysis. This change has taken place primarily because of the different way I have come to use my emotions as a tool for understanding.

The question I raise here for a psychoanalytic audience is this: To what extent can analysis of the countertransference I experienced with a person who

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