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

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

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

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


As emotion is often linked with irrationality, it's no surprise researchers tend to underreport the emotions they experience in the field. However, denying emotion altogether doesn't necessarily lead to better research. Methods cannot function independently from the personalities wielding them, and it's time we questioned the tendency to underplay the scientific, personal, and political consequences of the emotional dimensions of fieldwork. This book explores the idea that emotion is not antithetical to thought or reason, but is instead an untapped source of insight that can complement more traditional methods of anthropological research.

With a new, re-humanized methodological framework, this book shows how certain reactions and experiences consistently evoked in fieldwork, when treated with the intellectual rigor empirical work demands, can be translated into meaningful data. Emotions in the Field brings to mainstream anthropological awareness not only the viability and necessity of this neglected realm of research, but also its fresh and thoughtful guiding principles.


James Davies

THE AIM OF THIS BOOK is to help retrieve emotion from the methodological margins of fieldwork. Our task is to investigate how certain emotions evoked during fieldwork can be used to inform how we understand the situations, people, communities, and interactions comprising the lifeworlds we enter. By emphasising the relevance of emotion in anthropological research, we take up a theme that the “reflexive turn” of 1980s and early 1990s anthropology considerably overlooked. While this school explored how the ethnographer's position in the field influences the data he or she acquires (and the varying ways our identity, gender, ethnicity, and personal history affect how we understand, interact with, and write about our field sites), it left comparatively under-investigated the researcher's states of being during fieldwork and how these states may either enable or inhibit the understanding that fieldwork aims to generate. This relative neglect has naturally left many pages unwritten in our methodological canon. And so it is the aim of this volume to give voice to the growing chorus of researchers (within these pages and beyond) who are working to redress the imbalance. Our objective is to show how certain emotions, reactions, and experiences that are consistently evoked in fieldworkers, when treated with the same intellectual vigour as our empirical work demands, can more assist than impede our understanding of the lifeworlds in which we set ourselves down. Counting these subjective phenomena as data to be translated through careful reflection

* I would like to thank Michael Jackson for his careful reading of this introduction and his advice.
I must also thank Vincent Crapanzano, Elisabeth Hsu, Arthur Kleinman, David Parkin, Karem
Roitman, and Dimitrina Spencer for their additional help and support.

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