Emotions during Fieldwork in the Anthropology of Sexuality: From Experience to Epistemological Reflexions

By Brak-Lamy, Guadalupe | Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Annual 2012 | Go to article overview

Emotions during Fieldwork in the Anthropology of Sexuality: From Experience to Epistemological Reflexions


Brak-Lamy, Guadalupe, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality


Introduction

Emotions are inextricably tied up in anthropological research in the field and in the writing of researchers' feelings during fieldwork. Yet these emotions are often dismissed in a number of ways: frequently left out of anthropological research methods courses, frequently edited out of ethnographic texts, admonished when they slip into PhD seminars, in general confined to personal fieldnotes, at times turned into jokes or asides, and at other times treated with uncertainty, embarrassment or silence (Hovland, 2007). It is with this in mind that this article presents a reflection on how emotions are an integral part of qualitative research presenting the relationship between emotion and data through researcher's own emotional response to participation in interactions behaviors in the field.

My task is to show how certain emotions experienced during my fieldwork are related to my gender role and the gender roles of the participants in this study of seduction behaviors (1) and feelings experienced by men and women who attend some nightclubs located in the movida areas in Lisbon. Whilst it has involving the observation of the seduction behaviors in the nightclubs and the recording of participants' accounts (2) of their emotions within nightclubs' seduction behaviors as part of data, I was naively unaware of how emotions can be with research at the time of collating this data, and generally it was not until after I left the field that I became sensitive to how constructive emotions can be for the anthropologist (Kleinman, 1991).

My intention with this study is, in addiction to analysing my emotions as a woman in the context of the seduction behaviors in some nightclubs, also to describe these emotions and the seduction behaviors in order to evoke emotional responses to the reader, thereby producing verisimilitude and shared experience (Denzin, 1997).

Data presented here is focused on heterosexual seduction behaviors in an urban nightlife context, gathered in four recreational spaces (nightclubs). Those spaces are a privileged locus for seduction behavior studies and are found in Lisbon's Bairro Alto, Alcantara Docks, the area between the Alcantara Docks and Belem, and Rocha Conde D'Obidos.

First, I will describe the different stages of this fieldwork, namely the choice of nightclubs, the observation of heterosexual seduction behaviors of social actors in the aforementioned recreational spaces, the method I adopted to seduce men and how I was seduced. Next, I will analyse how the field diary was composed, in terms of interactions and emotions I experienced and observed, as well as the impact of these emotions in the understanding of gender roles, whether they be my own or those of male and female patrons at the nightclubs where I conducted my fieldwork. My working definition of emotions in the context of this article is that they are "relatively intense feelings causing changes in behavior which are responses to social acts and self-interactions" (Dezin, 1983, p. 44). Thus, emotions are grounded in social contexts and interactions (Reger, 2001). Emotions are also shaped by relations of dominance, such as the case between men and women (Lutz, 1988).

My task is to show on one hand, how certain emotions such as discomfort and fear that I experienced (as a female, heterosexual and married)) during my fieldwork interactions are the result of masculine dominance seductive behaviors directed towards me and other females; on the other hand I want to demonstrate that certain emotions that I noted down during fieldwork, such as feeling out of place, are the result of my lack of knowledge related to some masculine and feminine seduction behaviors. I will show that the experience and observation of emotions bring forth knowledge related to gender roles, not only that of my own gender role but also the gender roles of social actors, and a more complete understanding of the kind of behaviors of seduction that are displayed in the nightclubs where I did fieldwork. …

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