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Spheres of Passion – Fieldwork, Ethnography and the inter-affective encounter

Sep 04, 2014

Researchers and their emotions are perceived as an irreconcilable dichotomy. They are considered as nuisances that jeopardize ‘objective’ science. At best, they are regarded as marginal apparitions of limited anecdotic, biographic or artistic interest. Many scientific disciplines have excluded them from their discourse. In contrast, my assumption is that emotions inevitably influence the research process: from the choice of research subjects, the researcher’s positionality and the generation of data, to their interpretation and public representation. We argue that their critical analysis should be part of and not excluded from scientific practice. Instead of obliterating or deeming them as esoteric by-products they should be scrutinized systematically and thus rendered productive for science and the communication of its results to the wider (academic) community.

In particular, fieldwork of anthropologists triggers a range of emotions that impact observation, influence comprehension and guide the formation of theories. Our continued assumption is that fieldwork in its manifold appearances can serve as a paradigm for the researchers’ emotions in general, since only fieldwork creates an extensive corpus of subjective reports (e.g. field diaries, notes, letters) that can be studied exemplarily.

Drawing on examples from my long-term study with street-related adolescents and young adults in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, this talk illustrates that the integration of the ethnographer’s emotions into the analysis, interpretation and representation of ethnographic data can assist in (1) creating a more sensorial and experience-based knowledge on the ‘other’, (2) formulating a more relational anthropological theory and (3) raising emotions to a category of epistemic value.

Time & Location

Sep 04, 2014

National University Singapore (NUS), Department of Southeast Asian Studies

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