The Researchers' Affects

Researchers and their affects are perceived as an irreconcilable dichotomy. Affects 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, our assumption is that affects 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, primatologists and travel writers triggers a range of affects 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’ affects in general, since only fieldwork has created an extensive corpus of subjective reports (e.g. field diaries, notes, letters) that can be studied exemplarily.

Based on these materials we integrate anthropology, primatology, psychology and literature studies and thus intend to combine humanities, social and natural science. Herein, we perceive the various disciplines’ examinations of field research as central theoretical and empirical interface. This integrative framework shall be coined with the term ‘fieldwork studies’ referring to the systematic analysis of fieldwork experience from interdisciplinary perspectives. Parallel to the analysis of affects in contemporary texts (travel writing, ethnographies, reports of primatologists), we intend to assess the affects of ethnographers and primatologists before, during and after fieldwork by means of qualitative and quantitative methods.

The interactions between researchers and the researched are not limited to humans, but shall be extended to the work with non-human primates. The interdisciplinary project examines the role of affects within science and intends to scrutinize how the subjective experience of affects can be assessed more ‘objectively’. Thereby, the researchers’ affects are not only studied from different disciplinary angles, but new methods and models of knowledge production shall be developed and empirically tested.


Research sites: Yogyakarta, Java/Indonesia; East Java/Indonesia; Nusa Tenggara Timur/Indonesia; PasirPanjang, Kalimantan/Indonesia; Hongkong