Fieldwork and Ethnography as affective and relational processes

The post-doctorate project integrates approaches from social anthropology, primatology, psychology and comparative literature in order to develop a relational methodology of ethnographic emotion research.

Thomas Stodulka

What shall be labeled as ‘empirical affect montage’ targets the development of an alternative paradigm of ethnographic (emotion) research. Such an approach highlights fieldwork as an affective and relational process when encountering the so-called ‘culturally other’. This implies that the ethnographer’s affects must not remain invisible during the production, analysis, interpretation and representation of her or his findings, particularly once studying the emotions and emotion cultures of ‘others’. The researchers’ affects shall be made epistemologically productive in order to analyze (those of) researched individuals and communities.

To develop such an approach, three steps shall be taken: first, the project develops methods to assess twenty fieldworkers’ emotions empirically and targets the modelling of their typology and sequence. This first step targets an experience-based theoretical model of researchers’ affects in the field. Simultaneously, and this is the second step, the fieldwork of two closely cooperating doctorate students will directly apply the developed methodical tools in researching the ‘other’ and produce empirical data regarding their own affects. The latter will be analyzed in relation to the greater sample of the twenty field researchers in order to create thick empirical data on the affectivity of fieldwork. Ultimately, results from the meta-analysis and insights gained from the two pilot studies shall be integrated into an exemplary ‘empirical affect montage’ on ‘happiness’ in East Indonesia.

Furthermore, the developed tools are made available for junior fieldworkers and students in order to better guide them through their affective encounters in the field and the sometimes painful process of writing them up.

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