( pn102 )

Is anthropological fieldwork at peril? Field research in the context of new moralities, post-pandemic and digital transformations


    Silvia Hirsch


    Universidad Nacional de San Martin

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Francine Saillant


    Université Laval

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Digital Anthropology


fieldwork, collaborative ethnography, methods, training, digital ethnography


Extended fieldwork is at the core of the anthropological way of constructing knowledge and doing research; it is taught in anthropology programs throughout the world, both at undergraduate and graduate levels. Fieldwork-based research has legitimized the publication of academic articles and books, and “being there” has granted authority to the data collected, and the knowledge acquired at the multiple sites investigated by anthropologists. However, in the past decades, ethnographic research has been transformed, shifting from longer periods to shorter stays and multiple visits, limited by access to funding, job restrictions, and recently the lockdown caused by the pandemic. In addition, the dangers of war, crime, and other conditions have limited the possibility of conducting fieldwork. Digital ethnography has also redefined the Malinowskian imperative, and “natives” have enhanced their use of smartphones and computers. Furthermore, there are high expectations in the places where we do research to work collaboratively, co-create and engage in partnerships in the field, and negotiate data ownership as well as produce concrete results. New moralities are also exerting pressure on conducting fieldwork. Postcoloniality and Intersectionality posit questions on what constitutes being a native. In these constantly changing situations, how have different forms of fieldwork, ranging from multi-temporal to multilocal and digital, transformed participant observation and data gathering? How flexible are fieldwork methods and techniques, as well as our own pedagogy in anthropology classes, in conveying the new challenges confronted by current research? What has changed in terms of conducting field research for colleagues around the world? What new challenges do we confront as field sites become less localized and more dispersed or virtual? What are the emerging qualities and competencies expected for this new fieldwork regime ? How can we protect some of the conditions of what constitutes an anthropological identity, based on long exposure to alterities and searching for deep meaning? How can we characterize and define what are the best conditions for doing such fieldwork? What are the basic conditions that define and redefine what anthropology is in the present? This panel addresses these questions and invites papers on the current challenges of conducting fieldwork, the different arrays of techniques and methodologies employed, and how these are conveyed to anthropology students around the globe.