Author:Geir Henning Presterudstuen (Western Sydney University)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I use a series of vignettes from my fieldwork on masculinity and sexuality in Fiji to reflect more broadly on how the notions of intimacy, sexuality and gender power are intrinsic to the ethnographic encounter.
Paper long abstract:
In an early fieldwork conversation with a Fijian qauri (non-heteronormative, effeminate male), my interlocutor interrupted my opening questions to explain that if I expected any sexual favours he preferred to get it over and done with before we started the interview properly. While my initial reaction was one of confusion followed by acute professional embarrassment, the statement also facilitated a comprehensive self-reflection about my own gendered performance in the field and how the notions of intimacy, sexuality and gender power are intrinsic to the ethnographic encounter. In this paper I continue these reflections in order to achieve two things: first to highlight some of the key issues impeding non-heteronormative Fijian citizens' sense of belonging and inclusion. Second, I use this particular "shock of difference" as the foundation for a more detailed analysis of the particular dangers associated with ethnographic research on gender and sexuality. Though I maintain that ethnographers are uniquely well placed to study gender and sexuality as it is lived and experienced, I will analyse a series of vignettes that highlight key implications of the realisation that doing ethnography is gendered work. As I conclude my paper I will use my own field experience to discuss these implications with a particular focus on the question on how an ethnographer of gender and sexuality can avoid reinforcing local systems of gendered and sexual power.
Sex and the field: sex, power, and the production of anthropological knowledge