Doing gender in the field: a female ethnographer experience researching young men's sexuality
(University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper portrays the way gender is performed by the informants and myself, a female ethnographer researching young men. It elaborates how doing gender unravels the issues of immersion and danger in a heterosexist setting, as well as how it becomes a part of the ethnographic knowledge production.
Paper long abstract:
This paper is based on my ethnographic study on chemical sexualities used by young men in Papua, Indonesia. Specifically, it portrays my experiences as a female ethnographer researching young men on highly sensitive and sexualized topics such as penis enlargement practices and the use of sexual enhancement products. As a female researcher of different gender, age, socioeconomic, and ethnic background, I experienced the challenges of gaining access and faced sexual harassment, that made me struggling to bodily and emotionally immerse myself in the sexualized and heterosexist settings. In this paper, I will show the ways interlocutors and I perform our own gender in everyday relations throughout the fieldwork. Moreover, I will portray how doing gender in the fieldwork relations is intertwined with race, class, and age and is situated within a particular power relations of socioeconomic, and political structure of Papua. I suggest that acknowledging the way gender is performed within a specific context can help a female researcher to position herself in sexual circumstances, to mitigate the risk of sexual advances and sexual assault, and to understand the power relations among the actors in a male-dominated setting. Moreover, the ways gender is enacted all through the fieldwork have to be considered as an integral part of building ethnographic knowledge of the people, culture, and phenomenon under study.
Sex and the field: sex, power, and the production of anthropological knowledge