Field frustrations: how challenges and lessons from the anthropology of development might contribute to the development of anthropology
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the challenges and moral complexities of fieldwork in the context of development anthropology, drawing on specific situations from time spent working as an anthropologist in development agencies in East Africa.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores fieldwork in the context of development anthropology, a prominent form of applied anthropology that has encouraged reflection on the practice of anthropology itself (Mosse 2013). Drawing on specific fieldwork situations from time spent working for the United Nations and international NGOs in East Africa, I discuss several complexities and moral questions that arose. These include how politicized agendas and a ‘black box of implementation’ can distort fieldwork; how strategic representations linked to the economy of aid have shaped roles or ‘scripts’ for researcher-informant relations; and how interlocutors and local elites bring further subjectivity to fieldwork. Through these, the paper discusses what can be mutually exchanged between development and anthropology, with a particular focus on the accommodation and empowerment of local agency and participation.
Intimacy & information: dilemmas of power, trust and property in the informant encounter