Scholars as guests: on hospitality and fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan
(University of Exeter)
Paper short abstract:
This paper examines the following questions: Can anthropologists do work without “hospitality”? In what ways do political, social, and economic conditions shape the hosts’ understanding of hospitality and its implication in precarious conditions?
Paper long abstract:
Cultural anthropologists, probably more than the scholars of any other discipline, crucially depend on the hospitality of their hosts, be they individuals, institutions, or nation-states. Since collecting data primarily involves participant observation and interviews, cultural anthropologists cannot conduct research without the consent and generosity of the people they study. This paper is based on fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan between 2012 and 2014 and analyzes three forms of hospitality. These three types differ with regard to their contexts and how they shaped the author's experience at and of the field-site. The first emerges from the dîwananê (or the guest room) of stranbêjîs, who are performers of oral traditions. The second is located at the Kurdistan Regional Government's directorate for residency and the third is a refugee camp near the city of Duhok, 70km north of Mosul. In explicating these instances of hospitality at communal and bureaucratic levels, this paper draws on Holmes and Marcus' "collaborative ethnography" (2005) and Andrew Shryock's notion of hospitality as an act of "sovereignty" (2012). Can anthropologists do work without "hospitality"? To what extent do acts of hospitality reinforce or undermine the anthropologist's bid to write an ethnographic account? In what ways do political, social, and economic conditions shape the hosts' understanding of hospitality and its implication in precarious conditions? By addressing these questions, this paper will shed light not only on the types of hospitality anthropologists require, but also on the different ways in which various hosts view their generosity.
Hospitality, dependence and mutuality: negotiating positionality and methodologies in the Middle East