This panel invite contributions from ethnographers on challenges in contemporary anthropological research addressing the themes of safety, mental health and wellbeing, gender, radical research methods and ethics in fieldwork.
This panel addresses the body and the mind of the ethnographer, as the site of a diverse convergence of experiences during fieldwork. Although it has been acknowledged in anthropology that our bodies are our tools of research, the impact of this reality on our bodies is under-explored. As multiple layers of violence dominate the sites that many of us choose to study, ethnographers constantly negotiate relationships and positionalities in ways that can put them in danger. While international organisations often have protocols for staff working in difficult contexts, many universities do not. The staff of such organisations praise the freedom of anthropologists to work without security restrictions, and yet this has in many instances led to devastating consequences. Researchers' attempts to talk about their challenging fieldwork experiences are often silenced or dismissed as being the result of bad or unethical practice on the part of the researcher. Acknowledging that similar protocols would struggle to capture the complexities of ethnographic research, this panel opens a space to counter the current institutional silence on this subject. Building on existing research into the ubiquity of fieldwork challenges (Pollard 2009) and the importance of treating such experiences and emotions with intellectual rigour (Davies and Spencer 2010), this panel asks how our institutions and professional associations could better support researchers experiencing challenges in the field. We invite contributions from ethnographers whose fieldwork experiences have gone beyond their expectations, addressing the themes of safety, mental health and wellbeing, gender, radical research methods and ethics in fieldwork.