Accepted paper:

The nocturnal anthropologist: exploring the method of nocturnal fieldwork spitalfields market, City of London corporation


Julius-Cezar MacQuarie (Centre for Policy Studies, Central European University)

Paper short abstract:

The discussion focuses on the innovative aspects of such method used to capture the workers of the nocturnal cities of future, invisible otherwise to the diurnal eye and mind.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the difficulties posed by past legacies, such as diurnal ethnography as the dominant point of reference in anthropological research. When testing and navigating in the darkness with the nocturnal participant observation to examine the complex subjectivities of migrants nightshifting at the market, nocturnal fieldwork puts great strain on the ethnographer's diurnal life. Both, the corporeality on the ethnographer's body and mind, and the methodological puzzles that awaits her/him are explored, addressing: (a) At which point can s/he say that they get used to the night rhythms of life in-out of the research that s/he conducts? When should the researcher pull out of the field, conscious of the tiredness? How does tiredness affect the chances of gathering useful material? (b) By turning native, i.e. living an antithetic way of life to diurnal creatures - just like my respondents I too have my boots and hands dirty while I load produce or drive the forklift around the market, six nights per week, on 10.5 hour shift, with 5 hours day sleep. Depth of participation and length in the field, and being up and working at night made me empathetic with the workers' precarity, which perhaps affected my power of observing the less-visible forms of solidarity or competition. Or their reactions sometimes helped or other times hindered my nocturnal investigation? Keywords: night work, precariat, migrants, nocturnal ethnography, corporeality

panel P125
Teaching ethnography as method: legacies and future practices [TAN]