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Accepted Paper:

Leaving the Field (Re)Considered  


Felix Girke (HTWG Konstanz)

Paper short abstract:

Anthropologists' arrival stories serve to justify and domesticate the moment of entering other people's lives, even as the analogous moment of final departure from the field has been little discussed so far. Today, digital media enable us to maintain a disembodied presence and never really leave.

Paper long abstract:

In Mary Louise Pratt's discussion of arrival stories as a textual trope (1986), she urged anthropologists to reflect on ways of writing and this kind of positionality. That ever since this intervention the analogous moment of departure from a field with the prospect never to return has rarely been addressed is remarkable (with exceptions like Perner 2016): with much reflection invested in 'getting there', as well as 'being there', of course, the omission of the moment of 'no longer being there', 'never again going there' and 'leaving there behind' in our methodological and textual discussions seems odd for a discipline that prides itself in the trust, rapport and even kinship relations established elsewhere. But the truth of the matter is that eventually, we eventually do stop, and one visit was the last. Drawing on biographical data, this paper offers further reflections on what leaving the field has meant for the longest time, but equally engages the changes brought by digital media that allow us to remain connected in some way or another to the field indefinitely. This seems a humane affordance in that we can uphold communication or update data from the modern armchair, but it has its postcolonial barbs: It is no longer feasible to cleanly sever those ties established 'there' as it had been for our predecessors, even when desired, as when the anthropologist leaves the field, the field will likely follow them - on Facebook.

Panel P097
Staying Tuned - Connections Beyond 'The Field'