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Accepted Paper:

Problematic positionality and precarious power: questions from anthropological fieldwork  
Aastha Tyagi (Universität Hamburg)

Paper long abstract:

Fieldwork is a constant negotiation. Anthropological fieldwork among ideological groups, especially those that believe in a certain vision of identity, nationalism, religious or ethnic identity, complicates the field furthermore. While reflexivity, especially feminist methodological tools, have enabled a more honest engagement with interlocutors and the field, the actual fieldwork is always an experience that one can truly never be fully prepared for. My fieldwork among Hindu nationalist students has thrown up questions that traditional anthropological fieldwork texts and ideas of positionality left me unprepapred, especially in the context of power and research.

There is journey from understanding one’s own political standpoint, guilt and struggle in engaging with the public ideology of the interlocutors and their private lives, to reflecting on complicated fieldwork encounters. What binds this journey are the differential definitions of power that are encountered throughout fieldwork. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among Hindu nationalist students in Delhi in 2019 and 2021-2022, in this paper I would reflect on questions of ethics and power, the research process and trust, and involvement of field interlocutors with violence, responsibility towards field interlocutors and solidarity. Unlike the traditional understanding of a binary view of power between the researcher and the researched, we need newer vocabulary in academic work to accommodate the grey areas, especially in the context of studying powerful ideological groups with resources at their disposal. My aim is to go beyond merely ticking boxes while writing on positionality, methodology and ethics sections. I hope to use the paper to reflect on the fluid and conflicting nature of power in a fieldwork site and help align expectations of the fieldwork terrain in such contexts.

Panel P121a
(Re) Thinking Transformations through Solidarity: Limits & Potentials
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -