Accepted Paper:

When anthropologists collide: self-reflexive dialogues between a 'native' and a 'foreign' anthropologist  


Sachiko Horiguchi (Temple University Japan Campus)
Ellen Rubinstein (North Dakota State University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper aims at a more nuanced understanding of self-reflexivity in fieldwork by examining the dialogues between two anthropologists who inadvertently shared a field site. It highlights the influence of linguistic, academic, and ethnic backgrounds on ethnography as both practiced and written.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims at a nuanced understanding of self-reflexivity in ethnography by examining the case of two anthropologists who unexpectedly found themselves sharing a field site. Sachiko Horiguchi has been conducting fieldwork on hikikomori (socially withdrawn youth) in Tokyo as a 'native' anthropologist on and off since July 2003. Ellen Rubinstein, an American anthropologist, started her doctoral fieldwork in Tokyo on the same theme in February 2010. We traveled in similar circles and were familiar with the same people, but it was not until October 2010 that we suddenly stumbled upon each other at the same field site. The encounter itself was perceived differently by each of us, and in the dialogues that followed there emerged a critical reflection on what it means to do ethnography - to construct for oneself a bounded field site, a fieldwork identity, and a role in a community.

Sharing observations and interpretations of the same people in the same place at the same time heightened our awareness of the varied ways of experiencing the field, as well as the biases and assumptions underlying them. This paper will draw from our field notes and dialogues in problematizing the categories of 'native' and 'foreign' anthropologists, while also acknowledging the divergences in ethnographic practices made necessary by those identities. It will shed light on the constructed nature of fieldwork and field sites, the politics of positionality, and the dynamic nature of relationships in the field.

Panel P058
Reimagining the self and the field in contemporary ethnography: insights from living and researching within and through borders