How do ethnographers work through and write about conflicts and crises they encounter during fieldwork? What lessons can ethnographic impasses, including those that arise from working within the state, teach us about the limits and opportunities of positionality, reflexivity, and transparency?
The success of ethnographic fieldwork hangs on many factors, from planning and training to maintaining fruitful relationships with gatekeepers and participants. But what happens, and what do ethnographers do, when things go wrong? When access is denied, important relationships go sour, or changes to personal circumstances and state relations render fieldwork or essential parts of it untenable? This panel engages with obstacles to doing ethnography. It asks, How do ethnographers work through and write about the conflicts and crises they encounter during fieldwork, including their shortcomings, mistakes, fieldwork 'failures', and ethnographic dead ends? What lessons do engaging with and writing about ethnographic impasses hold for subsequent research projects, for ethnographic accounts and theories of power and the state, and for ethnographic practice more generally? What can we learn about the limits and opportunities of positionality, reflexivity, and transparency in doing and writing about ethnographic research?