The Ethnographer’s Ethnicity

A Golden Ticket or a Barrier to the Field in Southeastern Europe


  • Eda Starova St. Cyril and Methodius University



Introductions to ethnographic research for university students in Macedonia are understandably starkly different from the often idealized ‘first encounters’ we read in classical anthropological texts, what Hammersley and Atkinson call “the Western ‘rite of passage’â€. Students from Macedonia, during their four-year studies, conduct fieldwork in urban and rural areas of their home country, usually focusing on a different geographic region every year. Through this experience, students are introduced to a ‘foreign’ field that is often very familiar – the language is common and the general cultural context is shared. In such a fieldwork context, the question of ethnicity, as a general category of importance in the self-identification of communities and citizens of the region, as well as a category frequently present in the rhetoric of various political groups, cannot be withheld. As such, the aim of this paper is to highlight the need for including ethnicity in conversations about fieldwork in Southeastern Europe, especially in introductory courses on research methodologies. In this sense, it is not only the ethnic identity of our interlocutors that comes to interest, but that of the researcher as well, for whom it can represent either a barrier or a tool with the ability to aid the research process. The paper will examine introductory reading materials and practices in ethnography, and attempt to synthesize understandings of auto-reflexive examples of fieldwork in multi-ethnic communities or multi-ethnic ethnographic encounters by anthropologists from Macedonia to propose methods that ethnicity can be included as a significant factor and characteristic of the researcher in teaching ethnography in the Southeastern European region.