Dog Bites and Gastrointestinal Disorders: Our Everyday Bodies in Teaching Anthropology and Fieldwork Preparation

Abstract

What are the physical experiences of fieldwork really like? This article invites anthropologists engaged in teaching to transform the way research methods are currently taught to include frank and thoughtful conversations on how bodies, in their mundane physicality, are implicated in fieldwork. While the (mindful) body that actively and purposefully engages with the reality under investigation has gained centrality in anthropological discussions about “being there”, the body that things happen to has been ignored or marginalised. We contend that an exploration of the body that falls ill, feels uncomfortable, or simply does not match with an idealised image of the skilled and productive fieldworker (often male and able-bodied) has practical, pedagogical, political, and analytical merits. By recounting some of our own private anecdotes of challenges encountered in fieldwork, we emphasise the centrality of our physical experiences to our ethnographic approach. Discussing the glamourless, bodily aspects of fieldwork is crucial to preparing ourselves and our students for fieldwork, to combating ableism in anthropology, and to downplaying anxiety over narrow standard goals of “good” fieldwork. We also argue that theoretical considerations of the messy and unpleasant physical experiences that fieldwork involves can bring further insight into how research is (un)done.

Author Biographies

Miranda Sheild Johansson, UCL Anthropology

Miranda Sheild Johansson is Senior Research Fellow at UCL Anthropology. She gained her PhD in Anthropology at LSE in 2014 and has worked as Teaching Fellow and Leverhulme Scholar at UCL. Her work explores the dynamics of fiscal systems and the sociality of tax, with a particular emphasis on the Andean region.

Laura Montesi, National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT)/Centre for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS)

Laura Montesi earned her PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Kent, UK, in 2016. She has explored chronic diseases and conditions among indigenous peoples in Mexico, paying attention to their lived experiences amidst structural inequalities. After a Posdoc at CIESAS and a year as Teaching Fellow at UCL, she is now a CONACyT reseacher contributing to a project on indigenous health in Mexico, led by Dr. Paola Sesia at CIESAS, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Published
2021-10-01