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