Special Roundtable 3: Shifting Genealogies and Geographies of Fieldwork: An AAS Roundtable
Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Tamarind, New Building
Fieldwork is often identified with anthropology, but the methodology is also part of other domains of scholarly practice. Ethnographic fieldwork has often been portrayed as a solitary fieldworker living in an isolated community. In fact, much fieldwork is conducted in megacities, and some fieldworkers follow mobile subjects through multi-sited projects across the elusively-defined geography of “Asia.” Contemporary fieldworkers are increasingly cognizant of how different kinds of historical consciousness, national projects, mass media, and global pressures inform their conversation partners’ worldviews. In this session, four seasoned fieldworkers from three different disciplines discuss some of the directions contemporary fieldwork is taking, describing their own encounters with the messiness of fieldwork in the process. Anthropologist Katherine Bowie has been conducting fieldwork in Thailand for over 40 years, finding that her research foci have expanded over time as she came to realize that even a single village cannot be understood without considering the historical impact of regional, national and international forces. Historian Queeny Pradhan has been conducting historical fieldwork in the hill stations of India, drawing upon archival sources and oral histories. Anthropologist Laurel Kendall began as a solitary fieldworker in a Korean village, but found herself at mid-life experiencing the pleasures and pitfalls of team-based research with colleagues in Vietnam. Political Scientist Manoranjan Mohanty, who has carried out fieldwork in Hela Township in Wuxi, China for nearly four decades, has had to devise strategies to cope with not only the fast process of change on the ground in rural policies and practices but also the gap between the questions that he was interested in pursuing – such as inequality, gender, and participation – and the questions the authorities were preoccupied with, such as figures on growth, industrialisation and urban development.