Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: Longstanding ethnographic engagement with specific places, spaces, peoples, and projects offers an opportunity for reflection on more than just our research questions and findings. Over time, as many of us become entrenched in our careers, personal relationships, and the trappings of everyday life, fields may become more distant, return trips briefer, or abandoned in favor of new projects. At the same time, social media, skype, and other new communication technologies shrink these distances and change the possibilities for collaboration with communities where we work. For other anthropologists, particularly those from the Global South, the field and home may represent the same geographic location and changing research foci may result from sociopolitical urgencies. Providing insights from diverse geographic regions and differing positionalities, this panel highlights both substantive and impressionistic reflection on the ways that our fieldsites and collaborations with interlocutors have changed over time.
Nichols-Belo’s paper examines both the spatial and socioeconomic shifts in Mwanza, Tanzania’s urban “development,” and the ways that her work in Mwanza has changed from “pure” research to facilitated student service-learning. Johnson describes the ways that power, politics, and her positionality as a black woman studying male sex work have changed her interactions both in field and public health spaces, while Gross reflects on the ways that shifts in her age, social status, and research methods are implicated in a variety of geographically disparate linguistic projects. Recently reconnected to his fieldsite of Cuba, as internet access has increased, Armengol reflects on how to make sense of new relationships with interlocutors who have been cut off by both time and technology. Risør’s work demonstrates how new projects, such as her work with Chilean playwright Paula Gonzalez on state violence, may destabilize existing ethnographic relationships; in this case, collaboration with artists and activists is incongruent with fieldwork with police. Finally, Hernandez-Castillo reminds activist anthropologists that the field need not be a distant or exotic locale, but may, instead, be found in our own communities. Collectively, our papers examine the ways that local or global sources of “struggle” reshape landscapes, communities, and collaboration. We explore collaborations, however distant and tenuous, that have the potential to “evolve into genuine coproduction of new knowledge?” (AAA CFP, 2019). Finally, we reflect our own shifting positionalities as outsiders/insiders, gendered, raced, and aging persons doing fieldwork.