American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
The racial and economic privilege of expatriates and tourists have often made them underresearched subjects for anthropologist, even as the field runs from the “savage slot” approaches. This paper looks at a different parallel between the ethnographer and the expatriate - their mobilities and the duration of their activities. “Going to the field” has drastically changed with time-space compression and electronic connections between ‘here’ and ‘there’ in ways that impact both expats and ethnographies. Furthermore the labor of expatriates has changed from the stereotypical three-year posting, especially with the rise of expert outsourcing. Likewise, the privilege of a extended period of fieldwork has become more challenging, even as new connectivities demand a never-ending link to “the field.”
In this paper, based upon ethnographic work with expatriates in Nepal, I argue that the era of late capitalism has changed the temporal horizon of both ethnographers and expatriates in ways that provide opportunities for new arenas of research and new challenges. Particularly, I suggest that the “fast friendships” that are required to establish intimacy in a mobile world are valuable skills in a mobile labor environment. Often, overcoming the geographical changes, expats and ethnographers often seek out “non-places” and other environments of stability. The stereotype held by many scholars, advocating cultural immersion and language study as not only necessary to their research but a moral good have created a barrier to communication within these two constituencies, who share an unstable position in the global economy and a changing chronotopical positionality.