Through an 'ethnography of ethnographers', this volume explores the varied ways in which anthropologists become and remain attracted to the discipline. The contributors reflect on the initial preconceptions, assumptions and expectations of themselves as young anthropologists, and on the ways in which early decisions are made about fieldwork and about the selection of field locations. They question how fieldworkers come to understand what anthropology is, both as a profession and as a personal experience, through their commitments in the field, in academic departments and in contexts where their 'specialist knowledge' is called upon and applied. They discuss the nature of reflexivity that emerges out of anthropological practices, and the ways in which this reflexivity affects ethnographic practices. Providing reflections on fieldwork in such diverse places as Alaska, Melanesia, New York and India, the volume critically reflects on the field as a culturally constructed site, with blurred boundaries that allow the personal and the professional to permeate each other. It addresses the 'politics of location' that shape the anthropologists' involvement in 'the field', in teaching rooms, in development projects and in activist engagements. The journeys described extend beyond 'the field' and into inter-disciplinary projects, commissions, colleges and personal spheres. These original and critical contributions provide fascinating insights into the relationship between anthropologists and the nature of the discipline.
Geert De Neve is a Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Tamilnadu, India. He is interested in issues of anthropology and globalisation, as well as processes of migration, modernity and social transformation. He has published various articles on these topics, and co-edited a book. Maya Unnithan-Kumar is Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, UK. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Rajasthan in North West India and more recently in the UK. Her research interests include kinship, gender and caste in South Asian anthropology, and childbirth, maternal health and reproductive rights in the Anthropology of Reproduction. Maya has published a number of articles, a monograph and several co-edited volumes on these topics.
’The contributors offer succinct, professional biographies which remind us what reflexivity, in its most helpful sense, contributes. This volume will inspire intending anthropologists by example, reassure new fieldworkers that others have thrived on serendipity, and remind established anthropologists how uncertainly they set out, and how much their own journeys have owed to their local co-workers.’ Richard Fardon, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK ’Critical Journeys brings reflexivity back as a powerful theoretical insight and methodological tool, far removed from self-indulgent navel-gazing. Each author presents an ethnography of ethnographic practice, treating seriously for what would seem to be the first time the role played by assistants and others, as well as the informants in co-producing anthropological knowledge. The volume will stand the test of time and should be essential reading for those undertaking fieldwork for the first time, and for all anthropologists seeking to understand the discipline's relation to the world it inhabits.’ Marcus Banks, University of Oxford, UK ’Taken together, the papers reveal insights into the making of anthropologists through their engagement with the field and in the production of texts from their fieldwork...I enjoyed the balance and the sense of vibrancy displayed in this book. It contributes usefully to a body of knowledge that will assist teachers, and especially postgraduate students, in the central task of relating fieldwork to text.’ Anthropological Forum '...good reading... One of the aims of the book is to demonstrate that there is 'never just one way of being an anthropologist' (p. 13), and in this it succeeds.' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute