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Contribution to Book
Enmities & Introspection: Fieldwork Entanglements and Ethnographic Reflexivity.
How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge. (2008)
  • Dr Emma Varley

Over the last several decades, personal disclosure has become an effective, albeit embattled, standard practice in ethnographic writing. Yet anthropological reflexivity is often very selective, and can detrimentally obscure the degree to which our own experiences—especially in unstable fieldsites—can fundamentally shape ethnographic insight, or underlie encompassing anthropological models or theories. In conflictive settings, where “anthropologist and subject inhabit the same complex world” (Jenkins 1994, 434), and where we are more likely to be emotionally “penetrated … by another form of life” (Geertz 1988, 4), we can be especially vulnerable. Indeed, when research occurs in perilous spaces rife with political upheaval or interpersonal or religious turmoil, moral uncertainties shape and embitter our on-the-ground interactions, while private predicaments impact our social positionality, research choices, and the ability to process or convey participants’ experiences. By reconsidering knowledge acquisition in a way that stresses my positional and largely unresolved fallibilities, my chapter answers Timothy Jenkins’ call for postmodern ethnographers to re-evaluate the wider spectrum of their field-based moralities, and move beyond their own “official account” (Bourdieu 1977, cited in Jenkins 1994, 436).

  • ethnography,
  • reflexivity,
  • anthropology methods,
  • theory,
  • qualitative,
  • conflict,
  • Islam
Publication Date
Liana Chua, Casey High, Timm Lau
Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Citation Information
Varley, Emma (2008). “Enmities & Introspection: Fieldwork Entanglements and Ethnographic Reflexivity.” How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge. (Liana Chua, Casey High, Timm Lau: Editors) Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 133-156.