Get access

Fieldwork embodied



Participation entails bodily engagement. Participant observation has been integral to anthropological fieldwork. Although cross-cultural ideas of the body have been elaborated theoretically in social anthropology, the Cartesian mind/body dichotomy has privileged the cerebral in the understanding of fieldwork practice and the bodily experience of the fieldworker has been under-scrutinized. In seeking to rectify this situation, this chapter draws on extensive dialogues with leading anthropologists about their fieldwork. Examples are selected from Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Malaysia and Europe. The anthropologists’ conscious and hitherto unarticulated bodily adaptations are disentangled, and research is examined as a process of physical labour, bodily interaction and sensory learning which constitutes a foundation for the production of written texts.