20 Nov Blog: The magic of doing fieldwork
By Ward Berenschot
Recently an Indonesian colleague asked me to write a reflection on my fieldwork experiences studying politics in India and Indonesia, for an Indonesian book on ethnographic fieldwork. Here is the English version.
Doing research in the field can be tough. You spend months without friends or family, living with people who are very different from you. You might live in places that are cramped, isolated and lacking in comfort. You constantly have to be alert and sharp, making sure that you maintain good relations with the people you are studying while trying to catch and understand everything that is going on. Not infrequently fieldwork takes you to areas that are dangerous and violent, due to conflict or high crime rates. As if that is not stressful enough, the fieldwork will also feed you with a daily dose of depressing stories of oppression, deprivation or abuse. On top of all that you will feel sweaty, tired, and anxious about whether anybody will be interested in what you are doing.
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Photo by Ward Berenschot: The ‘Ootla meeting’ in Gujarat.