The New Ethnographer is an online project collecting testimonies about what it means to be challenged by research. We are looking for contributions from today’s ethnographers whose fieldwork experiences have gone far beyond what their universities prepared them for, or were willing to address in the aftermath. Contributions can be anonymous, and should fit under the the themes of gender, wellbeing, safety, and ethics. They should address how these challenges were overcome, what the response of the department/supervision team was, and how pre-fieldwork training could have better prepared them.
While NGOs and international organisations have protocols for staff working in difficult contexts or suffering from issues affecting their personal wellbeing, many universities do not. The staff of such organisations praise the freedom of doctoral students and academics to work without such security restrictions, and yet this has in so many instances led to devastating consequences. Responsibility often falls on overworked or untrained supervisory staff who are forced to act in accordance with university regulations that do not reflect the situation on the ground. Worse still, students attempts to talk about their challenging fieldwork experiences are often silenced, or dismissed as being the result of bad practice on the part of the researcher. In our experience, challenges during fieldwork that are connected to these four themes are becoming ubiquitous rather than exceptional. Yet, we see no evidence that challenges recurring across generations of ethnographers have provoked a concrete response that seriously addresses fieldwork training or support.
This is not a project to direct blame at Universities. Rather, we aim to provide a public space for discussion of topics that develop a more comprehensive institutional approach to pre-field training, that includes greater integration of university services such as health and safety training, IT support and skills training, insurance coordinators, department administrators, post-field students, and supervisors. We are seeking contributions from field and post-field researchers for a blog, and future journal special edition. We hope we can also use this forum to plan a workshop or symposium in late 2017 to bring together these different actors from Universities across the UK.
We accept and encourage submissions on a rolling basis, so please contact us with any pitches or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org