'I thought you were one of those modern girls from Mumbai': Gender, reflexivity and encounters of Indian-ness in the field
Pamila Gupta (University of the Witwatersrand)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper, I reflect on my experiences of doing fieldwork in Goa, India (1999-2000) from my position as a female anthropologist, of Hindu Indian parentage, raised and educated in the United States.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I reflect on my experiences of doing fieldwork in Goa, India (1999-2000) from my position as a female anthropologist, of Hindu Indian parentage, raised and educated in the United States. I take as my starting point three seminal fieldwork encounters that shaped how I was perceived by 'others' in Goa in order to both illuminate and complicate the gendered and racialized postcolonial politics of conducting anthropological research, on the inter-related topics of tourism and religion. In adopting a self reflexive stance towards these experiences, I am able to suggest not only that my identity became tied to my gender(female), but also, interestingly, to my racial and regional background (in India) over my national, diasporic, and academic location(in the US). That is, I was more easily perceived or rather, fit more neatly into the category of a "modern (North) Indian girl", rather than that of a female Western academic. My intention is to employ these three fieldwork encounters to first highlight the role of gender in shaping fieldwork, including its power to delimit access to resources on the part of the female researcher, and the seriousness with which she is regarded by others; and secondly, to explore how the role of the participant observer, at least in my case, became that of the (non) tourist due to the combined factors of gender, religion, and race. Further, I pose these encounters as dilemmas, not to be resolved but rather explored and discussed as impacting and complicating the (gendered and racialized) fieldwork process.
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Researching tourism: reflexive practice and gender