Spatial and temporal transformations of fieldwork practices
Birgit Bräuchler (Monash University)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on ethnographic research in diverse localities the paper addresses transitions in the conceptualization of space and time as well as the conduct of ethnographic fieldwork and thus aims to think through one of anthropology's main conundrums.
Paper long abstract:
The paper addresses transitions in the conceptualization of space and the conduct of ethnographic fieldwork and aims to think through one of anthropology's main conundrums, fieldwork. It shows how transforming notions of space and time can grasp the dynamic relationship between 'small places' and 'large issues' such as indigenous peoples' rights, the increasing importance of new media in both conflict and everyday life, and peace research. It does so by drawing on research I conducted over the last one and a half decades. In the Philippines, I looked at changing resource use among hunters and gatherers; in cyberspace, the societal space constituted by the Internet, I tracked how a local conflict was mediatized and globalized; and in my most recent long-term project, I investigated the still ongoing peace process in the Moluccan Islands, Eastern Indonesia. The respective research interest had major impact on the spatial and temporal set-up of the respective fieldwork, from classical participant observation in one specific locality, to the conduct of fieldwork in a space constituted and imagined through new media, to something I coined Moluccan peace scape that needed to be explored though multi-sited and multi-temporal field research. In this paper, I elaborate on the interplay between planned action and serendipity and how methodology and the respective fields (and its borders) were negotiated in each case in spatial as well as temporal terms and in response to the initial research interest, evolving and transforming research questions and a changing research subject.
Small places, large issues: thinking through anthropological conundrums