chapter  6
18 Pages

Fieldwork Embodied

WithJudith Okely

The Cartesian mind/body dichotomy has privileged the cerebral in fieldwork, although cross-cultural ideas of the body have been elaborated theoretically in social anthropology. The bodily experience of the fieldworker has been under-scrutinized. The biological sex and perceived ‘race’ of the fieldworker were often first bodily markers of identity for the people in whose group or society the anthropologists came to live. Considerable attention has been paid to the outsider’s ‘arrival’ scenes in anthropologists’ monographs, but little or no consideration has been given to the impact of the incomer anthropologist’s arrival upon the hosts. Some anthropologists have undergone rites of passage with the inevitable painful stages as embodied means of learning. Thus, pain and unforeseen risks may become participant experience extended from participant observation. When returning from the field and writing up, as opposed to writing down field notes, the anthropologist is faced with a mass of recorded material and months of memories.