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Research Seminar: Student Anthropologists on Fieldwork Reflections

May 31 2013 @ 12:00 am

Research seminar: Student anthropologists on fieldwork reflections

Place: Royal Anthropological Institute
Date: May 31, 2013
Time: 17:00 hours to 18.30 hours

This event is open and free to attend, but places are limited. Please contact Penny Searson and Narmala Halstead to book  (email: pennysearson@googlemail.com; n.halstead@uel.ac.uk)

Penny Searson, UEL
Title: “Finding my Feet in Fieldwork: An Undergraduate Experience”


In this presentation, I discuss my experiences of four fieldwork studies I have conducted for my undergraduate Anthropology degree. I carried out each fieldwork study in a very new setting, using different fieldwork approaches, and for very different reasons, which drew on personal life-journeys and academic interests.
Conducting these studies, I was struck  by the ways the fieldwork came alive, evolved, and developed: each fieldwork study I’ve done has required constant monitoring, nurturing and care for it could have so easily grown to proportions beyond my control. I will be discussing the process in which primary data, secondary data, theory, and personal thoughts about the issue being studied are all drawn together to form an academic piece of work. Furthermore I will discuss the impact it has had on myself as a person, and the invaluable skills I have learnt.

Jenny Wilson, UEL
Title: A Study in Spiritualism


I will explore emerging and ongoing issues on a research project into modern-day shamanic practices within contemporary UK culture in the context of a Christian Spiritualist church in Oxfordshire. I intended to investigate both Spiritualism and Western Shamanic practice, and comparing them with Shamanism as a concept in anthropology.  However, I found that the data I had collected and the issues raised were far more than that which could be contained in the time and word count for a single project. As it stands, this study is ongoing. I am investigating Spiritualism which is an organised religion, albeit loosely. Its defining shamanic attributes are the belief that it is possible to communicate with the souls of the dead and that spiritual energy can be harnessed for healing purposes. Not all Spiritualists are Christians, although the majority aligns their faith with its basic tenets. I found conflicting views within the congregation with regard to alliances and affiliations with mainstream Christianity. So far, my fieldwork has provided data on individual motivations for self-identification with the Spiritualist movement. I have explored its historical context and relationship to British folklore. I reflect on my access into these issues and the ways this project ‘grows’ through my subjective immersion.

Catherine Jones, UEL

Title: Jumping in at the deep end’: first encounters and reflexive journeying


Encountering anthropological knowledge approaches for the first time is of huge significance to the undergraduate. To encounter fieldwork is nothing short of transformative. In exploring the value of every encounter and its continuum of exchange I will bring out the significance of the reflexive undertaking for the student. I contemplate the journey taken in locating a field-site and the processual nature of entering and gaining access. This will also allow me to reflect upon the many ways the field-site developed and the themes and transitions thus encountered. I consider distinctive processes of constructing knowledge as moments of self-realisation which allowed me to appreciate the Other as an intrinsic part of Self. I will discuss the ways of doing and learning fieldwork as dialogical spaces formed through practice; I consider how these fieldwork processes and encounters helped me to navigate deep shifts in perception that could only be realised by having first “jumped in at the deep end”.

Glen Hodson

Title: Reflexive review of fieldwork encounters


In this presentation, I will discuss two different projects I have carried out during my undergraduate studies over the past two years. In the first study, I considered urban lives and tattoos. I will explore how this project developed through my own interest and immersion in tattooing and how I gained analytical distance to develop anthropological understandings of this process. I will then discuss the selection processes of my second project which explored different identities in London and consider how my understandings of anthropological fieldwork helped to develop this latter project.
This presentation is intended to be a reflexive review of research work over the last two years of university studies.  I will also consider how divergent life experiences have influenced my research and how, in turn the research project and skills are influencing my approaches to identities and guiding me for future work.  In part, I also hope to highlight the importance of fieldwork within the study of anthropology, and how this encourages the development of both academic and personal growth.

Holly Chant, UEL

Title: The issue of Positionality: Fieldwork experiences of an undergraduate ‘halfie’


When conducting anthropological fieldwork there is always the researcher’s positionality which has to be considered. Where we, as anthropologists, as individuals, ‘come from’ and how we identify with particular cultural settings affect the ways we perceive those settings and how we might write about them. Growing up and living in multiple countries for half of my life, and then living in the United Kingdom for the other half, I found that, during fieldwork, notions of the ‘other’ and notions of ‘self,’ notions of the ‘West’ and of the non-West were increasingly present, and often shifting and becoming blurred.
In this presentation I will discuss my particular perspectives, drawing on Abu-Lughod’s term of a ‘halfie.’ I will consider how socialisation in a multitude of ‘cultures’  influenced my subsequent fieldwork  in London.  I would often make silent comparisons between the different places I had lived; these experiences also made me reflect on the dynamics of relationships, of trust and of power, with research participants and ways these are inter-dependent on our perceptions – mine and that of my research participants – of our identities and biographies. I will also explore how fieldwork and studying anthropology inevitably’ impacted’ on understandings of myself and the ways I conceptualise my personhood.

This event is open and free to attend, but places are limited. Please contact Penny Searson and Narmala Halstead to book  (email: pennysearson@googlemail.com; n.halstead@uel.ac.uk)


May 31 2013
12:00 am
Event Category: