1st Edition

The Secret Lives of Anthropologists Lessons from the Field

Edited By Bonnie L. Hewlett Copyright 2020
    376 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    376 Pages 42 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book addresses the difficult conditions researchers may face in the field and provides lessons in how to navigate the various social, political, economic, health, and environmental challenges involved in fieldwork. It also sheds important light on aspects often considered "secret" or taboo.

    From anthropologists just starting out to those with over forty years in the field, these researchers offer the benefit of their experience conducting research in diverse cultures around the world. The contributions combine engaging personal narrative with consideration of theory and methods. The volume emphasizes how being adaptable, and aware, of the many risks and rewards of ethnographic research can help foster success in quantitative and qualitative data collection. This is a valuable resource for students of anthropological methods and those about to embark on fieldwork for the first time.


    Bonnie L. Hewlett

    Part 1: Paths into the Field

    1. Learning Fields

    Vishvajit Pandya

    2. Stumbling Around the Sacred: Some Personal Observations

    Benjamin Grant Purzycki

    3. From the Orinoco to Sorority Row: Searching for a Field Site as an Evolutionary Anthropologist

    Nicole Hess

    Part 2: Gendered Relations and Other Challenges in the Field

    4. Doing Ethnomusicological Research as a White Woman in Cameroon and the Central African Republic

    Susanne Fürniss

    5. A Boss, a Mother, a Red Antelope, and All the Things in Between

    Sylvie Le Bomin

    6. Culturally Appropriate Solutions to Fieldwork Challenges Among the Mbendjele BaYaka Hunter-Gatherers of the Congo Basin

    Daša Bombjaková

    Part 3: The Observer and the Observed: The Metamorphosis of Research, Methods, and the Researcher

    7. My Life in the School of Hard Knocks: How an Aspiring Anthropologist Became a White Cameroonian

    Robert Moïse

    8. Spā߀min, Ethnographers and Mixed Methods

    Robert Quinlan

    9. Mothering in the Field: Participant Observation on Cultural Transmission

    Victoria Reyes-García

    10. The Quiet Joy of Fieldworkers in the Kalahari

    Akira Takada

    Part 4: Dangerous Fields

    11. The Origins of Surviving Fieldwork

    Nancy Howell

    12. When All Hell Breaks Loose: Conducting Ethnographic Fieldwork Amid Gunplay, Catastrophe, and Mayhem

    J. Christopher Kovats-Bernat

    Part 5: Ethics, Advocacy, and Other Everyday Moral Dilemmas of Research

    13. Surviving Agta Fieldwork

    Thomas N. Headland with Janet D. Headland

    14. Do You Consent to Participate in the Research Study?

    Paul Verdu

    15. Who Owns the Poop? And Other Ethical Dilemmas Facing an Anthropologist Who Works at the Interface of Biological Research and Indigenous Rights

    Alyssa N. Crittenden

    16. But What if the "Field" is a Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Laboratory? How it Happened, What it’s Like. The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Ugly

    James J. McKenna

    Appendix: Regional Packing List and Other Favorite Items in the Field


    Bonnie L. Hewlett is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Washington State University, Vancouver. Her work focuses on topics relating to bio-cultural contexts of infectious diseases, hunter-gatherers, adolescent development, social learning, and the health and experiences of Ethiopian orphans, birthmothers and fathers. She has conducted field research in Gabon, Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Central African Republic.