The Secret Lives of Anthropologists: Lessons from the Field, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Secret Lives of Anthropologists

Lessons from the Field, 1st Edition

Edited by Bonnie L. Hewlett


424 pages | 42 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2019-12-05
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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. A range of senior anthropologists 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.

Table of Contents


Bonnie L. Hewlett

Part 1: Paths into the Field

1. Learning Fields

Vishvajit Pandja

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 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

Jim McKenna


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

About the Editor

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, 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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General