Caught in an (Ethnographic) Moment: Negotiating Religious Loyalities in and Out of the Field


  • Audrey Prost Department of Anthropology, University College London



This paper examines some of the methodological and ethical dilemmas inherent to fieldwork in communities saturated by religious identification and discourses. I examine the dynamics of fieldwork along the fault lines of reflexivity, when one’s own existential ground is challenged and reformed through adopting a position of `practical empathy` with religious beliefs from which one had previously sought to distance oneself. Central to this is the idea that the ‘ethnographic moment’, i.e. the moment in which the anthropologist rises to meet a revealed problematic encapsulated in a particular instance of fieldwork, may be paralleled to the experience of religious epiphany, whereby embodied and intellectual understanding of phenomena and situation come to merge, producing a totalising understanding of the field and the “afield”

Author Biography

Audrey Prost, Department of Anthropology, University College London

Audrey Prost is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. Her research investigates contemporary developments in Tibetan medicine and changing conceptions of health among the exile communities of Himachal Pradesh, Northern India.