Encountering emotions in the field: an X marks the spot


  • Anne Monchamp Macquarie University




This paper will examine the role of emotions in fieldwork by discussing the dialogical nature of fieldwork as a research tool. It is argued that fieldwork is based on information gathered through relationships, and therefore the emotional elements of those associations are relevant to the ethnographic writing that is produced. Further this paper will address how acknowledging the role of emotions as a part of fieldwork and the overall ethnographic research process is important; however, simply recognizing that emotions are a part of fieldwork is possibly to underplay their potentially more catalytic role in the learning process in as much as it is often through our emotional reactions that we come to understand.

"For the lay person, such as myself, the main evidence of a problem is the simple fact that ethnographic writing tends to be surprisingly boring. How, one asks constantly, could such interesting people doing such interesting things produce such dull books? What did they have to do to themselves?" (Pratt 1986:33)

Author Biography

Anne Monchamp, Macquarie University

Anne Monchamp is currently working on her PhD in Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Her thesis is designed around the anthropological, psychological and philosophical theme of autobiographical memory. Her fieldwork was carried out in the Australian Central Desert community of Alpurrurlam. Her interests include memory, mind, dreams and travel/tourism. Anne can be contacted at anne.monchamp(AT)scmp.mq.edu.au.