At work in the field: problems and opportunities associated with employment during fieldwork


  • Adam Kaul Durham University



This paper explores the advantages and drawbacks of gainful employment whilst conducting ethnographic fieldwork. Examples are drawn from the author's fieldwork in a heavily visited tourist destination in western Ireland. Whilst there are potential problems that arise due to employment, the benefits are such that it should not be discouraged outright. Moreover, it needs to be discussed as a potential condition of fieldwork. I found that although employment was initially necessary simply to fund my time in the field it became an intensely useful vehicle for gaining access to local knowledge. Employment allows the field researcher to move into and explore emic categorizations of people, and in this case, observe the interactions between permanent residents and tourists. Employment is very rarely discussed in the literature on anthropological methodology, and this paper is intended to continue a growing dialogue about the pragmatic, day-to-day experience of the field. Introduction

Author Biography

Adam Kaul, Durham University

Adam Kaul obtained his first degree in anthropology at Minnesota State University at Moorhead in 1996. From there, he matriculated to Northern Illinois University and received an MA in cultural anthropology in 1998. Kaul spent the next three years lecturing at Minnesota State University and Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota before pursuing a PhD. In 2004, he completed his doctoral studies in anthropology at the University of Durham in the UK. His thesis is an ethnographic account of tourism, incomers and the traditional Irish music scene in a small village in western Ireland. Adam's primary research interests are in the processual creation of identities, tourism, the anthropology of music, performance, folklore, ethnohistory and ethnoscience. Regionally, he is interested in Ireland, the British Isles, Native America and the American Midwest. Currently, Kaul is a lecturer of anthropology at the University of Durham.