“The Field as Here and Now, Not There and Then”

Fieldwork is at once a political, personal, and professional undertaking. It provides crucial reference points and evidence upon which knowledge claims are made. Careful consideration, though, is required of one’s own assumptions about the field, especially boundaries between here and there. I make three related arguments: that, as a researcher, one is always in the field; that by being in the field one changes it and is changed by it; and that field experience does not automatically authorize knowledge, but rather allows us to generate analyses and tell specific kinds of stories. I underscore the importance of field research as a basis for developing accountable analyses and theory with the caveat that the field is separate from the everyday spaces of home. In this essay I first examine essentialized notions of the field as bounded by time and place, drawing on the work of feminist geographers. With a clearer understanding of how the field may be conceptualized, I draw on my fieldwork to illustrate political and practical considerations. Finally, I illustrate how I have become part of the fields I purport to study and contend that, as field-workers, we are always in the field.

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