Beyond Sontag as a reader of Lévi-Strauss: 'anthropologist as hero'

Beyond Sontag as a reader of Lévi-Strauss: 'anthropologist as hero'

By Tod Hartman (University of Cambridge)

This article traces mutations in the generalised image of the 'heroic' anthropologist since Susan Sontag's interpretation of the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss in Tristes Tropiques in her 1963 essay, 'The anthropologist as hero'. Firstly, it is argued that a considerable shift has occurred from the Lévi-Straussian 'hard-won impassivity' to 'activist' anthropology in which the anthropologist's emotions are acknowledged and legitimised as part of the ethnographic process. With heroic activist anthropology comes the tendency to assume a single Euro-American vision of rights and responsibilities as universal, although it is suggested that in some contexts this may be in direct conflict with informants' sovereignty and desires. Secondly, as anthropologists increasingly study groups that are located 'at home', the analogy between fieldwork and a heroic journey into the unknown that Sontag posits becomes tenuous. Fieldwork is now carried out in places-the hospital, the airport, the office-that would have been unthinkable several decades ago. In these explicitly de-exoticised contexts in which they are often held accountable to their informants, anthropologists are able to demonstrate a heroic honesty with regards to their subjects of study. Finally, it is suggested that the generalised perception of anthropologists from outside the discipline has not taken these new sorts of heroisms into account, and that this omission has worked to the detriment of anthropology's external image. 


In a 1963 essay in The New York Review of Books, 'The anthropologist as hero', the writer and critic Susan Sontag presents American audiences with the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss in the context of his newly-translated book Tristes Tropiques (1961). The condition of the contemporary intellectual for Sontag is a constant and frustrating attempt at a dialectic self-identification with the Other: Europe seeks its self in an exotic Other, a disenchanted rationality seeks itself in the ecstasy of sex and drugs, philosophical problems seek their 'oblivion' in the empiricism of science (Sontag 1994:69). For Sontag, however, only the anthropologist has actually lived this desire to lose the self in the Other through the emotionally cathartic disorientation of fieldwork: the anthropologist is the only practicing intellectual who is master of 'his own intellectual alienation' (ibid:74). In Sontag's reading of the practice of ethnography, which seems uniquely positioned to anticipate the self-reflexive trend in the discipline ushered in by the work of Lévi-Strauss, the emotional trauma of fieldwork is a double one: not only is one constantly and agonisingly forced to call into question the parameters of one's own existence and assumptions by contact with the exotic Other, but one is forced to watch helplessly as indigenous cultures are irrevocably destroyed by the processes of modernisation. 

To a large extent, this may still be how the practice of anthropology is viewed from outside the discipline. Yet, as anthropologists increasingly study groups that are not necessarily 'non-Western' or located abroad, as they study elites or their own societies, or celebrate their intervention into societies under study in the context of activism or development, the traditional analogy between fieldwork and a heroic journey into the unknown and back in some cases becomes tenuous. In this paper I will suggest that a different sort of anthropologist as hero has emerged since the period when Sontag reviewed Tristes Tropiques. This figure continues to embody many of the characteristics of Sontag's anthropologist, yet it also presents new sorts of conundrums as it engages emotionally with notions of anthropology-as-activism and the deterritorialisation of the traditional anthropological dialectical subject (the exotic Other). 

Throughout this essay, I take Sontag's text (rather than a literal reading of Lévi-Strauss) as a constant point of comparison. Sontag wrote for a very small audience, a very rarefied slice of Euro-American urban Anglophone elites: the reader she addressed could claim familiarity with the theatre of Ionesco, was versed in French existentialism and could contextualise the literary criticism of Georg Lukács. In addition, her vision of the ethnographic spectrum is sharply divided between the primitive native and the civilised Western anthropologist. From these two facts one might conclude that she has little to tell us now about an egalitarian anthropology, and if, as a cursory reading of 'The anthropologist as hero' suggests, anthropology deserves interest only to the extent that it is practiced and elevated to the level of highbrow philosophy by European intellectual elites, we might do better to disregard the essay entirely. 

Yet I rely on Sontag's writing not because it embodies some correct notion of what ethnographic practice should be, but because I consider it representative of the perception of anthropology from outside (and possibly inside) the discipline at a particular moment when self-reflexive anthropologists began to turn an analytical and philosophical gaze back onto themselves and their own emotions - a moment that Sontag, one of the most cross-culturally well-read figures of the twentieth century, was uniquely poised to appreciate and record (although she was by no means the only one to do so). With reference to that moment I will interrogate some forms of the evolution of the anthropologist as hero, an admittedly fuzzy term when taken out of context, but one whose malleability for an author I hope will help to draw out the changes in the ways that anthropologists contextualise their emotional engagement in the field. I draw on several topical ethnographic cases, as well as my own experience of fieldwork in Romania and Spain. Finally, I will suggest that a wider recognition of the anthropological heroisms that Sontag doesn't address might contribute to a revitalised image of the practice of anthropology from outside the discipline. 

As an initial observation-and a recognition that pinning the label 'heroic' to different sorts of ethnographic practice is a highly vague, subjective and potentially contentious affair-it is worth remarking that notions of heroic anthropologists inscribe themselves in a historical conception of heroism that is relatively new. For much of history, heroic status is awarded retroactively-that is, after the hero's death. It is the hero's status as martyr that makes him (or more rarely, her) heroic. Joan of Arc's heroic status is derived from the fact of her immolation. 'Unknown soldiers' killed in battle attained the highest level of heroism in many modern nation-states not through specific acts achieved whilst alive, but by the single fact of their death. Here, it is their very anonymity that makes the ultimate sacrifice of these soldier-martyrs all the more pointed: not only have they laid down their lives for patriotic duty, but the subjective achievements of their lives have gone unrecorded, unrewarded. 

The heroic anthropologist, on the other hand, lives on, in many cases to be fêted as an 'engaged intellectual' by virtue of his or her own status as such. In most cases, during the course of fieldwork, one neither dies nor disappears into one's informants. One is permitted to complete the act of fieldwork-the 'psychological ordeal' (Sontag 1994:75)-but when it finishes its planned duration or becomes unbearable one returns, in most cases, to the comfort of the Western academy, not as a failure but as a hero. One is then expected, in a final and fantastic opposition to the hero-as-martyr above, to record the heroic experience in one's own terms. Compared to the hero-as-martyr, anthropology as heroism cannot but seem like a case of having one's cake and eating it too. 

In addition, for Euro-American intellectuals of the 1960s, if Sontag is anything to go by, the heroic practice of anthropology was inherently a masculine one. Anthropology, as Sontag notes, is one of the few intellectual trades that does not require the 'sacrifice of one's manhood' (ibid:74). Throughout her essay the paradigmatic anthropologist-despite the presence of a large number of well-known female anthropologists and especially the advent of Margaret Mead as the icon of the progressive anthropologist in American popular consciousness by the mid-twentieth century-always remains a 'he'. While this observation alone should establish the fact that the heroic anthropologist is a shifting figure with little basis in reality, it is informative to look at the reception of the hyper-masculinised anthropologist at one end of a spectrum of anthropologist as hero as a starting point for the discussion to follow.

Dangerous heroics

"The Monou-teri and Bisaasi-teri raided against the Patanowä-teri six times while I lived with them… I allowed them to talk me into taking the entire raiding party up the Mavaca River in my canoe. There, they could find high ground and reach the Patanowä-teri without having to cross the numerous swamps that lay between the two villages." (Chagnon 1968:134-135)

Not without good reason, the now controversial work of the US anthropologist Napoléon Chagnon is often taken as the instance par excellence of anthropology as adventure. In the 1960s Chagnon conducted extensive fieldwork amongst the Yanomami, a group of Native Americans in the Northwest Amazonian rainforest on the border between Brazil and Venezuela. Out of this fieldwork emerged the classic text Yanomamö: The Fierce People (1968; later changed to simply Yanomamö) in which Chagnon described the Yanomami as an intensely warlike society, whose existence centred around revenge, raids and battles for control of women. Chagnon followed these often fatal large-scale acts of violence over the course of various years, even going to the point of arming natives himself (ibid:13). Reading passages from Yanomamö, one is surprised that Chagnon managed to survive his fieldwork at all. Here, we see the hyper-masculinised anthropologist as hero taken to its natural extreme, as the danger and physical hardship with which the anthropologist's rite de passage in the field is fraught become a barometer of his heroism and the real interest of the book, long a core text in introductory cultural anthropology courses at US universities. Would Chagnon's account still contain any of the gripping, riveting power that fuelled its status as a bestseller and classic anthropological text if the field experience had been calm, safe and comfortable, if it failed to depict anthropology as heroic adventure? 

A recent book-cum-exposé by journalist Patrick Tierney, Darkness in El Dorado (2001), accuses Chagnon of a variety of sins: falsifying data, encouraging inter-tribal warfare, unduly influencing the course of local politics and feuds, even going so far as to suggest that it was the anthropologist who caused the region's current instability. One of the most significant and divisive scandals in the recent history of sociocultural anthropology, the conflict provoked an extensive report by the American Anthropological Association (AAA Executive Board 2002), which largely exonerated Chagnon from accusations of ethical misconduct. Whether or not Chagnon is in fact guilty of the charges levelled against him is in a sense beside the point. Rather, what emerges as significant are the changes that have occurred in the character of the anthropologist as hero since the middle of the twentieth century. Today, the heroic anthropologist is less often the one who sets out on a heroic mission of self-discovery, hardship and adventure, and more often the self-reflexive anthropologist whose first intellectual impetus is to critique the very idea of doing ethnography as problematic in itself. One of the reasons why Lévi-Strauss was ahead of his time, what makes him the ideal anthropologist and Tristes Tropiques so well-achieved for Sontag, is the fact that he was able to do both these things. 

What we see more and more today are anthropologists who practice a kind of responsible ethnography, or anthropologists who frame their projects around notions of a universalist human rights discourse. It is not surprising that in this climate a project such as Chagnon's-which is nothing less than a manifestation of cultural relativism taken to its normal conclusion (one does not oppose but rather goes along with practices that may well lead to the death of one's informants in order to avoid passing moral judgement on them and influencing the society under study)-now becomes susceptible to criticism. The anthropologist as hero begins to define him- or herself in opposition to what Sontag refers to as Lévi-Strauss' 'hard-won impassivity' (1994:72). Rather, a certain type of emotional subjectivity that legitimises itself by appeals to universal notions of responsibility, commitment and engagement is the heroic quality of this new anthropologist as hero, the prime exemplar of which is the anthropologist as activist. 

Activism as heroic anthropology

In a recent article in American Anthropologist, Shannon Speed (2006) argues eloquently for activism in the practice of ethnography. Speed draws on her own research as anthropologist-cum-human rights activist working to secure indigenous identification and territorial rights for Tzeltal Indians in Chiapas, Mexico. She acknowledges the various criticisms that might be levelled at the idea of anthropology-as-activism: it is unduly interventionist, the emotional involvement it implies may be incompatible with maintaining a critical analytical focus, the anthropologist may need to essentialise informants in order to fight legally for a group's rights. Yet the way forward, Speed suggests, is a critically engaged anthropology of rights incorporating overt activism on the part of the anthropologist, which addresses head-on the dilemmas listed above, transcending the 'paralysis' in research on human rights brought about by the debate between universalism and relativism (ibid:74). Rather than essentialising one's informants, the heroic activist-anthropologist uses activism to engage with them. 

Yet with this move, the ones who do end up as an essentialised group seem to be anthropologists themselves. The last sentence of Speed's article drives home the idea that activist research contributes to the 'ongoing struggle for greater social justice' (ibid:75), which seems to be implicitly taken as some sort of final and all-justifying theoretical point. But this begs the question of whether there really is some sort of blanket notion of social justice that exists within the discipline of anthropology and that can serve as a convincing justification for one's own ethnographic methods. That is, is there any room in this scenario of the engaged activist anthropologist as hero for an anthropologist whose own political views differ from those of the discourse of equality and rights as defined by the Western liberal democracies? What if, for example, we had the rather unlikely scenario of the anthropologist allying herself with local landowners and fighting for the increased appropriation of land from the remaining indigenous communities under the banner of the economic progress of the Mexican state? This may well be engaged, activist anthropology, but it seems unlikely that it would fall into the category of what many anthropologists today would consider 'social justice'. Yet if anthropology is to be truly non-ethnocentric, there is a certain inconsistency in restricting the parameters of what activism might involve to a specific liberal Euro-American vision of social justice. 

This year the Royal Anthropological Institute in the UK sponsors a fellowship in Urgent Anthropology, designed to 'facilitate ethnographic research on currently threatened indigenous peoples, cultures and languages' and 'if possible help such peoples in their struggle to survive' (RAI 2006). Is this not the ultimate embodiment of the heroically activist mission of anthropology, an advocacy of rights that seeks to safeguard the most basic human right-the right to exist? And within this heroic activist mission, a logical conclusion is that ethnographically speaking almost any interventionist practice can be rationalised because of its inscription in a crisis situation, in a state of emergency. With the entrance of activism as a legitimate pursuit in the context of fieldwork, the anthropologist as hero goes from being an adventurer, one who undergoes a personal catharsis, to one who effects a change for the good of the society under study; heroic anthropology moves from the personal to the moral. This is a long way from what Sontag refers to as Lévi-Strauss' 'Lucretian pessimism' [1] (1994:73), the primacy of 'hard-won impassivity' (ibid:72) in the practice of ethnography. 

This shift raises an important question concerning the workings of the academy. The heroic anthropologist who combines human rights activism and fieldwork seems to become the exemplar of the 'engaged intellectual'. Human rights give the anthropologist a certain moral currency, a (perhaps unfair) advantage over other academics or graduate students who inscribe their research in the 'merely academic' or the 'simply theoretical'. How can the work of such anthropologists ever be challenged, or interrogated by other anthropologists? By other academics? Not only have these heroic activist anthropologists left, for the most part, the easy confines of the Western academy, but they have selflessly risked life and limb to end the mistreatment of an indigenous Other. For these anthropologists, overt emotional involvement is the barometer of their commitment to the discipline, rather than the strict maintenance of the technique de dépaysement (literally, the 'technique of removing oneself from one's country', i.e. self-induced cultural disorientation) as a stance from which to analyse a given culture (Lévi-Strauss 1968:117)-what Sontag refers to as Lévi-Strauss' 'exquisite, aristocratic version of neutrality' (1994:74)-and calling any aspect of their work into question may seem tantamount to a callous sanctioning of whatever abuse or exclusion has been visited on their informants. 

For the most part, this activism is done with the best of intentions, and often achieves concrete results, but is it anthropology as we know it? In a detailed if overly empirical analysis of the history of the relationship between anthropology and human rights, Messer (1993) suggests that cultural relativism within anthropology has gradually been eroded since the United Nation's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and anthropologists have evolved to the point of now actively contributing to a 'universal ideology' (ibid:240) of human rights. This is a strange position, especially if, as Messer is keen to point out, the very concept of 'universal rights' was regarded by anthropologists from the outset as being ethnocentrically Western (cf. the American Anthropological Association's statement on human rights submitted to the UN Commission on Human Rights, 1947). Following in this tradition, surely it would be more useful also today, especially for anthropologists, to locate the notion of rights in instances of local sociality, or, if a 'democratic' definition is required, from within the Greek polis, which is, before anything else, the proper ancestor of the Euro-American liberal democratic system. 

Those who would de-problematise a recourse to universalism in the context of anthropology might do well to remember the central theme of Lévi-Strauss' critique of ethnocentrism, a constant questioning of the 'objectivity and universality of Western history' (Doja 2006:21), and the principle by which he gained his very deserved reputation: there are no superior societies (De Gramont 1974). From this it follows that, even though there may perhaps be one accepted universal definition of rights, there can be no superior definition of rights when, as Messer (1993) illustrates, opposing definitions exist in different states and different regions of the world, and many of them are not based on the Western liberal democratic model. 

My own research drove home the problematic nature of taking one definition of rights and responsibilities as universal. My PhD fieldwork amongst illegal Romanian workers in Spain in 2004-2005 revealed that when faced with the opportunity to register themselves in the context of an official granting of residence permits to illegal migrants, my state-suspicious informants would do anything to avoid being inscribed in the bind of the Western European liberal democratic state with its specific rights and restrictions. The Lévi-Straussian technique de dépaysement, which Kurasawa reads as the 'cross-cultural mode of estrangement of the modern West, from which it could be interpreted and radically put into question' (2004:115), allowed me to think beyond my initial emotional, proto-activist (and quite erroneous) instincts upon arriving in the field-instincts that posited illegal Romanian labourers as exploited agency-less victims of exclusion who naturally desired nothing more than a heroic Western European anthropologist to help them through the complicated legal procedures necessary to become 'official', when in fact they knew very well the social restrictions implied in becoming legal subjects and wanted no such thing. 

Here, an activist anthropology informed by the liberal democratic doctrine that no one should be subject to a right-less state of exclusion would have been antithetical to informants' sovereignty and desires. Their voluntary alienation from the product of their back-breaking labour-the cheap vegetables that fill the supermarkets of Northern Europe-and their unwillingness to gain legal status or pursue upward economic mobility were not instances of 'resistance' or 'negotiation' with capitalist power structures. Rather, they were a reflection of an ongoing deferral of acceptance of the current capitalist status quo in favour of an undefined 'something better', a shifting 'utopian object of impossible fullness' (Žižek 2000:206) that defied definition in the terms of the former. An anthropology unable to think outside the box of the universalist, Western proto-capitalist liberal discourse on rights and aspirations would have no access to this object, a central core of my informants' subjectivities. 

Although at a global level this may well be an unrepresentative example (insofar as illegal Romanian workers in Spain had the luxury of refusing the offer of incorporation into the official economy of a wealthy Western European state, while many other types of migrants in other parts of the world are not offered that sort of choice), it serves to illustrate the problems associated with taking one single definition of rights that one's emotions tell one are just and fair as a universal aspiration for all in ethnographic analysis. As Sillitoe (1998) notes, in the context of anthropology and development, anthropology is in a uniquely privileged position to offer insights into local indigenous knowledge and promote 'bottom-up' participation, countering this tendency towards the positing of a monolithic set of aspirations and needs for the world's poor. Yet, in a discipline that is both inherently subjective and critical, activist anthropology, of which ethnography carried out in the context of economic development is a part, seems to over-emphasise the subjective element of anthropological knowledge while under-emphasising the critical.

Heroic anthropology at home and away

If it is the practice of fieldwork that endows anthropology with the potential to be heroic, surely 'setting off', leaving the home environment and going off into the unknown, is the moment at which that heroic journey begins. Or at least, that may well have been the case when Sontag wrote 'The anthropologist as hero', when any study of the social carried out within Euro-American societies was more often than not subsumed under the label of 'sociology', and when, 'for the anthropologist, the world is professionally divided into "home" and "out there", the domestic and the exotic, the urban academic world and the tropics' (Sontag 1994:74). Today, however, Western-based anthropologists do not always need to leave home to carry out fieldwork or find objects of study. These objects of study are not merely the same traditional subaltern informants transposed into a Western context (refugees, asylum seekers, minority communities, etc.), but social actors whose entire existence may be anchored in the anthropologist's own society (e.g. an ethnography of English village life, an ethnography of an office of civil servants), or entities that reveal relational networks between people in a mostly Euro-American context (e.g. ethnographies of biotechnology, ethnographies of bureaucracy, or ethnographies of disease). What is considered especially topical by journals is finding its place more at home: refugee detention camps, borders or the laboratory. And it is in these places that the anthropologist as hero, even the activist anthropologist as hero, is increasingly finding his or her home. We should not, however, assume that a shift in focus away from a distant, subaltern Other implies some final global democratisation of anthropology: just as Euro-American anthropologists no longer need to leave home to carry out fieldwork, many non-Western anthropologists incorporated into the discipline must do exactly that in order to have their status as anthropologists 'legitimised' in terms of acquiring degrees from universities in Western Europe and North America.

It is worth asking what the lack of the cathartic journey to the unknown and the disorientation of the field implies for the new anthropologist as hero at home. This type of ethnography at home is certainly far from Lévi-Strauss and Sontag's notion of the anthropologist as hero (can we contemplate a re-writing of Tristes Tropiques without the element of travel?). Yet, why privilege the ethnographic subject, or even the subaltern ethnographic subject, as being situated somewhere on the other side of a border or across an ocean? Have anthropologists up until now been like London elites, who journey to the exotic poverty of Thailand and Vietnam and send their children on gap years to build homes for the poor in Africa, but would never contemplate setting foot in Camberwell or Elephant and Castle?

It is specifically this lack of geographical displacement on the part of the anthropologist that now comes to constitute a sign of heroic dedication. What better way to demonstrate one's commitment to one's project than to follow it not to the exotic, but to the mundane, to the known? For anthropologists, is not the sacrifice of contact with the exotic Other an indisputable exhibition of one's ethnographic integrity? The practice of anthropology 'at home' means that anthropologists are assumed to be held to a certain standard of accountability-an ethnography in the context of a hospital will most likely be read, critiqued and reacted to by the doctors, nurses and administrators whom it considers. This is a far cry from the illiterate, geographically distant native informants that Sontag considers in 'The anthropologist as hero', who, one might assume, are not sent advance copies of Tristes Tropiques in order to elicit their critical comments. In this sense, conducting anthropology at home has a double heroic function: on the one hand, the ethnographer, seen to be held to standards of accountability, is assumed to be acting at the very highest level of honesty with regards to the representation of his or her informants. Secondly, an ethnography conducted at home is often absolved of any connotations of epistemological imperialism-one cannot simply represent informants in any fashion one wants with total impunity, but rather is seen to be engaging in a two-way process where the construction of knowledge is a collaborative one. 

Especially with anthropology done at home, there is the sense that rather than penetrating a static, essentialised culture, it is culture itself that now directs the direction and scope of anthropology: anthropologists position themselves at the heroic vanguard of change by 'responding' to topical new innovations in technology, new modes of consumption, or new patterns and techniques of communication. The vision of the future of this heroic anthropology of the new stands in complete contrast to that of Sontag's heroic anthropologist, with his Lucretian pessimism. For Lévi-Strauss, writing in 1955, the tropics are inherently tristes (literally, 'sad') because contact with Europeans has reduced their native inhabitants to a condition in which they are 'miserable, ugly, syphilitic, and almost extinct' (Sontag 1994:73). Sontag's reading of Lévi-Strauss is: 'Anthropology is necrology. "Let's go and study the primitives," say Lévi-Strauss and his pupils, "before they disappear"' (ibid). For the new heroic anthropologist, by contrast, the future is not the necrological space of the inevitable demise of culture, but a constantly expanding space of possibility and change that it is one's challenge to try and keep up with-even, in some cases, to overtake.


Susan Sontag was not an anthropologist, and her vision of the practice of anthropology, informed overwhelmingly by an admiration for mid-twentieth century French structuralism-'it occupies itself with only the formal features which differentiate one society from another' (1994:78)-may seem overly simplified to us now. However, reading her 'Anthropologist as hero' today, with its sensitive rendering of the anthropologist as a figure beset by doubt, by pessimism, by a constant questioning of his own knowledge and emotions, suggests the extent to which the tradition of Lévi-Strauss did help to usher in the self-reflexive tradition in ethnographic writing. 

Yet Sontag is an empathetic rather than an objective critic. Interpreting Lévi-Strauss, she dismisses quite quickly other schools of thought and other anthropologists, for example Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, as 'nonsense' (ibid:78). It has certainly not been my intention here to follow Sontag's lead in privileging the emotional catharsis, the technique de dépaysement, and structuralist sensibility of the Lévi-Strauss of the 1950s as the authentic core of anthropology, and to suggest that any divergence from these things constitutes a betrayal. Activism, the deterritorialisation of the traditional informant, and fieldwork without travel are all logical responses to specific historical circumstances and needs. Likewise, different sorts of historically contingent quasi-anthropological heroisms (for example, civilising, colonialist, missionary) occurred long before Lévi-Strauss wrote Tristes Tropiques or the advent of structuralism. 

In a recent study of the popular literary image of anthropologists, Jeremy MacClancy (2005:551-555), after an impressive consideration of 170 works of fiction involving anthropologists, juxtaposes the idea of a heroic anthropologist with that of the 'pathetic' anthropologist. The pathetic anthropologist is incapable of normal human interaction and emotion at home and prefers to observe even the intimately social from a position of cool analytical superiority. Here, anthropology and fieldwork become a kind of neurosis, a substitute for a lack of personality or a counterweight to some sexual dysfunction. The motivation for setting out for fieldwork is a negative one: staying away from his or her home society fits in neatly with the pathetic anthropologist's natural position as an outcast and a pariah. This might be contrasted with MacClancy's heroic anthropologist's inspiration for going to the field. The heroic anthropologist, brilliantly talented, has a whole range of intellectual disciplines clamouring to include him or her in their ranks, yet chooses anthropology because 'anthropology meant doing things, not just reading about them' (ibid:555). The heroic anthropologist in MacClancy's literary survey is high-minded, sexually attractive and aware (although not irresponsibly so), compassionate, engaged and, in the final analysis, 'boringly predictable' (ibid). It is perhaps no wonder that it is the pathetic anthropologist, not the heroic one, whose presence overwhelmingly dominates the works of (mostly Anglophone) fiction that MacClancy has analysed. 

The popular image of the anthropologist, from what one can infer from this literature, remains true, by default at least, to Sontag's vision of Lévi-Straussian fieldwork, to fieldwork as emotion at the personal rather than collective level. The fictional pathetic anthropologists that dominate the literature are incapable of emotional engagement (ibid:551); their gaze is that of the regard lointain (the detached gaze). They must journey to exotic lands to carry out fieldwork rather than remaining at home (ibid:555-60), and of the 170 works that MacClancy reads, in not a single one does an anthropologist engage in activism (ibid:566). It is not unreasonable to ask, then, why-despite its often lofty goals, heroic activism, and pioneering shifts of focus away from its traditional subject-our discipline is viewed as pathetic? It seems, as De Pina-Cabral writes in the context of the recent proposed axing of funding for anthropology by France's main research body, the CNRS, that 'the public understanding of anthropology is not what it should be' (2006:663, original emphasis).

Here lies the real potential of the shifting, malleable concept of anthropologist as hero: it is time for the rest of the world to be introduced to the new anthropological heroisms, with their different forms, contradictions and emotional complications, and their potential for an external revitalisation of the discipline. Whether or not one agrees with the shift away from relativism implied in anthropology as activism, or finds a less glamorous, less exotic and more familiar subject worthy of ethnographic study, it is clear that anthropology now engages head-on with the world in ways that would have been unthinkable in the 1960s. One hopes Sontag's successor will be writing with this in mind. 

About the author: 

Tod Hartman is finishing a PhD in social anthropology at Cambridge. His thesis, entitled The Gift of Cheap Labour, considers Romanian workers in the social space of the illegal labour market in an agricultural region in the south of Spain. This research is based on fieldwork in Transylvania and the greenhouse construction industry in Andalusia. He has also carried out research on consumption and aesthetics (France), consumption and interior design amongst the 'new rich' (Romania), and expressions of utopia in the post-socialist context (Romania). 

Sharing in ritual effervescence: emotions and empathy in fieldwork

Sharing in ritual effervescence: emotions and empathy in fieldwork

By Géraldine Mossière (University of Montreal)

In this paper I explore how the anthropologist's mobilisation of emotions during fieldwork might position her in relation or in opposition to her informants, leading her to share or to resist the ritual experience. I will argue that a circumstantial empathic stance (Einfühlung) may be the only way to grasp the experiential and embodied dimensions of religious behaviours. By constantly monitoring oneself in order to maintain some distance from the field, this methodological approach involves an ongoing dialectic of relative involvement between the mere observation of an unfamiliar object on the one hand, and participation of the inner self in the field on the other hand. Getting access to the congregation's religious emotions through those non-verbal components to ritual leads to other ways of producing knowledge through informal and unintentional communication, which replaces spoken communication.

"My methodological pleasure is not founded on the dynamics of difference and lack, but rather on sameness. Yet even in this sameness, there can be a radical disjuncture: a disjuncture that emerges from an ability to see through, and beyond, and under, and over. Actually, it's not a bad place to be. It gives you an incredible sense of freedom. There is, naturally, a bit of lack, in the sense that I am not what you might call a true devotee. Such a lack, however, keeps me in a pleasurable state of suspension, avoiding true closure with the Church. It is in this open place that I can encounter an alien religious world, as familiar as it may be to me." (Boisvert 2006:15)
(The question of) Verstehen and ritual effervescence in Pentecostal cults

What strikes one as particularly appealing about ceremonies in new religious movements, is their strong ritual fervour (Corten 1995, Fer 2005). In the case of Pentecostal groups in particular, religious rituals are characterised by a typical effervescence, that is a state of deep emotion and excitement. This effervescence seems to renew and validate classical theories about collective and individual motivations behind religious emotions and their role in building social solidarity (Durkheim 1925, Radcliffe-Brown 1968, Turner 1990). 

While studying such religious phenomena is far from novel in the social sciences, I have had the opportunity to approach them through a new perspective based on the role of the body and of discourse in altering individual experience and building social cohesion (McGuire 1990, Scheper-Hughes and Lock 1987). During fieldwork in an Evangelical West African Pentecostal congregation based in Montreal (Canada), I observed various ritual techniques used to create an emotional atmosphere seen by participants as a direct manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Emotions induced in this context catalyse religious experiences and inspire a sense of embodying the divine, transforming the convert's sense of self and leading her to abide by a new set of rules with other members whom she will henceforth recognise as brothers and sisters. For Orsi, deep and dense religious experiences 'seem to constitute an increasingly successful arena for the expression of emotions of the modern self and elaborate sacred made flesh corporalization of the sacred embodiment' (2004:2). I argue that the relationship between emotions and religious experience is, in fact, the opposite, and that emotions are ritually constructed in order to induce religious experience as much on a collective level, as on an individual and phenomenological basis. My research aims to identify the ritual mechanisms employed in the creation of this effervescence, as I study emotions and their manifestations among members, considering these as a sign of religious experience.

Since I am not Pentecostal, my study raised a typical Weberian problem of Verstehen, that is how to understand the Other's religious experiences and practices while not living them first-hand. I have been challenged to ask myself: How can the anthropologist understand current religious social phenomena and still grasp the religious experience demonstrated by modern believers? How can he or she produce knowledge out of the mere observation of expressions of a religious reality that is deeply embodied? By choosing a methodology based on attending ritual ceremonies, I occupied a position akin to that of members of the congregation. I thus experienced the effects of ritual effervescence on my own feelings and sense of self-becoming, in fact, one of the targets of ritual techniques. This raises the problem of the relevance of data collected by the participant anthropologist, as opposed to the mere observer. Indeed, having to share ritual experiences with the congregation positioned me in an intermediary stance between Otherness and Sameness, a stance I would qualify as 'liminal'. 

In this paper, I explore how the anthropologist's mobilisation of emotions during fieldwork might position her in relation or in opposition to her informants, leading her to share or to resist the ritual experience. I will argue that a circumstantial empathic position (Einfühlung) may be the only way to grasp the experiential and embodied dimensions of religious behaviours. Following Lutz and White, 'empathy' refers here to the universalistic premise whereby 'all humans have the ability to understand another's emotional state…through the channels of empathic (and usually nonverbal) communication and is conceptualized as either an intellectual understanding or a more direct emotional one' (1986:415). This methodological approach leads to other ways of producing knowledge through non-verbal and unintentional communication, which replaces spoken communication. But first, I will present my fieldwork and discuss how both methodology and data collected by an anthropologist are constantly at stake in the negotiation of one's religious belonging and social status in the community studied. 

The community under study: the Communauté Évangélique de Pentecôte (CEP) in Montreal
The CEP's history, membership and organisation

The CEP was founded some ten years ago by the current Congolese pastor, who arrived from Belgium where he previously studied theology. During a prior visit to Quebec, he had a divine vision revealing the province to be the land of his mission. Starting with only a few participants (mainly the pastor's family and his children's friends), the CEP grew rapidly and now attracts some 400 members to a large, recently acquired building. 

The church is located in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious neighbourhood in Montreal, and the vast majority of its members are Black immigrants. Most are recent arrivals from the Congo or from Francophone West Africa who have fled the wars and insecurity of the last few years. They are generally well-educated people who left relatively comfortable material conditions to come to Canada, arriving with the precarious status and circumstances of political refugees. The CEP also attracts Black people from a prior wave of immigration to Quebec, mainly Haitian men and women with diverse migration trajectories: some came for economic reasons, others immigrated to join family or to study. Almost all the members of the congregation were raised in one or another Christian tradition, and most members from Africa converted to Pentecostalism in their country of origin, while the Haitian members usually came to Quebec as Catholics and then decided to convert. In most cases, the members came to know of the CEP through their social network and some of them had attended various churches before sticking with this one. 

As a religious congregation, the CEP is composed of various ministries, each of which is devoted to a particular task. An example of this is the Ministry of Protocol, which takes care that the Sunday service unfolds in a proper and orderly fashion. Each member is given a role and a particular task in the congregation. The head of the congregation is the pastor, who is in charge of the organisation as a whole.

The CEP's religious activities

The CEP's various units meet and merge together during the Sunday service, which the pastor describes using holistic imagery. In his words, this service is not unlike 'a human being whose different organs transfer strength to the dynamism of the body'. At the CEP, the Sunday service takes place in French and is open to all visitors. It is mainly made up of two liturgical periods. During the first, which is devoted to prayer and worship, the Ministry of Praises leads a sequence alternating between song and prayers. This phase lasts for about 50 minutes, and it is a time for members to sing, dance, and praise God with exuberance and warmth. Rousing music, which often recalls African or Haitian rhythms, drives the worship along. Participants express feelings of joy and sometimes sadness with their gestures: raising their hands, swinging their bodies, turning around and around, or alternatively falling prostrate into their chairs. During this time, some participants might experience altered states of consciousness. 

The CEP choir (picture provided by the pastor of CEP).

This period of intense emotional effervescence comes to an end when a spiritual leader asks for the attention of participants before preaching for more than an hour. The sermon is always based on a reading of the Bible and deals with the spiritual values conveyed by the Holy Scriptures. It also always focuses on the social and ethical behaviour of the members of the congregation, providing particularly important guidelines to immigrant members on the paths they should take in their host society. For instance, one sermon I attended dealt with financial credit facilities in North America, presenting them as temptations induced by evil spirits seeking to provoke financial and moral bankruptcy among members. An ordinary service ends with announcements about the community's events. The whole time, the Ministry of Protocol watches over the progress of the service, welcomes new participants, and skilfully channels potentially overflowing emotions in the audience. The Ministry may even exclude members whose behaviour is considered too agitated, which may be attributed to Satan's presence. 
Social status and identity during fieldwork: resisting 'going native'

Of all the practice on which the anthropologist reports (with the possible exception of sex), religion is most likely to raise suspicions that the anthropologist has gone native. (Klass 1995:2)

My research in the CEP was conducted over an eight-month period, and was originally based on participant observation. I regularly attended the Sunday services and specifically observed how rituals unfolded and became elaborate productions in themselves. However, in order to document the larger context in which rituals take place, I also attended various activities organized by the congregation. This ethnographic approach led me to participate in weekly informal gatherings in the homes of members, as well as in conferences given regularly by the pastor for religious education. For instance, a homiletic class once offered was aimed at shaping new preachers. It is in these small, informal groups that personal interactions developed more spontaneously. These contacts gave me the chance to interview members of the congregation coming from a variety of immigrant backgrounds, whose roles in the CEP ranged from leaders of services or ceremonies to newly enrolled members. 

The warm welcome that the church gave me and my project made field research run smoothly. Nevertheless, this relatively easy access to the congregation should be qualified. The founding of the CEP occurred as part of a larger movement of independent churches that mushroomed in Africa as early as the 1920s, following the earlier arrival of nineteenth-century Protestant European missionaries. Rituals in these churches are generally conducted by young, urban and scholarly pastors, and individual charisma is highly valued (LeBlanc 2003, Mary 2000). At the CEP, the pastor frequently reminded the community of my academic status. He would also emphasise that, as a doctor himself, he knew well how demanding and serious my project in the CEP was. He thus endowed me with symbolic capital, which in turn reflected favourably upon him and the community, as the congregation's proselytising is generally aimed at attracting well-educated members. With regards to the host society at large, the pastor's interest in my research was also rooted in the social recognition that may come from a scientific study conducted by a white, educated academic in a Black immigrant community.

Since Pentecostalism is a proselytising movement, I was always careful to subtly, yet unambiguously affirm my religious position, namely that I am baptised in the Catholic Church and currently hold agnostic beliefs. However, I only let the pastor and members who asked know about my religious stance regarding their church. The logic behind this approach was to avoid the potential pressure of conversion, while retaining access to the field. As far as ethics were concerned, this seemed to me the most honest way to conduct research on religion. However, I used this approach with caution and restraint, since it could still make some group members uncomfortable. Nevertheless, it appears more mitigated than positions such as David Gordon's (1974), who suggests that anthropologists who study new religious movements should openly announce their personal beliefs and religious identity when entering the field, as a strategy for promoting open interaction with the group under study. While aware that demonstrating one's differing religious beliefs remains a delicate position to hold, he contends that ideologically positioning oneself may be perceived as a form of commitment to fieldwork. Mary (2000) also argues that the conflicts and tensions that this position may entail represent valuable data, which show the group's ability to manage the ideological challenges it may encounter. Equally, it highlights the social and political stakes of religious practices and conversions.

Indeed, the agnostic identity that I announced straightaway led the pastor to categorise me as a 'friend' of the congregation, which is someone who does not belong to the CEP, but visits once in a while. My affiliation and social status within the church was officially consecrated during the course of an initiation ritual. This ended my first Sunday service, when the pastor introduced me to the whole congregation, after which each member personally welcomed me. Ideologically, the congregation is built around a dichotomous configuration marked by insiders and outsiders. The relation of Pentecostals to Otherness is clearly structured around two poles: the Same, who has accepted Jesus in his or her life and who thus belongs to a Pentecostal congregation, and the Other who has not, and who conducts a sinful life. However, a more nuanced classification moderates the CEP's boundaries, by establishing different categories of social belonging to the congregation. For instance, the 'sympathising member' attends services and reunions without having formally accepted Jesus into his or her life. Meanwhile the 'temporary member' is part of the congregation only during her time in Montreal, which is most often before moving to western Canada (as is commonly done among the immigrant groups at hand). I considered my status as a 'friend' of the congregation as the ideal scenario, since it guaranteed access to the field, while allowing me to remain transparent about my interests and presence in the congregation. Nevertheless, the pastor tried to arouse common non-religious references to inspire in me a sense of belonging to the congregation, notably by regularly underscoring my own immigrant profile: 'You are also an immigrant, you understand us!' He was, of course, making reference to my French heritage.

However, throughout fieldwork, the parameters of my presence as a 'friend' proved less clear than official rhetoric initially implied. During interviews as well as informal meetings, participants with whom I spoke usually made remarks indicating that they saw me as a potential Pentecostal. In this regard, the reflections that community leaders presented to me were theologically oriented towards what it means to be a good Christian, and the fate God reserves for those who do not accept Him in their life. At the same time, the members of the congregation frequently tried to sensitise me to the process of conversion to Pentecostalism, and how it can transform one's life. This constant tension of attempting to switch my status from friend to regular member also structured their narratives. In fact, the data collected, as well as the final ethnography, are end-products of a particular kind of interaction. For Sherif (2001), constantly crossing the boundary between member and non-member is part of the research process, while Tweed (2002) evokes a 'translocative' position. Since the collection of data arose from this particular relation, I interpreted the material as the stakes of negotiation between the role I was ready to assume, and the one that group members were willing to ascribe to me. It clearly illustrated that the identities that the anthropologist has to negotiate in the field are multiple, and as diverse as his or her own social identities and self-perceptions.

Participation and observation: negotiating an oxymoron, adopting a 'liminal' position.

If the role of white 'friend' and non-member of the community held certain tensions in my personal encounters with individual members of the congregation, it proved all the more difficult to maintain during high-spirited service gatherings among audiences averaging 150 people. Rituals were punctuated by ecstatic movement, as well as various degrees of altered states of consciousness. Maintaining a neutral and distant attitude in an atmosphere of strong collective expressivity and sometimes startling worshipping behaviour was a challenge, especially in regards to my object of study, which dealt precisely with ritually constructed emotions and the religious experiences they induce. 

The CEP congregation during a ritual (picture provided by the pastor of CEP).

Throughout the ritual the pastor and various leaders regularly invite participants to sing and dance, invoking emphatic responses with such words as: 'Do you love God ?'; 'Clap your hands, jump, God wants you to celebrate Him!'. If members did not actively and visibly participate in contributing to a sense of euphoria, they were likely to get accused of impeding the ritual progress. I therefore felt that I could also be expelled from the service by the Ministry of Protocol, and as such I often felt that my presence was illegitimate and merely tolerated by the group. In this context, the methodology of participant observation seemed somewhat inappropriate, leading me to believe that Favret-Saada (1990) is not wrong to stress that this approach is ontologically an oxymoron. On one hand, mere observation would not enable me to understand the density of the object of study, while the possibility of participating more actively induced a form of commitment to the group that I did not wish to develop. On the other hand, had I accepted Jesus into my life solely for the purpose of fieldwork, could I really live significant religious experiences without sharing the deep convictions that induce them? 

In the CEP, religious practice is deeply anchored in ritual life, emotional fervour and embodied religious experience. As a Christian religious movement, one of the variegated offshoots of Protestantism, Pentecostalism is based on a literal reading of the Holy Scriptures and on belief in a direct spiritual relationship between God and believer. However, unlike most Protestant denominations, it also includes ecstatic practices such as speaking in tongues, practices which are seen as direct gifts from the Holy Spirit to individual church members during the service. By contributing to the agitated, unrestrained atmosphere that characterises Pentecostal services, such ritual practices catalyse participants' inner experiences and outer demonstrations of faith. John Wesley, who is considered to be the founder of Pentecostalism, spoke of a 'religion from the heart'. The believer's external behaviour is therefore unlikely to reflect the whole complexity of his or her experience with the sacred. Subsequently, the mere observation of his or her ritual behaviour, as well as his or her account of the religious experience, risks capturing only the semiotic level of religious life, leaving obscure the internal dimension. 

Hence, questions of emotion during religious experience raise the following methodological issues: How can one study the role of emotions in religious experience without experiencing such emotions oneself? Is it possible to passively attend religious services, considering that Pentecostal rituals mobilize outlets of expressivity such as the body, the spirit and emotion? Goulet (1998) argues for radical participation that brings about experiential knowledge. In fact, the Dene Tha group he studies derives knowledge by observing other people, and informally by narratives, leading the group to expect the anthropologist to collect data in the same way. Kulick and Willson also note that 'to experiential ethnographers the self and especially experiences in the field are epistemologically productive' (1995:20). 

It goes without saying that during the course of my eight-month fieldwork in this religious community, I was deeply touched, not only by the moving narratives of the believers, but above all by the blissful and ecstatic atmosphere of the celebrations. The hymns, dances, melodies and strong expressivity among ritual participants may indeed easily move any witness of religious ritual. This was reported to me by other anthropologists on visits to the congregation, and experienced by scholars such as Corten (1995) during Pentecostal celebrations in Brazil. In fact, by attending the church, I became the target of ritual techniques that I was trying to identify, leading me to experience deep emotions that were evoked during rituals: I felt joyful and light when the African-style hymns were particularly stirring, but also quite moved by the lyrics, which all deal with the hurdles that pave the way to God, symbolising the difficult migratory trajectory most of the members told me they had to pass through. 

I soon realised that resisting such spontaneous reactions would impede me from entering my field. Therefore, I gradually positioned myself in a 'liminal' state, suspended between the circumstantial feeling of Sameness that Pentecostal rituals are able to mobilise by way of warm and endearing rituals, and the implacable awareness of my own Otherness that my agnostic position as an intellectual involves. In fact, I gradually came to identify with the community's ritual activities, while I kept my distance from the broader ideological message that the whole event was meant to transmit. My behaviour in the field was adjusted to changing circumstances, allowing my own subjectivity to define the extent of my participation with the church. This was all in accordance with my receptivity and reaction to ritual activities and techniques. As a result, when hymns, music, or speeches made by leaders touched me, I did not censor my own feelings. I eventually experienced some states of deep joy and grace, sometimes a feeling of communion with my neighbours and other church members. At times I also felt blessed, and just plain happy to be where I was. This methodological choice led me hesitantly to sing the church's hymns and to demonstrate ritual gestures, which were nevertheless limited to clapping hands and sometimes balancing the body. Such participation seemed to me all the more acceptable in that it demonstrated my respect and value for the community's ritual activities, a prerequisite for conducting fieldwork. 

However, being open to the expression of my own emotions also raised issues regarding my distance from the religion and the dogma being studied. As a matter of fact, while hymns and exaltations represent a period of spontaneous emotion during services, bringing about moments of ecstasy and communion, sermons signal a time of listening, absorbing, and embodying the congregation's message. As shown in the CEP and other religious communities (Kertzer 1988, Mossière in press, Turner 1972), ritual effervescence alters participants' frame of perception, which leads them to accept and to incorporate leaders' sermons and new systems of references. 

This triggered another set of intense responses in me. If sermons were instructive in deepening my understanding of the congregation's normative message, the rhetorical techniques used also affected me quite seriously. Indeed, as hymns and exaltations stirred spontaneous feelings of love and bliss, sermons that were aimed at channelling those emotions towards prescribed and exclusive goals of incorporating the Pentecostal dogma were more frustrating. As a result, the leader's behaviour often seemed strict and sometimes menacing, the tone appearing coercive and the style authoritative. I felt oppressed by the rigid framework and the sometimes radical ritual techniques. As sermons were abundantly and redundantly developed, they were presented as truths that the leader was handing out. Thus it happened that the Sunday service frequently caused me to feel irritated, with the psychological violence of rhetoric weighing heavily on me. After a few initial weeks, I found myself deeply affected, sometimes shaken and nervous. At first it seemed to me that I could tolerate this rhetorical exercise as part of fieldwork, but as time passed I gradually came to resist it to the point that some Sunday mornings, I wished I did not have to go back. 

Although I sometimes felt frustrated and did not subscribe to the ideological message that leaders were transmitting, I still decided to keep my own convictions quiet, unless I was asked about them directly, and to respect the fieldwork in order to report it faithfully. However, this position proved quite difficult in small meetings, when I was occasionally asked my opinion on Pentecostalism's interpretation of Bible verses. For instance, regarding political respect and obedience to state and governmental authority (-Pentecostals usually abide by the known adage: 'Return to Caesar what belongs to Him and to God what belongs to Him'-), I once decided to challenge the community consensus by citing dictatorships and totalitarian regimes. On that occasion, the open and pedagogical reactions I received from leaders came as a relief. I felt that although I was not fully accepted in the CEP, at least ideological resistance was not entirely crushed. This made me feel more comfortable and confident in the congregation.

In sum, as I attended the CEP, sharing ritual effervescence with the congregation's members forged a sort of circumstantial feeling of belonging. This ambivalent stance induced in me a constant swing between emotional polarities, from nearly sharing religious emotions with the congregation's members, to critically resisting and distancing myself from the ritual rhetoric and the ideology it conveyed. Occupying this in-between or 'liminal' place, I felt myself flirting with a native position without ever really embracing it. Inspired by Boisvert (2006), this methodological choice contributes to the ongoing debate among anthropologists of religion concerning their position while in the field. 

Beyond a dialogic relationship: empathy and Einfühlung

Ethnographic authority in studies of religious activity faces a serious challenge by those who argue that the uninitiated may never completely understand ritual worship. Theologists such as Proudfoot (1985) continue to question the ability of social scientists to take seriously the beliefs of groups under study. They warn that atheistic scientists who research religious experience are necessarily reductionist (Durkheim being a classic example). According to Stewart (1989), religious phenomena should not only be explained by social, political and historical factors; rather, the experiences of believers, and those of the ethnographer, should be considered. Anthropologists have attempted to deal with these questions in their methodological choices in a variety of ways. In this attempt, very few of them consider conversion to be a method that improves the ethnographic scope, even though it implies adopting the group's cosmology and sharing its lived reality. One notable exception, though, is Jules-Rosette (1975), whose ethnography of the African Apostolic Church illustrates her gradual passage from an observer who participates, to that of a participant who is observing. For her, taking notes and observing religious life is methodologically insufficient, as these do not convey the depth and wealth of ritual experiences, such as emotions that come from expressing one's faith or the feeling of worshipping one's God. Although conversion is considered an unusual method that risks an anthropologist's professional integrity, this methodological choice has opened the way to new and innovative approaches. 

A less radical, though related approach, is that of intersubjectivity. Whether one qualifies it as phenomenological or 'experience-near' (Wikan 1991), an increasing number of anthropologists of religion now choose to grasp believer experiences or 'lifeworlds' through an intersubjective methodology, committing their social identity and inner self to their fieldwork (Bowie 2003, Favret-Saada 1977, Meintel 2003). Anthropologists who are part of the religious group they study occupy the double role of being the means of the research, as well as part of the object of study. This approach is based on Rosaldo's (1984) argument, which states that understanding human feelings is impossible through cognitive means alone because they are essentially ineffable. To capture such experiences requires one to live or to have lived experiences that are close to what the Other has lived. Nevertheless, according to Favret-Saada (1977), who studied sorcery in the Bocage, a rural area in Normandy (France), it is less a question of feeling what the Other feels than a question of experiencing empathy in the sense of Einfühlung. In German philosophy, Einfühlung refers to an understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts, and motives of one person are readily comprehended by another. Favret-Saada mentions a fusion, 

"...which mobilizes my own set of images without in any way informing me about those of my partner. […] The very fact that I accept to occupy this position and be affected by it opens up a specific form of communication with the natives: always an involuntary communication, unintentional, and which may or may not be verbal." (1977:194) 

By agreeing to take part in her fieldwork and to become bewitched herself, the ethnographer was brought to share in her informants' experiences, and collected non-verbal and emotional information. 

Some anthropologists, however, advocate resisting the temptation of active participation by maintaining a 'dialogical relationship' with their respondents. For instance, Mary (2000) doubts that contemporary concerns for deconstructing knowledge should lead researchers to renounce any presupposition of cultural or methodological alterity. He suggests that researchers should maintain some distance from their field. Others, like Beatty and Watson (1999) or Lutz and White (1986), contend that empathy or the ability to understand phenomenologically is not irreconcilable with emotional distance. Anthropologists can be sympathetic and compassionate (in the Latin sense of 'compassion', to 'suffer with') by simply observing the reality of the Other, rather than entering into this reality. 

My own 'liminal' position falls broadly within the scope of this Einfühlung approach, but was, of course, not without its own tensions. Resorting to this alternative to more traditional participative methods required specific methodological precautions, and led me to constantly monitor myself in order to maintain some distance from the field. As Tedlock (1991) suggests, ethnographies are as much a product as they are a process of an ongoing dialectic of relative involvement between the mere observation of an unfamiliar object on the one hand, and participation of the inner self in the field on the other hand. 

'Come on Sunday and you will see for yourself!' As this invitation was often used to answer my inquiries about religious experience in the church, it led me to gauge the extent to which the 'liminal' stance I chose, being neither fully an outsider nor a full member of the CEP, was significant to my data collection. Did it grant me special access, or did it allow me to reach a deeper understanding of the Pentecostals' ritual emotions? It is more and more recognised that emotions felt by respondents and by the ethnographer herself may impact on the scientific process and provide information about the object of study, transcending usual distinctions between cognition and emotion that are characteristic of Western thought. For instance, after exploring the Balinese conception of feeling-thinking, Wikan contends that 'feelings are essential so that we may appreciate facts of knowledge' (1991:299). Similarly, as Le Breton notes, 'the felt emotion is an activity of knowledge, a social and cultural construction which becomes a personal fact through the clean style of the individual' (1998:9, my translation). In fact, feelings of empathy experienced during fieldwork make it possible to reach other types of knowledge, and to grasp the distinction between communicable knowledge (informative) and kinds of knowledge only learned through tacit experience (formative). During ritual, verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, as much as the ethnographer's experience of the Self, produce knowledge. 
What emotions as 'embodied thoughts' say about/to the ethnographer

In the CEP, the fervour of ritual techniques induced in the community guided me through a lifeworld that I had already experienced in other circumstances, such as in music concerts, at sports matches, and so forth. The enthusiasm, feelings of joy, and the impression of being transported in a temporary epoche-suspended out of time-were familiar to me, so much so that I could easily understand the emotions of church members in spite of not grasping specific meanings. My participation aroused a circumstantial feeling of belonging, which catalysed a sort of emotional communion with my neighbours. Eye contact and smiling indicated a sort of complicity to the point where some church members who did not know the specific reasons for my presence considered me a regular member. More than once, I noticed that they perceived a shared experience, and as such we reached a sort of intimacy. This Einfühlung approach enabled me to access the congregation's religious emotions through non-verbal components to ritual, and in interviews with members it allowed me to infer understanding beyond the semiotic level of oral accounts. If an anthropologist's emotions in the field are no longer ignored, but increasingly considered a new means of producing knowledge, it raises the question of the authenticity and veracity of our perceptions. Do research participants live ritual performance the same way I do? This presents a problem that is all the more fundamental in social anthropology, as it is our epistemology which is at stake: Can we imagine a field in which, through her own personal experience, the anthropologist becomes her own informant?

While my position of Einfühlung allowed me to take part in ritual performance, I could avoid fully embodying the congregation's emotional and eventually dogmatic discourse. Crapanzano (1994) reminds us that emotions are glimpses of the ego that reveal continuity or discontinuity. Nevertheless, he also suggests that we should keep in mind that this temporary conception of self does not inherently revolve around the ego; rather, it enables the ethnographer to evaluate the power of emotions displayed on the social scene. As a result my own emotions-as 'embodied thoughts' (Rosaldo 1984)-during sermons demonstrated, often in spite of myself, personal perspectives regarding the CEP's rhetorical production and social structure (Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990). Through this emotional language, I resisted the ritual tactics aimed at disciplining participant emotions. In fact, I was constantly evaluating the context and the content of the religious message, comparing it to my own points of reference. 

Understanding the Other can therefore oblige the anthropologist to position herself as a respondent. This stance eventually led me to challenge my own values, and to turn a mirror inward, where it had until then been turned outward towards to the Other. Indeed, this mutual interaction implies that the ethnographic experience influences the anthropologist's identity. Even though I have never intellectually subscribed to the CEP's dogmatic message, the warm welcome I received in the congregation, its members' openness and devotion to my project and to my personal curiosity, as well as their optimistic philosophy, all led me to question my own social identities. While this anthropological project mitigated my agnostic beliefs, the fieldwork experience also inspired a new quest for religious and spiritual understanding (both intellectually and experientially). This, I believe, confirms Rabinow's (1988) observation that one understands oneself only by recognising one's difference. 

About the author: 

Géraldine Mossière is currently working on her PhD in social and cultural anthropology at the University of Montreal (Canada). Her thesis deals with French and Quebecer women's conversion to Islam. Following her previous research projects, she also studies new religious diversity in Western and immigrant societies. Her particular interests include anthropology of religion (new Christian movements, Islam and New Age groups), the anthropology of gender, as well as the methodological and epistemological questions raised by the new anthropology at home. 

Emotional apprenticeships: reflection on the role of academic practice in the construction of 'the field'

Emotional apprenticeships: reflection on the role of academic practice in the construction of 'the field'

By Celayne Heaton Shrestha (University of Sussex)

This contribution is concerned with the 'emotional regime(s)' (e.g. Reddy 2002) of academic anthropology, and the processes and practices through which 'the field' continues to be constructed as an entity separate from everyday life. 'The field' has been the subject of considerable attention in recent years, as have the textual, social, and conceptual strategies of distanciation involved in its construction. The role of emotions and emotion work in this process, on the other hand, has generally been overlooked. In this article, I draw on my own changing emotions towards the subjects of research during my postgraduate training to show how particular feelings towards the subject of research were legitimised and their expression and sensation encouraged-while others were delegitimised and discouraged-through educational practices such as seminars. The article shows that the transformation in emotional tone (and experience) involved-not the suppression of emotion, as has often been argued in anthropological writings-but a change in emotional style. The paper argues that this change in emotional style-and the 'emotional regime' that supported it-contributed to the 'Othering' of the subjects of research, as well as recasting researcher and researched in a hierarchical relation to each other. Thus, the article suggests that emotional apprenticeship in the academic setting plays a key role in the enduring construction of 'the field' as involving distance and separation from personal areas of activity.

Introduction: situating emotions

Our emotions as researchers, in particular towards our subjects of research, tend to go through changes. This raises questions about the ways in which 'the field' is constructed across different institutional settings. This theme has received considerable attention in recent years, as indicated, for instance, by the volume edited by Amit (2000) Constructing the Field, or the 2004 ASA (Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth) conference Locating the Field: Metaphors of Space, Place and Context in Anthropology. These debates have acknowledged the centrality of 'the field' and fieldwork to the anthropological endeavour, while also questioning their naturalness. 'The field' is no longer seen as 'simply existing' and awaiting discovery; something that one 'enters' and 'leaves'. Rather, the distance that represents a badge of ethnographic authenticity (e.g. Kleinman and Copp 1993) is understood to require active construction. Writers have variously pointed to textual (e.g. Clifford and Marcus 1986), social (e.g. Amit 2000) and conceptual (e.g. Rapport 2000) strategies of distanciation, while the ASA conference has broadened the scope of these debates, drawing attention to the global social processes that are transforming the meanings of 'the field' and 'fieldwork' in anthropology. Questions are now being asked about the necessity of total immersion, and the importance of distance to anthropological understanding. Coleman argues that 'contemporary anthropology now accepts that the notion of the isolated, autonomous fieldwork site has been something of a convenient functionalist fiction' (2004:26). However, it seems that in practice, the need for compartmentalisation of fieldwork still prevails. Amit, for instance, comments: 

"Anthropologists whose principal methodology has rested on a maverick if sometimes uneasy melding of these domains [work and home, the personal and the professional] have nonetheless attempted to uphold their overall separation by compartmentalizing fieldwork spatially, temporally and textually." (2000:3)

My purpose here is to explore further the role played by everyday practices of anthropological knowledge production in the construction of 'the field' as distant and removed from everyday life. I do so as I believe that existing accounts have overlooked two important elements of this process: firstly, the role of emotions and emotion work, and secondly, the role played by academic practices in the construction of anthropological fields and subjects. In order to illustrate this point, I will use a passage from my thesis as a trigger for reflection. I reflect on the emotions it portrays, the emotional tone it bears, and the emotional response it arouses in me, upon rereading, at a much later date-more specifically, towards the end of my PhD training.[1] The vignette itself, on the other hand, was written up soon after my return from 'the field' among fieldworkers in a national development NGO in Nepal. The timeline for the emotion work that I describe here spans the fieldwork stage to the completion of the PhD.

My analysis of the vignette and the emotional changes it brings to light is informed by a view of emotions associated with 'psychocultural anthropologists' (e.g. Chodorow 1999, Kracke 1987, or Obeyesekere 1990), namely that human beings everywhere have some sort of internal life, and that selves, emotions and powerful experiences are there to be described. This view is rejected by 'anthropologists of self and feeling' such as M.Z. Rosaldo (1984), Lutz or Abu-Lughod (e.g. Lutz and Abu-Lughod 1990), for whom emotions are solely public and social phenomena. I sympathise with the motivation that drives the work of anthropologists of self and feeling, namely, a suspicion of the assumptions of universality in psychoanalytical approaches to the study of emotions, and accept that we need to be wary of importing Western assumptions about the self and feeling into our analyses. However, I do not accept these scholars' contention, for several reasons. Firstly, I find unconvincing their premise that the absence of psychologising discourses among people studied indicates a lack of an internal life; the 'hypocognition' (Levy 1984) of emotions is an equally plausible explanation for this lack; the difficulty in articulating these, as Chodorow (1999) for instance reminds us, is another. Secondly, such an assumption leads to the equally questionable denial of individual agency and exaggeration of collective orientations in other cultures. Thirdly, this is at odds with my own experience of self and others, and, as Cohen (1994) argues, refusing to extend to others the complexity observed in oneself is problematic in numerous respects, and further opens oneself to charges of ethnocentrism. 

I also found Reddy's work (e.g. 2002) useful in thinking about emotions and the ways that these experiences are produced, even if, by his own admission, his arguments are not novel. Building on the work of psychocultural anthropologists, he offers a series of well-defined conceptual tools to study emotions, which are otherwise lacking in many contributions to this field: these include, inter alia, the concepts of 'emotional regime', 'emotional liberty', 'emotional refuge' and 'emotional suffering'. He further posits that three main features of emotions can be said to be universal. The first universal feature is the fact that emotions will be construed as an important domain of effort. The second universal feature is the fact that all communities will give prescriptions and counsel as to the best strategies for pursuing emotional learning, and the proper end point of emotional equilibrium. The third universal feature of emotions is that emotions and emotional expression interact in a dynamic way, and with varied outcomes. Emotional expression can confirm or disconfirm, intensify or attenuate the feeling state that is claimed; they can be either self-exploratory or self-altering. Thus, emotional expressions-following Austin's (1962) speech act theory, Reddy names these 'emotives'-have a direct impact on the feelings in question. He explains: 'if asked the question "do you feel angry?" a person may genuinely feel more angry in answering yes, less angry in answering no' (Reddy 1997:331, original emphasis).

I will note one final point of Reddy's work, and that concerns the manner in which emotional styles are effected and communicated.
"Such styles are best communicated by means of sensory-rich participatory performances: ritual, predication, theatre. But they may also be conveyed, or suggested, by literature, art, music, iconography, architecture, dress. All such practices and products can be viewed as emotive in character." (ibid:331) 

Like Reddy, Leavitt (1996:522) urges us to look beyond words for traces of 'emotion'; he argues that emotion is not just found in language that is explicitly about emotions, but is also to be found in intonation, and in grammar. It follows that studying discourse about emotions is insufficient, and that this task requires the researcher to impute, to reconstruct, and to go beyond definitions by participants. In the same way, Wikan (1992:473) writes about how she came to grasp Balinese emotion work, in particular the notion of 'managing the heart': she observes that her understanding was formed through a variety of clues, long before she 'stumbled' across the Balinese concept of managing the heart. She mentions 'quivers in a voice', 'reading somatic complaints about overwhelming pain and suffering', and 'too many things for me to remember now, for such clues do not stand out in the fieldnotes I took'.

To summarise: when I trawl through my fieldnotes, ethnography and memory for evidence of 'emotions', therefore, I look out for emotion words or words which (in the English language equivalent) refer to 'an emotion'; expressions that refer to a inner 'feeling' or state; for the tone of voice or the mood of a written episode that, upon reading or hearing, evoke such feelings. When I write of 'emotion work', I intend to refer to work on actual feeling and not (or not only) work at the level of discourse; and as will become clear, the emotional apprenticeship which is the subject of this piece is not simply, as Beatty would argue, a 'training in language skills and social graces' (2005:30), but rather involves both the development of new ways of feeling as well as the acquisition of linguistic and social skills. 

I now turn to the vignette. In this episode, I describe NGO fieldworkers in their role as karmacarya (salaried office workers) on a busy day in a field office. This particular office was one of several established by a national NGO, with its HQ in the capital, Kathmandu, to oversee its community development programmes 'on the ground'. This passage was meant to capture the fundamental contradiction at the heart of NGO praxis in Nepal-between the ideals of 'service' (epitomised by the fieldworker and hardships of fieldwork) and the material wealth and advantages of a professionalising 'voluntary sector' (personified by the karmacarya, his or her regular wage and comfortable working environment). The vignette suggests that professionalism trumps 'service', as fieldworkers feel at liberty to ignore a project beneficiary visiting their office.[2] Their thulo manche ('V.I.P.') attitude contrasts starkly with the beneficiary's awkwardness, and his acute awareness of the wealth and status of the premises he is visiting. 

It was the 2nd of May 1997. I had gone down to the NGO field office's ground floor rooms, after discussing the results of the elections in Britain with staff working on the first floor. There, I was greeted by a familiar scene. 

A fieldwork episode: 'visitors to the field office'

It is around 11a.m. Downstairs, I notice that some man has arrived in the front room. He greets me with a namaste as I enter the room. Kiren and Ram, two field officers, are sitting at the room's single desk; Ram is reading the annual progress report, a questionnaire printed and prepared by [donor] and which has been filled in in pencil by staff in the various field offices (FOs) and sub-FOs; Kiren is writing by hand the numbers read out by Ram into tables printed out by the office computer. Basanta, another field officer, has come back into the room and I ask who the man is and what he wants. Basanta tells me he's the chairman of some Savings and Credit Organisation (SCO) and he had come to get stationery. I am standing by the desk; I ask the man if he is an SCO chairman, he replies that 'yes' he's the chairman of Bahugaun's saving and loan group. Kiren and Ram read and write numbers. 

Mahanta, a fieldworker, comes into the front room carrying a piece of paper-the 'detailed report' he was writing last night for the FO boss. Ram lifts his head up and informs Mahanta 'I'll be busy today until 1.30p.m. then I'll be free'. Mahanta, smiles, looking at me and jokes 'then Ram will go off wagging his tail like a dog when it's happy!' Mahanta sits next to the SCO chairman on the bench facing Kiren and Ram's desk. The chairman extracts a pair of large glasses from a pocket in his tired brown jacket, puts them on (they look too big for his small face); he takes his wrist watch off; he puts it back on; he smiles at staff as they laugh at Mahanta's joke. 'I'll get a stool to sit down' I announce but Mahanta interjects 'you can sit down on the bench!'-and he shuffles closer to the SCO chairman, making room for me to sit next to him. 'You should put a stone in your nose' he suggests. 'A small one then, not a big one' I reply and he, chuckling 'no, not big or your nose will become like [he flattens his nose with his finger]!' I say that some people put stones in both nostrils, and I'd heard from my landlady that one amrikan (Western, North American) volunteer who used to work here had put a ring through her nose [I ring my fingers around my septum] and they do it with a needle here! Mahanta says 'it's a bhulaki' and, turning to the SCO chairman 'what do they call that here?' 'A bhulaki' the chairman corroborates. 

Arjun, the FO chief, comes in, the chairman stands up and moves towards the desk where Arjun is talking with Kiren: 'it's a quarter to one, is the report finished?' The chairman stands, with his hands behind his back and addresses Arjun in the local language. Arjun leaves the room, the chairman follows him. A few seconds later, I pop my head through Arjun's door, but cannot see the chairman anywhere, so I return to the bench in the front room. Kiren comes out of Arjun's room, straight through the front room and back out of the back of the office. It's 12.50p.m. A few minutes later, Kiren is back and I ask 'what did the SCO chairman want?' 'I don't know' Kiren replies 'ask Basanta'.

I'm still in the front room. Then a man, thin, dark, with longish hair comes through the gate and stands outside the front room, clutching a chicken. Kiren and Ram are back at their desks, negotiating the finer points of format filling; they do not notice the man…

Post-fieldwork: shifting emotional emphasis

Today, upon reading this and similar passages, I am struck by their cynicism. To be sure, cynicism, suspicions of inauthenticity-deceitfulness, even-were a salient element of the public discourse about NGOs in Nepal.[3] At the time of research, NGOs were widely suspected-and accused-of corruption and being profit-motivated. Questions over whom NGOs were truly benefiting were fuelled by reports of the considerable sums that had been made available to the non-governmental sector since the 1990s and also of high NGO salaries.[4] If their reputation for being 'dollar-farmers' (dollar-kheti) was not always deserved, NGO fieldworkers often played down indications of wealth and privilege for the sake of keeping good working relations with project beneficiaries and local dignitaries. As a mood or emotion, cynicism also pervaded the experience of everyday life as a member of staff of a Nepali NGO. But, and this is the point, it was not the only one. The emotional experience of the protagonists in the story above ranged from humour, anxiety, and excitement to boredom and, not featured here, loneliness, longing, pain and hardship (dukha)-and included less avowable sentiments such as irritation or even antipathy. In the 'post-fieldwork' phase, by contrast, cynicism suffused my recollections and re-readings of the 'raw' fieldnotes and, subsequently, the choice of details and themes in writing up the ethnographic text. 

A second sentiment-a sense of indebtedness and guilt, and a sense of power-that was not a feature of the fieldwork experience, insinuated itself into the 'post-fieldwork' phase and blossomed as this period unfolded. A balance of power loaded in favour of the researcher was certainly not a feature of my experience of the field. While not exactly feeling 'powerless', I nonetheless felt, throughout the period of research, that I needed to tread carefully, and that access was conditional and could be withdrawn by management at various levels of the organisation. It was effectively withdrawn in one NGO when I was encouraged to leave the field by NGO managers after a stay of just over three months. I am unsure, to this day, what mischief I may have caused.[5] My point here is that in the 'post-fieldwork' phase, some emotions came to dominate recollections of the field and representations of it. Some, that were experienced during the fieldwork period, became accentuated (or 'hypercognised' to use Levy's term; Levy 1984). Others were suppressed or 'hypocognised' (ibid) and yet others, which were not experienced during that period, were introduced. 

The suppression of emotionality from written accounts of fieldwork has been noted by many. Fieldwork, observed Heald and Deluz (1994), has traditionally produced two accounts: one that could be told, one that could not. The one that could be told was de-emotionalised, and 'in the same way, the anthropologist was expected to come back to join the community of scholars, now as an initiate, but bearing little trace of the experience in his or her person' (ibid:10). Pratt (1986) qualifies this somewhat: she notes that personal accounts of the field experience have been recognised as a sub-genre of ethnographic writing, but it generally accompanies a formal ethnography, and it is the latter account that counts as professional capital and authoritative representation. Personal narrative, on the other hand, is deemed self-indulgent and trivial. Kleinman and Copp (1993) concur: they write that the development of 'right feeling' towards the subjects of research-an appropriate closeness during fieldwork and appropriate 'lack of emotion' during analysis-is an important part of the ethnographic endeavour. 

However, these accounts present only half the story of post-field emotion work. In the case recounted here, emotion work involved not merely a suppression of feeling-although certain feelings were certainly suppressed-but a change of emphasis, amounting to the development of a new, distinctive emotional style. I experienced an increasing distancing and empowerment, as feelings of cynicism and indebtedness were encouraged. Other emotions, by contrast, particularly pain or the sense of having been 'hard done by' by 'informants', were dismissed as 'whingeing' and effectively delegitimised-the implication of these emotional experiences lost to analysis. The emotion work carried out during and after fieldwork reinforced the sense of Otherness-informants and I no longer shared feelings: emotions that intimated a degree of 'sharing' were displaced by ones indexing hierarchy and inequality. The feeling of indebtedness (however commendable) contributed to this, as it amounted to a denial of the reciprocity of day-to-day relations in the field. This emotion work also introduced a sense of inequality. Indeed, I was no longer part of a landscape of power that was ever-fluctuating, but in a definite position of power: feelings of (occasional) powerlessness or vulnerability gave way to feelings of powerfulness.

Regimenting emotion: pedagogic practice and the construction of post-field emotional styles 

The fact that the post-field emotion work might involve a shift in emphasis rather than suppression casts doubt over the most commonly given explanation for the change in emotional content of the researcher's relation to her field in the 'post-field' phase. The authors mentioned above typically put the change in emotionality down to the pervasiveness of the ideology of 'scientistic' objectivity, and speak vaguely of the individual's need to appear competent and confident of his or her findings (Kleinman and Copp 1993). Heald and Deluz's comment is equally imprecise: 'returning from the field, many anthropologists of this generation found that they had no one to talk to about their experiences; they were encouraged to forget, to regain the distance that had been compromised in the field' (1994:10, my emphasis). Nowhere is the source of the individual's need or the origin and nature of the encouragement they note, spelt out. While a sensitivity concerning the 'soft' ('impressionistic' or 'anecdotal') nature of ethnographic data might explain the motivation to 'suppress' emotionality from texts, it does not seem satisfactory to explicate the act of suppression. What's more, even if we are willing to accept that a desire or pressure to conform to the ideals of objectivity might account for the suppression of feeling, it cannot explain the emergence of new feelings, as described above. What is needed is a better sense of the cultural mechanisms that work to shape the researcher's emotions and to produce the new 'post-field' emotional style mentioned above.

In my own case, I found the seminar to be among the practices that worked to encourage particular emotional styles. A key part of academic apprenticeship and a site for the production of anthropological knowledge, the seminar was also an important site for the production of emotional styles. The seminar fostered the development of a specific emotional style in several ways. Firstly, through explicit injunction. This is illustrated by Barry's contribution to a previous Anthropology Matters issue, 'Identity/identities and fieldwork: studying homeopathy and Tai Chi "at home" in South London'. In the account of her slow disengagement and growing scepticism towards the subject of her research, 'post-fieldwork', Barry highlights how departmental seminars offered an opportunity for explicit admonition and proffering of textbook warnings against 'going native' (e.g. Bernard 1995). 

"In December I gave a paper to the anthropology department and talked about my embodied experiences of Tai Chi as a participant observer. The feedback from colleagues included the observation that I seemed to have had some kind of conversion experience, and that I was insufficiently reflexive about my experiences. I experienced the sub-text as 'Oh no, she is going native'." (Barry 2002)

A second instrument of emotional 'suppression' or change of emphasis was more implicit: it consisted of the privileging of particular modalities of expression. The aversion (or unease) of academic fora towards the expression of 'the personal', and by extension, 'feelings'-seen to belong to the realm of 'the personal' in Western cultural settings, as Deluz and Heald (1994) point out-was also noted by Okely (1996). She writes: 'women are often less inhibited about exploring and expressing the personal element although they may apologise for this in academic debate' (ibid:29, my emphasis). What Okely's point highlights is that the 'personal' is unacceptable as a mode of debating in face-to-face academic exchanges, as well as being unacceptable as an expressive mode in writing.

The above could have been written about my PhD seminar experiences. Personal anecdotes were not encouraged (nor sought: 'I'm not interested in reading about Celayne', was a classmate's remark to my enthusiasm about the potentials of auto-ethnography; e.g. Ellis and Bochner 2000). It was also clear to (some, at least) participants in such fora that the preferred linguistic modalities and interpersonal styles in seminar settings (with a tendency towards the expository rather than the exploratory, the propensity to offer extended commentary rather than the invitation to dialogue), did not lend itself well to the expression of the 'personal'-with the exception, that is, of feelings of debt, power, and responsibility, which were cultivated through the invitation to be 'reflexive' about the experience of fieldwork. Another mechanism was simply the refusal (by teachers or mentors) to engage in talk about emotions or emotionally toned conversations: in this way, it was learnt that emotion talk was 'not relevant' to the academic task at hand.

I should also point out that the suppression of emotion and encouragement of detachment was not effected through prohibition alone. Another mechanism was through 'humour', which, while not explicitly encouraged, was always welcome, a relief during late Friday seminar sessions. Humorous quips more often than not involved the narrator laughing at herself, and further encouraged detachment from the fieldwork experience-the simultaneous creation and repudiation of a 'fieldwork self' distinct from Heald and Deluz's 'initiate' self (see above) reintegrated in the community of scholars.

I cannot comment with certitude about the mechanisms that nurtured the other feelings of which I write (feelings of power, as opposed to powerlessness; of indebtedness; and responsibility). But Reddy's concept of 'emotives' (see above) suggests that the repeated encouragements to give expression, in writing and in speech, to our own privilege (as Western, middle-class, white, researchers) and responsibilities attendant upon it might have contributed to the growth of these feelings. Similarly, Levy's (1984) concept of hypocognition suggests that we should look to the degrees of symbolic elaboration of these emotions within seminar settings in order to understand this process. Although I lack detailed material on this subject, I would like to offer the reader my conviction that a detailed exploration of academic practices would be instructive in this regard, and that our understanding of the contribution of anthropological practice to processes of Othering would be enriched by it.

Final observations

To summarise, then, I have argued, first of all, that too little attention has been paid to the role of emotions and emotion work in literature exploring the construction of 'the field' in general, and as distant and separate from personal areas of activity, in particular. I also noted that this body of work gives the academic institutional context all but the most cursory of treatments. Turning then to the post-fieldwork changes in emotionality, I noted that what was occurring was best described as a change in emotional emphasis rather than, as the literature contends, a suppression of feeling. I noted, too, that this change in emphasis contributes to the Othering of field subjects (and experiences), and also to the researcher and 'researched' being recast in a hierarchical relation to each other. In the final section, I sought to draw attention to the academic institutional mechanisms generating the emotional shifts I described. I commented on the role of certain academic practices in this process, and the explicit as well as implicit processes through which these shifts were realised.

Even if the change in emphasis that I describe does not resonate with the reader's experience, I hope she will agree that the suppression of emotion-which has been more widely documented-has not received adequate attention within our discipline. Neither the mechanisms of this suppression nor the implications have been sufficiently explored. I hope, at least, to have demonstrated that this is an area that is deserving of further scrutiny, and that we need to explore more fully the 'suppression of emotion' in anthropological practice; and, also, that we need to broaden our exploration of the researcher's changing emotional relation to the field and subjects of research to include the cultivation of emotion post-field.

A further point, which has emerged as I wrote this piece, is a suspicion that the kind of anthropological practice in which accounts of the construction of the categories of 'the field' and 'fieldwork' are grounded, is that of professional, academic, anthropology. Not all anthropology, of course, is practised in this way. Contributors to a recent volume (Dresch, Wendy and Parkin 2000) suggest that we need to make finer distinctions within the category 'fieldworker', distinguishing the novice and seasoned fieldworker. Long-term fieldwork, they remarked, brings with it dilemmas and challenges peculiar to it and not shared by the archetypal 'novice fieldworker'. Similarly, in order to fully understand the ways in which the field is constructed and interrogate the processes of Othering they entail, our reflection should begin to take into account the many and diverse contexts of anthropological practice today-be they within academic departments or the commercial sector, practiced in a professional capacity or during apprenticeship, through an approach that draws on a single discipline or one that is more trans-disciplinary in character.


[1] This article was originally written in late 2001, immediately after the submission of my thesis. It has been expanded and the argument developed in a paper presented at the conference 'Surviving and Writing Up Fieldwork', Oxford, 14-15th September 2006. back

[2] This view is heavily qualified in the remainder of the chapter in my PhD thesis, but is not detailed here as it is not germane to the paper's argument. back

[3] Significantly, perhaps, it was also a feature of the anthropological engagement with development. In this latter respect, it is telling that the critical yet sympathetic stance of Mosse's recent (2005) book on development was singled out for particular praise by the book's reviewers. The specific emotional tone of pre-existing literature or the approach to a given subject no doubt has a significant bearing on the way the novice anthropologist frames and writes about her field experience. back

[4] In 1997, it was estimated that the total funds channelled through Nepali NGOs amounted to US$150 million while the total official development assistance to Nepal totalled US$391.8 million and the vast majority of Nepali NGO were almost wholly financed by international NGOs. In some NGOs, the difference in wages between the public and NGO sector was considerable: In 2001, the wages of NGO and government workers on average ranged between US$600-2500 and US$80-120, respectively (Dahal 2001). back

[5] I would like to believe, however, that my 'expulsion' was tied to problems of appropriate categorisation that, Gellner and Hirsch (2001:5) note, can arise as the anthropologist strives to acquire 'insider status' within the organisation, challenging existing procedures for dealing with 'outsiders'. back

About the author: 

Celayne Heaton Shrestha is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex. She is investigating the implications of Nepal's 10-year insurgency for development NGOs, as part of the ESRC Non-Governmental Public Action research programme.