A student asked me recently for examples of ethnographies in which the anthropologist ‘had a bad time’. He observed that in all of the anthropological writings he has read, the anthropologists generally present themselves and their experiences positively.
I was stumped. The ethnography for the course, a survey of Canada’s first peoples, is Robert Jarvenpa’s Northern Passage. It is about the Han of the Yukon and the Chipewyan of the Northwest Territories. In it, Jarvenpa has a less-than-successful field experience as a young researcher among the Han. But, that experience is tempered by a good experience with the Chipewyan. The result is a trope: fieldwork as personal growth. And, that trope is perfect for an ethnography aimed at undergraduates learning about fieldwork.
All of this has me thinking about why examples of poor ethnographic experiences are hard to find. How about:
So, to you. Any examples of poor ethnographic research experiences in publication? Good ethographies describing less-than-successful field work? If not, why not?