Reflections on Fieldwork: A Comparative Study of Positionality in Ethnographic Research across Asia

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Farah PURWANINGRUM, The University of Sydney, Australia
Anastasiya SHTALTOVNA, CERIUM - University of Montreal, Canada

This paper aims to reflect on positionality, in particular insider-outsider binary and gender, while conducting research across Asia in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam between 2008 and 2014. The paper addresses the following question: how does positionality under divergent conditions (in restrictive or in friendly research zones) facilitate or impede the qualitative research process? Ethnographic fieldwork was used to collect data. Two proxies of comparisons are used in examining the role of positionality, namely gender and insider-outsider in Central Asia (CA) and South East Asia (SEA). It is demonstrated that understanding one’s position in the field is vital to be able to consciously reflect and negotiate space for fieldwork. Next, one’s positionality is not an automatic result of one’s native identity. Rather, choosing the stance to opt during the fieldwork can be a conscious decision for the researcher. This is decisive for the researcher’s personal security and for the collection of the unique data. With regard to gender, despite being rather an unfriendly environment for conducting social science research, CA turned out to be a much easier space for a female researcher to manoeuver, than SEA.