International Development, Community, and Environment

Title

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Incorporating a Commitment to Fieldwork Throughout an Academic Career

Document Type

Article

Abstract

In this paper, four researchers who share a commitment to applied research and fieldwork methodologies reflect on the ambiguities associated with maintaining and adapting this commitment to changing professional, personal, and contextual situations. The authors focus on the use of fieldwork for the study and support of agricultural change in sub-Saharan Africa, as an example of a setting and topic in which long-term work in the field can improve understanding and support contextualized development. In analyzing a range of experiences associated with maintaining and adapting fieldwork approaches, we complicate and build upon the assertion that professional development pulls international development practitioners and applied researchers away from the field. The experiences analyzed in this paper suggest that the situation of changing orientations toward the field is not dichotomous, and that instead, a commitment to fieldwork can result in innovative approaches to remaining at least partially focused outward and downward. We argue that the epistemological underpinning of situated fieldwork, which recognizes partiality in knowledge and understanding, also requires reflexivity on the part of applied researchers. The reflections and analysis presented here broaden and ground conversations about research ethics, methodological consistencies, and innovative approaches to fieldwork.

Publication Title

African Geographical Review

Publication Date

1-2-2015

Volume

34

Issue

1

First Page

55

Last Page

68

ISSN

1937-6812

DOI

10.1080/19376812.2014.940986

Keywords

agriculture, fieldwork, methodology, reflexivity, research ethic

Disciplines

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

Share

COinS