Emotional and Ethical Quagmires in Returning to the Field

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Autoethnography, Research Practices, Ethnography, Ethnographers, Emotional Conflict, Community, Arts and Humanities, Communication, Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies, Social History, Social Psychology and Interaction, Sociology


When returning to the site of prior research, ethnographers may find themselves embroiled in emotional and ethical quandaries with the people about whom they have written. This article details the conversations and emotional conflicts that erupted suddenly when I returned to a community about which I had published a previous ethnographic account. Writing the story gave me an opportunity to examine orthodox ethnographic research practices, such as omitting the autobiographical self and emotional responses from ethnographic texts. The return visit helped clarify connections between my personal life and the way I conducted fieldwork in this community, and it led me to recommend that ethnographic practices include an examination of how our experiences connect us with those we study rather than emphasize only how they set us apart.