Naked Fieldnotes

A Rough Guide to Ethnographic Writing


Denielle Elliott and Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer, Editors

Creative and diverse approaches to ethnographic knowledge production and writing

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Unlocking the experience of conducting qualitative research, Naked Fieldnotes pairs fieldnotes based on observations, interviews, and other contemporary modes of recording research encounters with short, reflective essays, offering rich examples of how fieldnotes are shaped by research experiences. By granting access to these personal archives, the contributors unsettle taboos about the privacy of ethnographic writing and give scholars a diverse, multimodal approach to conceptualizing and doing ethnographic fieldwork.

Ethnographic research has long been cloaked in mystery around what fieldwork is really like for researchers, how they collect data, and how it is analyzed within the social sciences. Naked Fieldnotes, a unique compendium of actual fieldnotes from contemporary ethnographic researchers from various modalities and research traditions, unpacks how this research works, its challenges and its possibilities.

The volume pairs fieldnotes based on observations, interviews, drawings, photographs, soundscapes, and other contemporary modes of recording research encounters with short, reflective essays, offering rich examples of how fieldnotes are composed and shaped by research experiences. These essays unlock the experience of conducting qualitative research in the social sciences, providing clear examples of the benefits and difficulties of ethnographic research and how it differs from other forms of writing such as reporting and travelogue. By granting access to these personal archives, Naked Fieldnotes unsettles taboos about the privacy of ethnographic writing and gives scholars a diverse, multimodal approach to conceptualizing and doing ethnographic fieldwork.

Contributors: Courtney Addison, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria U of Wellington; Patricia Alvarez Astacio, Brandeis U; Sareeta Amrute, The New School; Barbara Andersen, Massey U Auckland, New Zealand; Adia Benton, Northwestern U; Letizia Bonanno, U of Kent; Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, U of Victoria; Michael Cepek, U of Texas at San Antonio; Michelle Charette, York U; Tomás Criado, Humboldt-U of Berlin; John Dale, George Mason U; Elsa Fan, Webster U; Kelly Fayard, U of Denver; Michele Friedner, U of Chicago; Susan Frohlick, U of British Columbia, Okanagan, Syilx Territory; Angela Garcia, Stanford U; Danielle Gendron, U of British Columbia; Mascha Gugganig, Technical U Munich; Natalia Gutkowski, Hebrew U of Jerusalem; T. S. Harvey, Vanderbilt U; Saida Hodžić, Cornell U; K. G. Hutchins, Oberlin College; Basit Kareem Iqbal, McMaster U; Emma Kowal, Deakin U in Melbourne; Mathangi Krishnamurthy, IIT Madras; Shyam Kunwar; Margaret MacDonald, York U in Toronto; Stephanie McCallum, U Nacional de San Martín and U de San Andrés, Argentina; Diana Ojeda, Cider, U de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia; Valerie Olson, U of California, Irvine; Patrick Mbullo Owuor, Northwestern U; Stacy Leigh Pigg, Fraser U; Jason Pine, Purchase College, State U of New York; Chiara Pussetti, U of Lisbon; Tom Rice, U of Exeter; Leslie A. Robertson, U of British Columbia, Vancouver; Yana Stainova, McMaster U; Richard Vokes, U of Western Australia; Russell Westhaver, Saint Mary’s U in Nova Scotia; Paul White, U of Nevada, Reno.

Denielle Elliott is associate professor at York University and director of the Science and Technology Studies graduate program in Toronto. She is author of Reimagining Science and Statecraft in Postcolonial Kenya.

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer is author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and American Everyday Life; Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology; and Unraveling: Remaking Personhood in a Neurodiverse Age, all from Minnesota.


A Brief History of the Ethnographic Fieldnote and Its Possible Futures

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer and Denielle Elliott

Fieldnote Confessions

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer and Denielle Elliott

Curator’s Note

Michelle Charette

Reading Strategies

Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer and Denielle Elliott

1. Wellington, Community Pharmacy, Care, 2021 {~?~TN: Book p. 1 here}

Courtney Addison

2. Peru, Textile Practices, Multimedia, 2011

Patricia Alvarez Astacio

3. Seattle, Dispossession, Sensing Hate, 2016

Sareeta Amrute

4. Papua New Guinea, Nursing College, Lectures and Pedagogy, 2012

Barbara Andersen

5. Atlanta, Ebola Epidemic, Institutional Memory, 2017

Adia Benton

6. Athens, Irony, Drawing, 2015–2017

Letizia Bonanno

7. Cuba, Traces of Life, Embodied Experiences, 2004–2018

Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier

8. Ecuador, Shamanism, History and Violence, 2019

Michael Cepek

9. Munich, Blind Activism, Participatory Urban Design, November 2015

Tomás Criado

10. Myanmar, Pro-Democracy Movement, Collective Violence, 1998

John Dale

11. Beijing, Evolving HIV, Delivering Care, 2011

Elsa Fan

12. Alabama, Tribal Council Debates, Indian Reservation, Undated

Kelly Fayard

13. Tamil Nadu, Oral Deaf Early Intervention Center, Scripted Listening, 2018

Michele Friedner

14. Costa Rica, Youthhood, Tourism Intimacies, 2015

Susan Frohlick

15. Mexico City, Anexos, the Senses, 2013

Angela Garcia

16. Georgian Bay, Waterscape Views, Unceded Lands, 2021

Danielle Gendron

17. Brussels, Food Innovation Workshop, 2019

Mascha Gugganig

18. Israel/Palestine, Cultivating Indigeneity, Producing Time, 2013

Natalia Gutkowski

19. United States–Mexico, Anthropology between Race and the “Willing Suspension of Disbelief,” Undated

T. S. Harvey

20. San Francisco Presidio, Refusing Invasion, Amnesty International, the Beginning of the War on Terror, 2001

Saida Hodžić

21. Mongolia, Musical Heritage, Wild Horses, 2016–2018

K. G. Hutchins

22. Jordan, Orphanage for Syrian Families, Cruelty, 2018

Basit Kareem Iqbal

23. New South Wales, Genetic Samples, Indigeneity, 2007

Emma Kowal

24. Pune, Call Centers, Globalization, 2006

Mathangi Krishnamurthy

25. Senegal, Cell Phones, Maternal Health, 2018

Margaret MacDonald

26. Buenos Aires, Railroad Infrastructure, Precarity, 2013

Stephanie McCallum

27. Colombia, Neoliberal Conservation, Political Violence, 2009–2010

Diana Ojeda

28. Gulf of Mexico, Oil Spill, Environment, Industry, 2011

Valerie Olson

29. Kenya, Dams, Flows, Displacement, 2019

Patrick Mbullo Owuor

30. Nepal, Roads, Mobility, Graphic Ethnography, 2018

Stacy Leigh Pigg and Shyam Kunwar

31. Mælifellshnjúkur, Iceland, Moss, Life, 2017

Jason Pine

32. Lisbon, Fuckin’ Perfect? The Politics of Desirability, 2019–2021

Chiara Pussetti

33. Paignton and Bristol Zoos, Listening to the Zoo Project, 2019

Tom Rice

34. North America, Intermountain West, Coexistence, Religion, 1992

Leslie A. Robertson

35. Venezuela, Returning Home, Music, 2013

Yana Stainova

36. Antarctica, Scott Base, Sociality and Extremes, 2017

Richard Vokes

37. Vancouver, Circuit Parties, Gay Men, 2000

Russell Westhaver

38. Alaska, Gold Mining, Archaeology of Work, 2015

Paul White