Spheres of Passion – Fieldwork, Ethnography and the inter-affective encounter – a seminar by Dr Thomas Stodulka (Wed, 3 September 2014)

Speaker: Dr Thomas Stodulka (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)
Wednesday, 3 September 2014
4:00pm – 5:30pm
AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)
Dr Julius Bautista

Researchers and their emotions are perceived as an irreconcilable dichotomy. They are considered as nuisances that jeopardize ‘objective’ science. At best, they are regarded as marginal apparitions of limited anecdotic, biographic or artistic interest. Many scientific disciplines have excluded them from their discourse. In contrast, my assumption is that emotions inevitably influence the research process: from the choice of research subjects, the researcher’s positionality and the generation of data, to their interpretation and public representation. We argue that their critical analysis should be part of and not excluded from scientific practice. Instead of obliterating or deeming them as esoteric by-products they should be scrutinized systematically and thus rendered productive for science and the communication of its results to the wider (academic) community.

In particular, fieldwork of anthropologists triggers a range of emotions that impact observation, influence comprehension and guide the formation of theories. Our continued assumption is that fieldwork in its manifold appearances can serve as a paradigm for the researchers’ emotions in general, since only fieldwork creates an extensive corpus of subjective reports (e.g. field diaries, notes, letters) that can be studied exemplarily.

Drawing on examples from my long-term study with street-related adolescents and young adults in the Javanese city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, this talk illustrates that the integration of the ethnographer’s emotions into the analysis, interpretation and representation of ethnographic data can assist in (1) creating a more sensorial and experience-based knowledge on the ‘other’, (2) formulating a more relational anthropological theory and (3) raising emotions to a category of epistemic value.

About the speaker
Dr. Thomas Stodulka’s research focuses on stigma, marginality, and the interplay between culture, emotion, health, and illness. He conducted long-term fieldwork with street-related young men in Yogyakarta, Indonesia between 2001 and 2013, and is currently involved in an interdisciplinary research on cross-cultural perspectives on envy and directs a research project entitled the “The Researchers’ Affects”.

Address correspondence to him at Freie Universität Berlin, Department of Anthropology, Landoltweg 9-11, 14195 Berlin, Germany. E-mail: thomas.stodulka@fu-berlin.de