Gendered Violence in Fieldwork

Anthropology has come a long way from it’s roots as a primarily white, male, imperialistic field. With anti-discriminatory laws and higher rates of diversity in colleges, now is a fantastic time to delve into the field. However, there are still some ugly shades of the past that still occur frequently, unfortunately the most common is sexual harassment of women. In the article, Dealing with Realityauthors Reyes-Foster and Matejowsky discuss the frightening frequency that sexual harassment occurs during fieldwork. A recent survey of 666 male and female anthropologists discovered that 64% of females were sexually harassed and 22% had experienced sexual assault. The majority of the victims were students or post-doctorates and were harassed by their professors. This frequency plays into the gender roles of male domination and female subservience.

When a woman puts herself into a position of obedience (such as being a student) the power is placed into the hands of the usually male professor. The power imbalance is strengthened through fieldwork since the student is left vulnerable and alone in another country without the aid of the professor.With such a power gap between the sexes, sexual harassment occurs more frequently. Ways to combat this problem is to attack it at the source, toxic masculinity via domination. Having female professors who won’t demean, always traveling with a partner (predators go after single targets), and making sure that travelers know where the American Consulate is located can aid women and give them a safety net to fall back on. Perhaps a screening test of domineering personalities would be able to limit the number of potentially dangerous professors taking up leadership roles.

Forensic Science in Crime solving

On television, I like to watch shows about solving crimes with forensic science such as CSI or Bones. I personally don’t want to be in that field, dealing with blood and dead bodies, but I find it fascinating how forensic scientists use similar methods from anthropology to follow the evidence and solve the crime in the end.

Authors, Joe Nickell and John F. Fischer, on their book Crime Science Methods of Forensic Science, write about how scientists use different strategies in order to find a killer either guilty or innocent of the crime. One way is by documentation. Documentation involves taking numerous photographs of the scene, sketching the crime scene, and jotting down important notes. This is very similar to the way ethnography works in anthropology in which an anthropologist observes by participant observation in a culture and also takes notes.

Looking at physical space, the size of the crime laboratory depends on the social nature and size of the community that it serves as well as the cases, the facilities available, and funding from the government. Every lab has certain types of facilities that pertain to the specialists in that particular area to process the evidence.

The idea behind forensic science is to use scientific disciplines to bring criminals to justice in the courtroom using personal evidence, physical evidence, other general types of evidence, and most importantly, the corpus delicti evidence. This can be seen everywhere to show how important forensic science could be in the world.

Reference: Nickell, Joe and John F. Fischer. Crime Science Methods of Forensic Science. The University Press of Kentucky, Kentucky; 1999.

My Conflict With Anthropology

When reading through the results of ethnographic field work, it is not uncommon for one to find an account of an ethnographer who’s understanding of cultural relativism is challenged by the structural violence they experience in their field sites. For example, in Claire Sterk’s, “Tricking & Tripping: Field Work on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS,” Sterk describes how she felt immense guilt whenever she left her field sites because of the conditions her subjects faced in their day to day life. In addition to this feeling of guilt, Sterk often fought the urge to outwardly assist some of her most troubled research subjects.

As a young man of color pursuing a major in Anthropology, I often find myself questioning the righteousness of ethnographic field work. Despite the code of objectivity that Anthropologists hold themselves to, I often reflect upon how the presence of an Anthropologist has the potential to exacerbate our societal problems. This is especially relevant when western white Anthropologists go to some of the most disadvantaged places on earth to conduct research. To be in the face of a privileged stranger must be overwhelming for some people and one cannot ignore the fact that ethnographic field work has potential to benefit the ethnographer more than anyone else. I often question whether I would be able to battle my understanding of cultural relativism if I am ever in a similar position to Sterk, especially if I share similar identity components with my subjects.

Jaime Alves’, “A Call From Colombia” speaks about the conflict black anthropologists face when conducting field work on black research subjects. Alves voices the collective frustration by asking: How does the African Diaspora look like beyond our theorizing on black suffering?” and “Where is the place of fieldnotes, recorded interviews, hanging out and so on, in the face of such brutalities?” Alves’ writings were eye opening for me because I began to understand that the colonizing process is very much alive in anthropology in regards to the extraction of cultural information that is ultimately used to benefit the anthropologist’s culture. Although the duty of the anthropologist is to be a participant observer in all studies, I think it is appropriate to focus on the “participant” part of the duty in some situations. This means that in some situations, it is appropriate to intervene.

Acknowledging the effect environment has on experience and culture, Alves suggests that some field sites cannot simply be regarded as “sites of fieldwork.” Instead, it should be acknowledged that people persevere through struggle at many of these sites. “In such contexts, the best black anthropologists can do is to turn off the recorder, save the notebook and theoretical speculations for later, and join the struggles of black people for true liberation.”A Call From Colombia” helped me realize that anthropology is dictated by a malleable culture itself that changes and readjusts as time progresses.

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