Fieldwork and Pain

Issues in field research methodologies involving extreme field circumstances


  • Tullio Lobetti University of London



asceticism, fieldwork, hermeneutic, Japan, methodology, objectivity, religion


Participant observation in particularly demanding circumstances may often blur the line between the researcher and the object of research. Such are the cases where the researcher needs to participate in “extreme” religious feats involving ascetic practices, seclusion, use of narcotics, and so on. In such circumstances traditional methodological approaches seem to be undermined by the compelling urge for the researcher to deal with his or her own needs as well as carrying on the proposed fieldwork research. Although this can be considered as an argument for lack of “objectivity,” it should also be noted that this outburst of “feelings” and other emotional traits might be considered as part of the fieldwork results as well. The purpose of this article is to offer a variety of fieldwork data collected under such particular research circumstances for scrutiny. The main portion of the material comes from a field research conducted in 2006–2007 in Japan, dealing with Japanese ascetic practices.


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Author Biography

Tullio Lobetti, University of London

Tullio Lobetti graduated in Japanese Language and Literature at the University of Turin in 2003. Since then, he pursued his interest in the study of religion in Japan by obtaining an MA degree in Japanese Religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS – University of London) in 2004. In the same year he started his PhD research at SOAS on the topic “Body and Ascetic Practices in Contemporary Japanese Religious Context.” He is now a Teaching Fellow in the department of the Study of Religions at SOAS.


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How to Cite

Lobetti, T. (2011). Fieldwork and Pain: Issues in field research methodologies involving extreme field circumstances. Fieldwork in Religion, 5(2), 144–161.