The Uncertain Self in Ethnographic Research and Writing


  • Emilia Bachrach Oberlin College



reflexivity, self-representation, positionality, ethnographic writing


This article asks the ethnographer to revisit questions about representing the self as an ethnographic researcher in the context of fieldwork, but especially in dialogue with readers through scholarly writing. How does—or can—the ethnographer maintain transparency about how their social positions shape their research questions, access to material and fieldwork spaces, conversation partners, and theorizing? Using a particular example of the author’s own experience in misunderstanding the ways in which she was received by her interlocuters in the field, this article suggests that the ethnographer must rethink how the researcher self is formed by writing about the “messiness” of fieldwork, and not relying on simple statements of positionality in ethnographic writing.


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Author Biography

Emilia Bachrach, Oberlin College

Emilia Bachrach is an assistant professor at Oberlin College where she teaches courses on South Asian religions, gender studies and feminist research methodologies. Her ethnographic research focuses on how people’s interpretations of religious texts inform and are informed by negotiations of the family and the self, and by changing class and gender identities in India. Her developing projects include a study of how Hindu masculinities are articulated through social media, and an examination of Hindu women’s cultivation of piety through ascetic practices in Gujarat. She also works with texts in several Indian languages, including Gujarati and Hindi.


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How to Cite

Bachrach, E. (2020). The Uncertain Self in Ethnographic Research and Writing. Fieldwork in Religion, 15(1-2), 113–125.