An Archive of the Self

Or, What I Learned from Re-Reading Chats from the Field


  • Jennifer D. Ortegren Middlebury College



fieldwork, ethnography, email, Rajasthan, India, home, field, selfhood, archive, WhatsApp


This article considers how forms of technology and electronic communication—particularly email and online chats—both reflect and shape the selves of the field in relationship to the selves of home. It argues for recognizing and consciously cultivating the use of email and chat as a kind of “archive of the self” to draw on in the writing process in addition to, or sometimes in lieu of, fieldnotes. Attending to this archive helps to reflect more deeply on the complex selves that we inhabit during fieldwork and that we present in our academic work. The article concludes with reflections on how technologies, particularly WhatsApp, also bring the selves of the field into our lives “back home” and how the continued demand for presence in absence can be both uncomfortable and promising for continuing to compile the “archive of the self”.


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Author Biography

Jennifer D. Ortegren, Middlebury College

Jennifer D. Ortegren is an ethnographer of South Asian religions whose work focuses on the intersections of religion and class among
upwardly mobile women, and their families, in Udaipur, Rajasthan. She has published on the everyday and ritual lives of emerging middleclass Hindu women and is currently developing a project among Muslim women, including how class mobility impacts relationships between neighbors from diverse religious backgrounds and the role of women in mediating these relationships.


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How to Cite

Ortegren, J. D. (2020). An Archive of the Self: Or, What I Learned from Re-Reading Chats from the Field. Fieldwork in Religion, 15(1-2), 126–138.