The Ethics and Poetics of Reflexivity in Ethnography


  • Jessica Johnson William & Mary




ethnography, reflexivity, writing, methodology, religion


This article discusses ethnographic writing on religion as a social process and encourages the adoption of reflexivity to be ethically and analytically sound, so that anthropologists are attuned to the politics of fieldwork and representation at work. It also examines the relationships cultivated between the author and reader on the page and the collaborative practice of ethnographic fieldwork. To do so, the article examines how the subject positions of researcher-interlocutor and author-reader are complicated in the field and in writing by discussing the author’s experiences during fieldwork and how she interpreted structures of feeling, bodily gestures, the conjuring of emotion, and affective atmospheres in her book on Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. The article concludes with a brief discussion of the author’s current research on whiteness and Christianity to encourage an intersectional approach to the examination of social hierarchies and religious identities so that race, class, gender, sexuality and other categories of difference are given attention in ethnographic writing on religion.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Jessica Johnson, William & Mary

Jessica Johnson is a Visiting Scholar of Religious Studies at the College of William & Mary, Virginia, USA. Her book, Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire, was published by Duke University Press in 2018.


Fields, Karen E., and Barbara J. Fields 2014 Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. New York: Verso.

Johnson, Jessica 2018 Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822371601

Nye, Mallory 2018 Race and Religion: Postcolonial Formations of Power and Whiteness. Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 31(4): 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700682-

Puar, Jasbir K. 2012 “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess”: Becoming-Intersectional in Assemblage Theory. philoSOPHIA 2(1): 49–66. http://eipcp.net/transversal/0811/puar/en

Scott, Joan 1991 Evidence of Experience. Critical Inquiry 17(4): 773–79. https://doi.org/10.1086/448612




How to Cite

Johnson, J. (2022). Writing: The Ethics and Poetics of Reflexivity in Ethnography. Fieldwork in Religion, 17(1), 84–91. https://doi.org/10.1558/firn.22606