Since I began working towards building my field data, I have been mulling over various aspects of fieldwork. My work is primarily focused on a blend of literary, ethnographic and it’s associated material culture. In order to access this discursive space, I began collecting oral testimonials to see if the performative community action can be anchored into written word. And as I grew closer to the domain called “public” in a direct sense, I opened a minefield of questions for myself.As a researcher, what lens do I have on when I speak to the local villagers about their beliefs? My acquaintance, who now teaches a course on ethnoarchaeology (understanding aspects in Archaeology through the study of living population) insisted on “pointing out ill-founded beliefs” as a researcher. A similar approach that treads dangerously close to “studying them” as objects further objectifying and othering the people as “them” is commonplace in the academia. I want to be wrong in this regard, and that the academia is now woke. However, my experience of attending conferences and speaking to some scholars working on South Asia or Asia in general has been quite disappointing. But, I digress. So the lens of the researcher has regrettably not changed much since the colonial period at least.So how do we decolonize these narratives? It starts with decolonizing the mind! In addition to auto-ethnography, respecting the space that one studies is the first step in the right direction. I would not want my presence in the field to be an opportunity to preach (although I may come off as doing exactly that at this very moment). I am an import or a foreign element thrust into the landscape and people. Here, the landscape (in it’s anthropomorphic sense) is the key whereby I shape or influence the people and their actions through my presence- knowingly or unknowingly. Furthermore, the “right” and “wrong” is not for the researcher to judge.As I plod through this difficult terrain, multivocal viewpoints will be of great help. What are your thoughts?D.
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