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Navigating an inconvenient difference in antagonistic contexts : doing fieldwork in Aceh, Indonesia


Schenk, Christine G (2013). Navigating an inconvenient difference in antagonistic contexts : doing fieldwork in Aceh, Indonesia. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 34(3):342-356.

Abstract

This article discusses the challenges of doing fieldwork in an antagonistic context. Such an antagonistic context can emerge when a non-Muslim researcher conducts fieldwork in a Muslim country that experiences humanitarian intervention and reconstruction efforts after natural disasters or the end of conflict. This particular setting can create a conflation of Islamic and Western (liberal) values while a political settlement is about to be consolidated. The case discussed in this article is located in the province of Aceh in Indonesia, where a political settlement of a conflict which lasted more than 25 years converged with a massive influx of foreign aid for disaster mitigation vis-à-vis the desire to apply Islamic Law (shari’a). The combined effects of reconstruction efforts and political and armed conflict, forged a problematic co-presence of Western and non-Western values, which affected the relations between the (Western) researcher and (non-Western) researched by creating tension or even hostility between the two. The article argues that methodological dilemmas stemming from such a setting require a relational approach drawing on empathy, sameness and the personal, thereby taking into account emotions when conducting fieldwork. For this particular case I suggest an approach based on teamwork crossing cultures and gender among the research team members. To deal with constraints in such a setting, the article proposes to contextualize any potential difference between the researcher and researched, and to explore various relational elements drawing on psychoanalytical approaches and/or cross-cultural positioning through and in teamwork.

Abstract

This article discusses the challenges of doing fieldwork in an antagonistic context. Such an antagonistic context can emerge when a non-Muslim researcher conducts fieldwork in a Muslim country that experiences humanitarian intervention and reconstruction efforts after natural disasters or the end of conflict. This particular setting can create a conflation of Islamic and Western (liberal) values while a political settlement is about to be consolidated. The case discussed in this article is located in the province of Aceh in Indonesia, where a political settlement of a conflict which lasted more than 25 years converged with a massive influx of foreign aid for disaster mitigation vis-à-vis the desire to apply Islamic Law (shari’a). The combined effects of reconstruction efforts and political and armed conflict, forged a problematic co-presence of Western and non-Western values, which affected the relations between the (Western) researcher and (non-Western) researched by creating tension or even hostility between the two. The article argues that methodological dilemmas stemming from such a setting require a relational approach drawing on empathy, sameness and the personal, thereby taking into account emotions when conducting fieldwork. For this particular case I suggest an approach based on teamwork crossing cultures and gender among the research team members. To deal with constraints in such a setting, the article proposes to contextualize any potential difference between the researcher and researched, and to explore various relational elements drawing on psychoanalytical approaches and/or cross-cultural positioning through and in teamwork.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
01 Faculty of Theology > Institute of Religious Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:fieldwork, difference, Aceh, psychoanalytical approaches, positionality, cross-cultural collaboration
Language:English
Date:1 November 2013
Deposited On:16 Jan 2019 09:20
Last Modified:20 Jan 2019 06:45
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0129-7619
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/sjtg.12036
Related URLs:https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/14679493 (Publisher)
https://www.recherche-portal.ch/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=ebi01_prod000031562&context=L&vid=ZAD&search_scope=default_scope&isFrbr=true&tab=default_tab&lang=de_DE (Library Catalogue)
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant IDPMCDP1_145537
  • : Project TitleReconciling Islamic values with reconstruction efforts: the role of the Sharia in population administration in Aceh, Indonesia

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