49. When Fieldwork Breaks Your Heart

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In "When Fieldwork Breaks Your Heart," guest producer Aisha Sultan considers the question: what do you do when fieldwork threatens to break your heart? While graduate seminars and methodological reflections within anthropology often focus on the possibilities ethnography affords as the cornerstone of the discipline, Sultan here contends with its bleaker and more difficult dimensions: the toll it takes on the minds and bodies of ethnographers; experiences of mental illness; persistent feelings of distrust, frustration, and exhaustion. Sultan’s conversation with Helen Lee and Shoshanna Williams is interspersed with excerpts of poetry and fieldnotes from each of their fieldwork experiences. Together, these reflections offer a candid, vulnerable, and realistic insight into the quotidian experience of doing ethnographic fieldwork.

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