Fieldwork in Other Cultures

  • Nicola Ayers


This chapter discusses the emotional experiences and challenges faced by the researcher conducting fieldwork in another culture. It uses empirical data to discuss three key issues. First, gaining access in the field and getting permission. Second, walking the insider/outsider tightrope to gain rich description. Third, how reflection on the researcher’s identity demonstrates that you are neither neutral nor passive and that the multiple identities of a person when working in another culture need to be examined and the effect considered. The chapter concludes by discussing the importance of being continually reflexive and what that looks like practically when insider/outsider roles can be ‘blurred’ after gaining good understanding of another culture.


  1. Atkinson, P., & Coffey, A. (2002). Revisiting the relationship between participant observation and interviewing. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  2. Blunt, E. (2009). Ethiopia’s passion for bureaucracy. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from
  3. Carolan, M. (2003). Reflexivity: A personal journey during data collection. Nurse Researcher, 10(3), 7–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clifford, J., & Marcus, G. (1986). Writing culture: The poetry and politics of ethnography (25th Anniversary ed.). California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Coffey, A. (1999). The ethnographic self. Fieldwork and the representation of identity (1st ed.). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cruz, E. V., & Higginbottom, G. (2013). The use of focused ethnography in nursing research. Nurse Researcher, 20(4), 36–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Denzin, N. (1997). Interpretive ethnography: Ethnographic practices for the 21st century. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fetterman, D. (2009). Ethnography: Step by step (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Finlay, L. (2002). Negotiating the swamp: The opportunity and challenge of reflexivity in research practice. Qualitative Research, 2(209), 209–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gubrium, J. F., Holstein, J., Marvasti, A. B., & McKinney, K. D. (Eds.). (2012). The SAGE handbook of interview research: The complexity of the craft (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography principles in practice (3rd ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Hochschild, A. R. (2012). The Managed heart commercialization of human feeling (1st revised ed.). California: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  13. Hofstede, G. H. (1991). Cultures and organisations software of the mind (2nd ed.). London: McGraw-Hill International.Google Scholar
  14. King, T. (2013). Business etiquette in global business scenarios. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from
  15. Knoblauch, H. (2005). Focused ethnography. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(3), 1–13.Google Scholar
  16. Li, S. (2004). Symbiotic niceness: Constructing a therapeutic relationship in psychosocial care. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 2571–2583.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. O’Reilly, K. (2009). Key concepts in ethnography. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Pillow, W. (2003). Confession, catharsis, or cure? Rethinking the uses of reflexivity as methodological power in qualitative research. Qualitative Studies in Education, 16(2), 175–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Seale, C. (1998). Constructing death: The sociology of dying and bereavement. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Silverman, D. (2013). Doing qualitative research (4th ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Walter, T. (1994). The revival of death. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Watts, J. H. (2008). Emotion, empathy and exit: Reflections on doing ethnographic qualitative research on sensitive topics. Medical Sociology Online, 3(2), 3–14.Google Scholar
  23. Wolcott, H. F. (1999). Ethnography. A way of seeing. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicola Ayers
    • 1
  1. 1.Federal Ministry of HealthAddis AbabaEthiopia

Personalised recommendations