In this chapter, I approach the question of how personal experiences of illness and death affect ethnographic research and analysis. For this aim, I discuss a close friend’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, and death in relation to my research on end-stage liver diseases and liver transplant medicine. Drawing on Michael D. Jackson’s notion of “intersubjectivity,” I argue that the experiences in my private life allowed me to get a more nuanced understanding of the issues I explored professionally in the field, like facing life-threatening illnesses, impending death, and hospital life. Based on my research in clinical settings on liver transplantation, I address particularities of clinical fieldwork and claim that emotional reflexivity serves as a meaningful methodological and analytical “tool” of ethnographic research when working with people who face life-threatening illnesses. Drawing particular attention to feelings of discomfort, I highlight the importance of emotional reflexivity for anthropological inquiries when exploring, and encountering, illness and death—in the field and beyond.
- Hospital ethnography
- Emotional reflexivity