Insecurities of nativism: A woman ethnographer studying her own community

Malvika Sharma


This article, through various ethnographic encounters, highlights the advantages and explores the challenges of fieldwork for a female researcher studying what might be taken to be her own community. Doing a native anthropology in a marginal borderland that has not been explored anthropologically before turns out to be an interesting experience. On the one hand, the identity of being a native of the region carves out ways in the field that help her overcome barriers; on the other hand, the same identity, through her common ethnic and cultural belonging, kinship relations, and local familiarity restricts her in many ways. Through explorations of her identity in the field along gender, caste, class, and ethnic lines, the work highlights how sometimes she is an insider, sometimes an outsider, and sometimes a partial-insider-outsider, thereby collapsing the strict division of a researcher into categories of an outsider and an insider.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/719413