The Secret Lives of Anthropologists

Most ethnographers will attempt some reflexivity on their fieldwork, on the nature of their informants, on the issues and conflicts that may arise in the field.

And yet, "[...] this sorts of discussions often take the form of "funny fieldwork stories", prior fieldwork supervisor-to-student advice [...]"  (Bombjaková 2020: 112). Very rarely you can find such information in an explicit form in the textbooks for anthropology students.

This is one of the reasons why "The Secret Lives of Anthropologists" came to be, and I am very grateful for the opportunity of being part of this project.

Among other things, in my chapter, I devote to the issues of misunderstandings between me as a researcher and my informants, but also a very different, but in my view a very important topic — the issues of self-care in the field, and how a fear of lacking data for my PhD led me to repeatedly risk my own life.


Bombjaková, D. 2020. Culturally appropriate solutions to fieldwork challenges among Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin. In: Hewlett, B. L. (ed.) (2020) The secret lives of anthropologists: lessons from the field. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 112-133.

Publisher's Abstract:

"This book addresses the difficult conditions researchers may face in the field and provides lessons in how to navigate the various social, political, economic, health and environmental challenges involved in fieldwork. It also sheds important light on aspects often considered 'secret' or taboo. A range of senior anthropologists offer the benefit of their experience conducting research in diverse cultures around the world. The contributions combine engaging personal narrative with consideration of theory and methods. The volume emphasizes how being adaptable, and aware, of the many risks and rewards of ethnographic research can help foster success in quantitative and qualitative data collection. This is a valuable resource for students of anthropological methods and those about to embark on fieldwork for the first time."