Social Science Baha
Official

Doing Field Work in the United States of America and Nepal: Some Cross-Cultural Experiences

17 March, 2006

Dilli Ram Dahal
on
Doing Field Work in the United States of America and Nepal: Some Cross-Cultural Experiences

‘Fieldwork’ is the hallmark of anthropology. Nobody can become a good anthropologist without doing fieldwork. This lecture briefly reflects my own cross-cultural experiences of doing fieldwork in the United States of America (USA), indicating how an anthropologist like me, from a developing country, could encounter many problems. The American fieldwork experiences are gathered in connection with the research project on ‘The Work and the Family Life of the Industrial Midwest’ carried out by the Center for Ethnography of Everyday Life (CEEL), University of Michigan, during the period of 2000-2001.

Doing ethnographic fieldwork in America is not easy, and a researcher must be prepared to encounter both structural and cultural problems. It is my observation that doing ethnographic research is gradually becoming difficult in the USA in the name of ‘human subject research’ and with the changing values of American families over the last 40 years. In contrast, the ‘human subject research’ with the nature of ethnographic mode is much easier in developing countries such as Nepal even today.

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Dilli Ram Dahal holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Hawaii, Manoa, Honolulu. He is currently Professor at the Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University. Among the numerous books and articles he has published are Land and Migration in Far Western Nepal (1977) co-written with Navin Rai and A.E. Manzardo; Forestry User Groups: A Case Study of Forestry User Groups in Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha and Ilam Districts of the Eastern Hill Region of Nepal (1994); ‘A Nepali Anthropologist in America: Reflections on Fieldwork Among Friends’, Contributions to Nepalese Studies (2004); and ‘Social Composition of the Population: Caste/Ethnicity and Religion in Nepal’, Population Monograph of Nepal (2003).

(This lecture was organised in association with Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University, and South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg.)