I think the biggest surprise about fieldwork is how much I am expected to reveal of myself and my own beliefs. I expected a conversation and I thought that I would get asked about how I identify, but several times I have felt almost like I was being tested. “Do you know what this means?” “Who is God?” “Explain this.” Some people have wanted not just to share their beliefs but to convince me of them. I admit that this has been a bit uncomfortable because I am generally a private person and in these moments I am put on the spot where I am expected to have an answer but I can’t really say exactly what I think. In those cases, our roles are reversed. I am trying to figure out what they want from me and give them the “correct answer.” I wonder if this is how they too feel when I ask them questions. I try to make my “interviews” casual and more of a discussion but because I am clear about my reasons for being there, it must be difficult for that thought not to enter their minds. As uncomfortable as it sometimes is, though, it’s a good reminder that I should not be invading their space and taking something without also giving in return. I am reminded of sitting in Dr. Ann Gold’s class and reading about how to do ethnography, about how to be partners in this process. I am not just a researcher trying to get information, but we are two people sharing ideas and our views of the world. I must be willing to open myself up as much as I expect them to. We are both vulnerable in those moments. And that is quite a beautiful thing.
Persaud, Prea. “Cultural Battlefields: Jhandi Flags and the Indo-Caribbean Fight for Recognition ” Web blog post. Material Religions. 27 November 2016.