Ethnographic Fieldwork Notes and Ethnofiction - Pakistan and Afghanistan

Ana Tomás's picture
Call for Publications
January 31, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Anthropology, Asian History / Studies, South Asian History / Studies

In a time where the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan make the highlights, it is worth wiping the dust off from the fieldwork notes concerning the recent anthropological research on the region. We thought, therefore, it would be pertinent to edit a book on ethnographic fieldwork notes — not avoiding literary creativity — regarding Pakistan and Afghanistan, since publications on the subject are inexistent (exception goes to, for instance, Benedicte Grima book, Secrets from the Field: An Ethnographer's Notes from Northwest Pakistan, 2004; the edited volume Fieldwork in South Asia: Memories, Moments, and Experiences). Furthermore, we would like to extend this invitation to historians and anyone who has conducted research on Pakistan (and/or Afghanistan).

The compendium of writings is intended to shed light on texts in which creativity has only as limit the verisimilitude between what they observed, and accuracy of memories and/or notes/files.

If we are allowed to say, it will not be an exaggeration to argue that after fieldwork, there are many things left unsaid. Much of the unsaid is left in diaries. Much more will be bubbling in our memories — our biggest "diary", after all. Sometimes, precisely, from this disquiet state between what we observed, reflected and analyzed, but, finally, we did not incorporate, the outcome is represented by unpublished essays that consubstantiate desires to travel other less academic paths. Texts that are more literary, and/or poetic, political, engaged, unrealistic and futuristic (as someone who dreams, desires and does not materialize). In one word, texts free from academic constraints, which, however, do not deny the verisimilitude demanded from ethnography.

Examples of these attempts to look and write about the fieldwork experience — avoiding classicisms and academic codes — are not unusual. Here we could recall texts such as Le circle de feux by Jacques Lizot, Enigma Variations by Richard and Sally Price, and The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, by Ruth Behar. Or the exceptional work of ethnofiction by Marc Augé, No Fixed Abode. Not to mention the thousands of texts emerging on the Internet, in places like Zero Anthropology or Sapiens. We could point out a variety of other examples; however, we believe that the diversity of the above statements will suffice to denounce what we are looking for: texts in which creativity only has as limit the verisimilitude between what they observed, and the accuracy of memories and/or fieldwork notes/archives.

In other words, texts in which anthropology, fiction, essay, and philosophy are not mutually avoided — we reinforce, always keeping close relation with fieldwork diaries and/or memories of the research on the field. Yet, they do not have to be "ethnofiction" (term, unfairly, almost only applied to the ethnographic documentary), but they can be. They do not have to be direct transcripts of the fieldwork diaries, but they can be. They do not have to be reflective rehearsals about "homecoming," "abandoning the fieldwork," "returning to the fieldwork," but they can be. They do not have to be related to times of tension, conflict or suffering, but they can be. Nonetheless, they have to be about what has always been kept "in the drawer", accompanying the anthropologist, and sometimes almost confessional.

The texts must respect the following bibliographic standards: a minimum of footnotes (which, in any case, will be converted into endnotes), a minimum of quotes and bibliographic references as well (whenever justified, to be integrated into the main corpus of the texts). Texts must not exceed 20 pages (approx. 8,000 words).

The deadline date for submission is 31st January 2018.

Please submit your article as Word Document attached to an email, to:

Dr. Paulo Mendes (CRIA):

Ana Tomás (EHESS, CEIAS):

Contact Email: