Navigating Fieldwork Politics, Practicalities and Ethics in the Upland Borderlands of Northern Vietnam
Asia Pacific viewpoint 2010; 51(2): 179-92
In this article, I detail and evaluate the negotiations I had to broker to conduct ethnographic research on marketplace vendors and trade in the upland borderlands of northern Vietnam. Working with the analogy of the numerous 'lines' I was constrained by, had to manoeuvre around, and at times crossed over, I begin with a discussion of the 'official lines' or state regulations imposed upon my research and how I worked with, or negotiated these limitations. I then reveal the important 'border guards' or gatekeepers, such as local state actors and also field assistants, who enabled or constrained access to informants in numerous different ways. I also highlight the logistical and practical lines that I had to accept and indeed, often draw, to accomplish my study. I conclude with a consideration of how friendships in the field drew me beyond the lines I had originally drawn around my research. These relationships furthered my anxiety over the possibilities for conducting research that ultimately contributes towards social justice in a constrained political setting such as that which presently characterises Vietnam.
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