Navigating the Field



What follows in this website is a series of modules designed to help graduate students ‘navigate the field’. We have built them into an open access website in the hope that they may be useful to both students engaged in fieldwork, and staff or supervisors who are trying to support students to undertake fieldwork.

The practice of fieldwork is not something uniquely shaped by specific disciplinary areas, but is rather a shared experience across a range of academic areas. The experience of undertaking fieldwork while it can be both professionally and personally enriching, can also come with a range of challenges that are often compounded by issues of intersectionality. It is the discussion of fieldwork experiences, both beyond and between various disciplines, that form the basis of these modules that can be used to run a workshop. Ultimately, the aim of these modules is the help students prepare for their own fieldwork by leading them through a set of structured readings, discussions and activities that allow them to consider: (a) their unique field site, (b) their positional location in relation to the field, (c) structures of power between the field and the academy, (d) violence in the field, (e) how to move towards the field, with awareness.

These modules seek to explore issues of positionality in the field through the lens of gender, sexuality, class, age and ethnicity, enabling students to map networks of power and support operating in their proposed field sites. Through a series of readings, discussions and activities students will learn to conceptualise ‘the field’ as something bigger than just the site of their data-collection and in the process highlight potential dangers, complexities and risks they will face as they begin navigating ‘their’ field.

By allowing for the plural and diverse understanding of the ways in which field work is conducted, and allowing space for discussions of positionality, these modules aim to support students who are preparing to enter ‘the field’ associated with their research.

We hope you find this helpful.

Siobhan McDonnell and Annie McCarthy