We, too: contending with the sexual politics of fieldwork in China

Mindi Schneider*, Elizabeth Lord, Jessica Wilczak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This paper contributes to a feminist politics of fieldwork by elevating narratives that have been pushed to the periphery of academic and methodological debates, particularly in China Studies. Inspired by feminist geographers’ understandings of positionality, as well as the global #MeToo movement, we detail how China’s current historical moment—when patriarchy, the market, and growing authoritarianism intersect to commodify bodies and quell dissent—shapes gendered and sexualized fieldwork relationships. Drawing on our own experiences, as well as interviews with other China Studies researchers, the paper engages specific sites where researchers’ bodies are sexualized and sometimes threatened. This includes banquets, karaoke bars, and the virtual spaces of messaging platforms and social media. We explore methodological implications of such relationships and share strategies that researchers have adopted as they attempt to make grim tradeoffs between personal security and ‘getting the data.’ The paper calls for more frank discussions of the sexual politics of field-based research, particularly with early-career researchers, and for a valorization of less-than-heroic approaches to fieldwork.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGender, Place and Culture
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jun 2020

Keywords

  • #MeToo
  • Banquets
  • China
  • gender and sexuality
  • politics of fieldwork
  • sexual harassment

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