'Being There': Mothering and Absence/Presence in the Field

Trisia Farrelly
Rochelle Stewart-Withers
Kelly Dombroski

Much has been written about families and their influence on relationships and research in fieldwork, yet seldom has the absence of family in the field received analytical attention. The authors of this paper contribute to an emerging 'anthropology of absence' in a number of ways: we direct the focus of absence away from our participants to reflect on our own children's absences in the field; we attend to the absence of individual persons whereas work in this field predominantly focuses on material objects and ethnic groups; we argue that the embodied traces felt in our children's absence make mother-child relationships unique to other unaccompanied fieldwork experiences; we illustrate the relational and contingent character of absence as absence/presence as we examine the agency of our children's absence on the process and product of our field research; and we reflect on how our children's absence/presence in the field alters our subjectivities as mother-researchers.

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Suggested citation

Farrelly, T., R. Stewart-Withers and K. Dombroski. 2014. "'Being There': Mothering and absence/presence in the field." Sites. 11(2): 25-54.