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Description:  Outsider and insider are relational terms, and our status can shift depending on context. Fieldwork is often an experience of outsider status for the anthropologist.  In this exercise, you are tasked with going someplace where you are an outsider to try (respectfully and safely, adhering to all Covid-19 guidelines) to participate in some activity.  Some possibilities might include attending an ethnic festival, going to a meeting of an ethnic or racial student group, attending a religious ceremony of a different religion, or having a drink at a gay club or a biker bar.  Refer to Brown pp 37-59, “Navigating Field-Based Assignments” as a guide to preparing for and taking notes during and after your experience.

Important note: Many of us experience outsider status on a daily basis.  The goal of this essay is to gain some analytical distance on the experience of being positioned as an outsider (in other words, defamiliarization of our own position in a group, rather than defamiliarization of an object like Coke).  It is, therefore, helpful to explore a new and different situation.  There are always new settings in which we can find ourselves positioned as an outsider.  However, if you really wish to draw on a previous experience, or if pandemic conditions preclude safely entering spaces with new people, you may a) focus on a specific past event and b) reflect on how your perspective at the time was different from the anthropological perspective that you now bring to your analysis of the experience.

If you have a topic in mind and are unsure that it meets the essay requirements, please consult with your TA before writing the draft.

Draft:  After you complete your fieldwork, draft a 4 page reflexive paper (see Brown pp. 59-61) using an essay format (see Brown pp 62-63).  Although the genre of this essay calls for the use of ‘I’ and a personal recounting of experience, you should still have a thesis and use the anthropological perspective to offer analysis and interpretation of  your experience.  Be sure to provide your reader with context: you may need to explain in what way you were an outsider, what defined being an “insider”, and, if relevant, how you felt the boundary between insiders/outsiders was established.  You may organize your paper as a story with a chronological narrative arc (beginning, middle, end) or you may organize events thematically with sections dedicated to analyzing important elements.  In either case, consider how you would answer the question: what is the point of my story?  Keesing’s essay “Not a Real Fish” may serve as a useful model.  It is not required to use scholarly sources for this paper; if you choose to do so, make sure they are properly cited.