Writing Culture; Inscribing Lives: A Reflective Treatise on the Burden of Representation in Native Research
Social and Cultural Anthropology
Sociology of Culture
This paper complicates the contested assumptions surrounding native research by exploring the burden of representation placed on native researchers because they are seen as insiders. This particular issue of representation is important for native researchers to consider, especially in instances where the research is on an understudied or politically charged group, because of the ways in which the socio-political climate influences both the telling and the reading of such research. Drawing on the author’s personal struggles as a Pakistani researcher conducting ethnographic research with Pakistani immigrants in the United States in the post-9/11 climate, this paper explores and critiques the role of the native researcher and the issues involved with representing understudied groups. Specifically, the paper focuses on authenticity, positionality, audience, and accountability. Thus, the paper is a call for researchers to be more reflective and to think more deeply about their positionality and its impact on the various constituents as they research and write. To encourage such reflexivity, the article provides a set of questions for researchers to consider at different stages of the research and writing process.