Title: Stories from the lived and living fieldwork process
Author: Courtney E. Cole
Excerpt: In this paper, I narrate and reflect on the process of observational field research on a peacebuilding organization working in rural Sierra Leonean communities. In 2009 and 2010, I visited Sierra Leone in order to observe the organization’s work, both in the capital of Freetown, as well as in several rural districts. The first trip was mainly to become familiar with the organization and the country, as well as orient my research for a return trip the following year. During my second trip, I spent considerable time traveling in Sierra Leone with the US-based president of the organization, in addition to observing organizational activities and the work of staff members.
…My ethnographic fieldwork was a time in which I was confronted, constantly, with issues of difference and identity. These issues were often experienced through the inescapability of my material body, my movement across space, and passage through time. What is most often missing in the writing up of qualitative research – my own included – is this material, processual nature of fieldwork, and its dynamic nature. I aim to address these missing aspects of the qualitative research process in this piece by telling the story of the process of my field research, its development in different spaces, and across time. In doing so, I engage dilemmas and challenges embodied in the practice of qualitative fieldwork.