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Grieser, Anna (2016): When the power relationship is not in favour of the anthropologist: reflections on fieldwork in Gilgit-Baltistan. In: Zeitschrift für ethnologie, Vol. 141, No. 2: pp. 177-195

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Without doubt, a great deal of fieldwork is monitored or influenced by government or intelligence services;yet, ethnography about such circumstances is rather exceptional. The reason for this, as I understand it, is the power that is attributed to the publication and through it also to the ethnographer possibly being harmful, due to the notion that publications can harm the researcher him- or herself, interlocutors or subsequent researchers. But is the researcher really as powerful as such a view proposes? Taking ethnography as a comprehensive project, i.e. comprising both ethnography and an ethnographic process, it should be clear that the ethnographer is often far from being in a position of power, regarding both ethnographic counterparts as well as powerful institutions and bureaucratic organisations. These elements affect not only the lives of the people anthropologists use to study, as Laura Nader (1972) proposed, but the fieldworker as well, by influencing his or her research possibilities and experiences and thus the ethnographic view and output. Examining my fieldwork under surveillance in Gilgit-Baltistan, the main concern of this contribution is to look at such power relations and how they influence the research. Setting the stage with an ethnographic encounter with intelligence officers, the article continues with a short discussion of the challenges of carrying out fieldwork under surveillance, followed by an overview of common surveillance practices in the region where the fieldwork took place. Subsequently, it offers a concise ethnography of fieldwork under surveillance, followed by an analysis of the premises on which the intelligence officers I encountered may have engaged as well as the local and cultural logic behind their engagement. I conclude with the proposition that the researcher is often far from being the one who decides about defining the terms of the research, ethnographic relationships or encounters.

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