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Social Anthropology: Scottish Training in Anthropological Research

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2012 - STAR 1

Pre-fieldwork training: April 23rd - 27th 2012

star1

This year’s Scottish Training in Anthropological Research (STAR) for pre-fieldwork PhD students took place again at Comrie Croft in Perthshire. Over the course of five days the cohort of thirteen aspiring anthropologists from the University of Edinburgh became acquainted with their colleagues from St. Andrews and Aberdeen. Each Scottish anthropology department was represented by one or two members of staff who gave informative talks. Most importantly, they not only shared with us their tales about the playful and entertaining elements of ethnographic research but also the trials and tribulations that are part of it. Professor Trevor Marchand from SOAS joined us for three days, reflecting on his fieldwork experiences and providing us with insightful comments on our own projects.

Most productive and enjoyable were the student-led workshops, during which we discussed anthropological research issues regarding practicalities, well-being, ethics and the connection between ethnography and theory. These were enriched by the contributions from some post-fieldwork students who considered their own fieldwork experiences and whose useful advice benefited us greatly. Needless to say, the many informal conversations and exchanges of ideas beyond the workshop sessions proved fruitful to all and fostered our sense of belonging to the wider Scottish anthropological community.

During the programme we were also asked to take fieldnotes on our daily observations in order to draw on the learnt skills and to adopt a daily routine of writing after a long day of data gathering. On the last day the three best contributions, excelling in creativity and reflexivity were awarded with a prize. The winner was Michael Heneise (UoE) and the runners up were Heid Jerstad (UoE) and Enkhgerel Ashabagad (Aberdeen).

The informal character of the programme, tailored to our needs, enabled us to learn from each other in a relaxed environment and made it an enjoyable undertaking. Most of us will leave for the field this year and thanks to the programme this no longer seems daunting. We feel better equipped to face the challenges that will undoubtedly emerge, and have found new friends with whom we can share the highs and lows of anthropological research. We already look forward to STAR 2 after our return from fieldwork!

Grit Wesser

Grad School