Ethnography and anxiety: Field work and reflexivity in the vortex of U.S.-Cuban relations

Raymond J. Michalowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


This paper explores the ways in which geo-political forces can shape doing, interpreting, and representing ethnographic field work. Using my field work in a law collective in Havana, Cuba between 1989 and 1994 as a starting point, I consider how macro-social relationship - in this case 30 years of political hostility between the U.S. and Cuban governments - can inscribe themselves on the micro-social relations between ethnographers and informants in the field, and ethnographers and their audiences at home. The combination of geo-political tensions and reflexive attempts to discern the impact of these tensions on my field work generated, what I term, disciplinary anxiety and discursive anxiety. I consider how anxieties became part of my reflexive routines in the field, shaped my interactions with Cubans, colored my attempts to interpret those interactions, and affected my framing of those interpretations for audiences at home. I suggest that reflexivity in fieldwork must be sensitive, not only to the standpoints imbedded in the field worker's biography, but also to the way in which macro-political processes enter into the biographies of field workers, their informants, and their audiences, and influence the interactions among them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-82
Number of pages24
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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