Investing in the field: Positionalities in money and gift exchange in Vietnam
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AbstractThis paper contributes to the existing literature on positionality, ethics, research design, and the politics of the field by sketching power relations between an American researcher and Vietnamese respondents in Vietnam. I illustrate how two types of investments, financial compensation and gift exchange, “live” in the field as arbitrators of power relations between researcher and respondent. Specifically, I argue that financial and symbolic investments are important yet neglected aspects of the fieldwork experience for both investigators and research subjects because they allow both parties to deploy and negotiate multiple positionalities in the field. In sum, the paper makes three points: it outlines the multiple positionalities at play as scholars plan and execute their research; it introduces the concept of investment to field methods, with a focus on financial compensation and gift giving; and it demonstrates investment’s role in the negotiation of power between researcher and respondent.

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