New Article

Emotional Labor in Critical Ethnographic Work: In the Field and Behind the Desk


Krista McQueeney and Kristen M. Lavelle

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 46(1):81–107

DOI: 10.1177/0891241615602310

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In this article, the concept of emotional labor is used to capture dilemmas of critical ethnographic research. We frame our experiences not simply as “confessional tales,” or personalized accounts of how researchers experience their fieldwork, but as part of critical methodology itself. We identify three strategies for transforming our emotional labor into an analytic tool: contextualizing emotions, using emotions to unmask power in the research process, and linking emotions to personal biographies. Following ethnographers who question the separation between data and analysis, we explore how emotions and power intersected in two key ethnographic “moments”: collecting data and writing the research narrative.