Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research Edited by: Robert Gibb, Annabel Tremlett, Julien Danero Iglesias

Hardback - 256 pages
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11 Oct 2019
Researching Multilingually
Multilingual Matters
234 x 156


Learning and Using Languages in Ethnographic Research breaks the silence that still surrounds learning a language for ethnographic research and in the process demystifies some of the multilingual aspects of contemporary ethnographic work. It does this by offering a set of engaging and accessible accounts of language learning and use written by ethnographers who are at different stages of their academic career. A key theme is how researchers’ experiences of learning and using other languages in fieldwork contexts relate to wider structures of power, hierarchy and inequality. The volume aims to promote a wider debate among researchers about how they themselves learn and use different languages in their work, and to help future fieldworkers make more informed choices when carrying out ethnographic research using other languages.


Power, privilege, hierarchy, and dependence shape and often complicate ethnographers’ forays into unfamiliar languages. These thoughtful, reflexive essays, addressing an impressive range of field experiences, incisively reveal and explore the shifting ground of the authors’ linguistic interactions in relation to dynamics that are often invisible, usually risky, and always unpredictable.

- Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University, USA

This refreshing collection of articles reflects on issues of language in ethnographic research that anthropologists have tended to sweep under the carpet: The delicate issue of the ethnographer’s language competence; challenges of language learning; complications of multilingual fieldwork settings; and the ethnographer’s anxieties related to their own incomplete language mastery. Highly valuable for anyone doing ethnography in a language that is not one’s own!

- Axel Borchgrevink, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

What does learning a language well enough to conduct research really require? This treasure trove of fifteen rich case studies takes readers on a global tour of anthropologists’ searching inquiries into their sophisticated linguistic travels and travails. The joys and confounding challenges of mastering a foreign language will never again appear either opaque or generic.

- Alma Gottlieb, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

Author Biography:

Robert Gibb is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Glasgow, UK. His research interests include asylum procedures, the state, borders and translation.

Annabel Tremlett is Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth, UK. Her research investigates the differences between public and self-representations of minority or marginalized groups.  She is particularly dedicated to understanding the everyday experiences of people from these groups and challenging misleading representations.

Julien Danero Iglesias is Principal Policy and Projects Officer at Camden Council (Housing) and an Affiliate Researcher at the University of Glasgow, UK. His research interests include nationalism, discourse, borders and minorities.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional

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