“Ghar Toh Sanjhona Hai” (The Home Must Be Cherished): Notes on Familial Ethnography

Paras Arora
Mon April 8th 2024, 12:30 - 1:20pm


Even though an increasing number of anthropologists have been (re)turning to their home communities and countries for ethnographic research, it has taken the immobilizing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic to forefront another scale of “home” that has always invisibly encumbered, influenced, and even nourished the “lone fieldworker”- that is, their family. As a sibling to an autistic individual with high support needs, I also found myself conducting ethnographic research on familial care and adult autism in my hometown, Delhi. In this paper, I reflect on my experience of undertaking this research and, through this reflection, conceive of “familial ethnography” as a genre of conducting ethnographic research on, through, and alongside one’s family. Building upon “native anthropology” and “patchwork ethnography”, familial ethnography centers on the experiences of ethnographers whose familial relatedness orients their methodological choices at all levels of anthropological research. In this conception, then, the fieldworker’s familial relations cannot be renounced “back at home” or momentarily thanked in the acknowledgments section after the conclusion of research. Instead, the fieldworker sustains an engagement with familial relations before, during, and after the formal timeline of an ethnographic project. In this talk, I trace this stretched temporality of familial ethnography in my own research to envisage family in a dialectical or lateral relationship to fieldwork. This circulatory relationship of “alongside”, I argue, can reveal novel ways of planning, conducting, and producing ethnographies that unsettle the vertical movements from strangeness to familiarity in anthropology.