Category Archives: veldwerk

Only looking forward?

“In front of the office of the NGO stood a traditional ‘hanok’ house which caved in just a few days before I took this picture.”

By Maaike van Nus       “My initial expectation before meeting them was that they would be more, ehm, that they wouldn’t be as assimilated as they are, I mean it’s a good thing that they are, but it seems they all have cell phones, and they all have grown fairly accustomed to the life here”

This was told to me in an interview with one of my informants about the North Korean refugees he’d just met. For my master in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU I conducted three months of fieldwork in Seoul, South Korea. I worked with an NGO that provides North Korean refugees with free English lessons by matching them with volunteers who speak fluent English. My research revolves around these volunteers. North Korea has always been a great interest and concern of mine, as well as the resettlement of North Korean refugees once they have escaped their homeland through China, and thus I decided to focus my research on volunteers who help them in this resettlement process. Continue reading

‘What if they were really extreme’

Hayate Ait Bouzid is a Master student Anthropology at the VU who did her research about the environmental behaviour of middle-class people in Brunei Darussalam. A country that is often not known by the large public or at best misconceived. She is sharing her story about how the preconceived view of Brunei made her question her trip to this Southeast Asian country.

BruneiBeing back from my three months fieldwork in Brunei Darussalam, it feels like I have never been there really, it all seems like a dream. With emphasis on the word dream, not nightmare. To be honest, in the beginning I was quite afraid of this country, afraid of the unknown. Especially with having very few people in my surroundings knowing about this country and if they knew about it, the first two things they would say were: ‘Oh yes, it’s located on the Island of Borneo, I have been to Sabah you know’ or ‘Oh.. do you know they have the Sharia there..?’.

The latter really made me question my trip to Brunei. In one way or another I was afraid it would limit my research. So a few weeks before going there I really had this thought: ‘Sh*t, what did I get myself into, by going to this country…?.’ I was searching on YouTube for a few minutes of reassurance, but I couldn’t find much. The feeling got worse, with every news article I read about the restriction of the Sharia law in the country, the negative stories about the Sultan and how Christmas was totally banned in Brunei. Continue reading

Negligent NGO with happy parents: Voluntourism and the voice of the local beneficiaries

The NGO is located in little town in the peripheries of Arequipa

Pauline van der Valk        I have always had a keen interest in the local beneficiaries’ perspective on development projects. It was only when I started my Masters in Anthropology that I learned more about the phenomenon of voluntourism. Scholars agree voluntourism is part of the tourism sector, but also acknowledge voluntourists combine leisure activities with development practices. For this reason I found this niche market in the tourism sector highly intriguing and I decided to focus my thesis on voluntourism rather than on development. During my preparatory work I had read up on voluntourism, and the first discovery I made was that opinions on voluntourism differ greatly. There is a myriad of works concerning this topic, and I read it all – from moderately positive scholars claiming voluntourism increases mutual cultural understanding, to plain depressing works from scholars arguing voluntourism reinforces underlying global North – global South power relations. My main interest was in gaining the perspectives of those on the receiving end of the voluntourism chain. For this reason I focused my research on the experiences of the local parents and their children involved in voluntourism: the local beneficiaries. I choose this particular topic because during the preparation for my fieldwork I was rather surprised to find that the perspective of the local beneficiaries was often overlooked or under highlighted.
Continue reading

Dreaming of Falafel Country: A Glimpse on Israeli, Palestinian and Foreign Visitors’ Perceptions of an Ecological Peace Project

Food in EcoME is mostly vegan and vegetarian in order to be able to host people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Many participants love it, others have to get used to it. Photo by the author.

By an anonymous researcher        I am reading through my field-notes, getting immersed in the life 4.200km from here. Back from researching a peace project in the West Bank, I feel touched by both precarious lives and people’s good intentions.

EcoME (“Ecological Middle East”) assembles Israelis, Palestinians and foreign visitors and offers them a space to meet in the middle of intractable conflict. Sustained by volunteers, it promotes a simple lifestyle and activities respective sustainability, non-violent communication and arts. The project has a holistic approach, aims to cover spiritual, social, economic and environmental aspects. It draws on ideas from the global ecovillage movement. Continue reading

Dancing to the State: Ethnic Compulsions of the Tangsa in Assam

GateBy Meenaxi Barkataki-Ruscheweyh            Let me begin by telling you a little bit about myself, the region and the people — the Tangsa — with whom I worked and some of the questions that I explored. Although I live in Germany now, I am Indian, more specifically an Assamese from the state of Assam in northeast India. Northeast India is a region which is geographically (and according to many, also emotionally) remote from the national capital at New Delhi. Separated from the rest of India except at a corridor, not much more than 20 kms at its narrowest, this region is surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan and the Tibet region of China. Continue reading

Het verhaal achter haar Ugandese haar

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“Een vriendin op een ‘boda boda’ (motortaxi) op weg naar het Victoriameer”

Door Esther Platteeuw            Op een warme dag in maart loop ik in de straten van Jinja Town op weg naar het internetcafé ‘The Source’. Met Oegandese radiomuziek in mijn oren zonder ik me af van de blikken, handgebaren en het ‘Mzungu’ geroep waar je als blanke veel mee geconfronteerd wordt in deze Afrikaanse stad. Ik ben net een straat overgestoken waarna mijn aandacht van een Oegandees popliedje naar de realiteit op straat wordt getrokken, ‘Esther’, ‘Esther’ hoor ik opeens. Automatisch draai ik mijn hoofd om en zie daar de stralende lach van een Ugandese meid van ongeveer dezelfde leeftijd als ik. Een gevoel van schaamte komt op omdat ik haar niet meteen herken, terwijl zij mijn naam wel kent. Na een paar tellen van onbegrip en vliegensvlug nadenken, besef ik dat een vriendin voor me staat. “Oh, it’s you, Fatima!”, zeg ik enigszins opgelucht. “Yeah, it’s me”, reageert ze, “I changed my hair, haha”. Continue reading

A day in Makata village (Malawi)

The neighbour baking mandasi early in the morning


Liza Koch
        My day starts at 5:15 because of the noise outside. The sun is rising and people are starting their day. My ‘host mom’ is already fully dressed and almost finished cleaning her house. She pushes her daughter to get ready for school. When I go outside I see the neighbour baking mandasi (comparable to our new year dough balls), she starts around 4 o’clock in the morning to sell them later at the small market 200 meters from here. Continue reading