Understanding ethnography through a life course framework: a research journey into alternative spiritual spaces

Francesca Fois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)
247 Downloads (Pure)


Recently scholars have emphasised the importance of looking at the researcher's experience and how positionality, emotions and embodiment shape the ethnographic fieldwork process. Specifically, feminist contributions have shown how the professional and the personal can be interlinked when conducting ethnographic research and have reconsidered the role of the researcher in the production of knowledge. However, such accounts often lack analytical engagements and/or reveal little about the researcher's experience beyond the fieldwork. By adopting a life course framework and its conceptual categories of social pathways, turning points, and transitions & trajectories, this paper offers an analytical device to read through the ethnographer's own experience. The paper explores a research journey undertaken in the intentional spiritual communities of Damanhur (Italy) and Terra Mirim (Brazil) by the author, which aimed to study the enactment of alternative spaces. By integrating a life course framework, this paper firstly argues the need to consider how social pathways shape the life course positioning and the research trajectory. Secondly, it shows how turning points can affect both the research direction but also the researcher's life course. Thirdly, the paper argues that the fieldwork is only one of the transitional phases of ethnographic research and encourages the researcher to reflect on its long-term effects. It concludes by discussing how such experience can impact on the life course of the researcher as well as on the research participants
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-428
Issue number4
Early online date07 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2017


  • ethnography
  • life course
  • emotions
  • turning points
  • research transitions
  • spiritual communities


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