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Going to Work ‘High’: Negotiating Boundaries while Doing Ethnography of Drugs
Published in Routledge
Volume: 34
Issue: 1
Pages: 55 - 63
This paper is based on my experience of conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the Indian Himalayas to study the illegal hashish trade in the region. The work required me to spend time with cannabis cultivators, dealers, drug tourists and law enforcement officials. My informants would regularly engage in the consumption of narcotic substances. A significant part of building close and durable relationships with informants was getting intoxicated with them. Dealer and cultivator groups were generally tightly knit, and an outsider was looked upon with mistrust. I found that consuming narcotics with informants would generally induce candid conversations, which meant a good amount of data coming my way. This paper analyses the social dynamics of such interactions and discusses the ethical ambiguity inherent in such a process of data collection. Although there have been a number of insightful ethnographic studies on narcotic substances, there have been surprisingly few studies addressing the ethnographer’s experience and potential risks involved. Through a mainly reflexive examination of my fieldwork, this paper is an account of how the ethnographic method frequently pushes the fieldworker to transgress ethical, psychological, professional, social and personal boundaries. © 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
About the journal
JournalSocial Epistemology