ethics of fieldwork

6 Jun

My “ride” came to pick me up early this afternoon. I thought this entire time I was heading to the church for a service. Better that it be a big congregation so that I could just hide in the background. Instead, it was much more than that. The two people greeted me the same warm smiles and cheer they had shown me a week earlier. The minister, in particular, had the same charming, boyish style that left such an impression on me from before. Despite my stuttering Korean, these two, I recalled still were incredibly friendly and understanding. The Korean Church abroad: friendliness just a phone call a way. But wait, I soon discovered we weren’t going to the church. Instead, we headed straight back to my guest house. “Is the owner a believer?” they both asked me, their tone becoming suddenly, and unexpectedly, serious. “Um… I think she said she didn’t really go but I’m not entirely sure.” “We could go in, but then it might be awkward,” the minister who was driving told his “partner” behind me quietly. The two deliberated some more as I wondered… What situation am I in right now?


New folks have arrived. It appears to be a short stay, maybe only a day or so for each of the three. And yet, I’m happy just to have company. Been alone too long with the old fogie guesthouse owners. The ahjuma (older woman) is a sweetheart with her constant chattiness, smile, and general concern for my well-being. It’s enough, almost, for me to see past the unabashedly racist and “classist” things she tends to say about “dirty Chinese,” “low-class Indians,” and the like. However, as a reluctant “social scientist” I’m learning to take such comments in stride. It should always be less about having an “my god!” reaction than it is sincerely asking (only to oneself more often than not) WHY and HOW they came to feel that way. That is how change occurs, after all, doesn’t it? But I digress.


The man of the house, however, is a figure in gruffness.


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