Exchange of Intangible Gifts? Reflections on Research Relationships When “Studying Up”

  • Emilia Perujo
Part of the Theory and History in the Human and Social Sciences book series (THHSS)


Why do informants participate in anthropological research? To examine forms of mutual exchange in research relationships, it might be helpful to refer to one of anthropology’s key concepts: reciprocity, i.e., the principle of mutual exchange, an act of giving, receiving, and again giving back. Before we start our social science inquiries, it is clear for us why we want to be benefited by access to experiences, opinions, and beliefs, although it is never so clear why people we meet agree to participate, even more when we are not giving back a tangible, visible “gift” until research is finished, and when people do not ask for it explicitly. What do we give in exchange of their time and knowledge? In this paper I focus on four different fieldwork experiences when “studying up.” It is the result of a reflexive process of reevaluating the motives and transactional dynamics between the researcher and her conunterparts, partners, or interlocutors.


Reciprocity Fieldwork Power Interaction Ethics 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilia Perujo
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Antropología SocialUniversidad Autónoma Metropolitana-IztapalapaMexico CityMexico

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