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Stein, H.F. (1992). Psychoanalytic Aspects of Fieldwork: By Jennifer C. Hunt. Newbury Park, CA/London/New Delhi: Sage Publications, Inc., 1989. 93 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:309-312.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:309-312

Psychoanalytic Aspects of Fieldwork: By Jennifer C. Hunt. Newbury Park, CA/London/New Delhi: Sage Publications, Inc., 1989. 93 pp.

Review by:
Howard F. Stein

Until 1967, when From Anxiety to Method in the Behavioral Sciences was published, George Devereux had been seeking a publisher for his synoptic work for over thirty years. Today, the self of the therapist and human researcher has come increasingly to be recognized as the core instrument for all understanding and treatment. If the self of the analyst is the core of healing, the self of the fieldwoker is the core of social research. The monograph under review joins contributions by G. Devereux, W. La Barre, L. B. Boyer, W. Kracke, H. F. Searles, and many others. Drawing from widely used paradigms of constructivism, hermeneutics, existentialism, and social interactionism, Hunt deepens these all through her exploration of the role of fantasies, dreams, affects, and inner conflicts in all facets of field research and cultural interpretation.

The author is a sociologist who is also an analytic research candidate. Her data sources consist of anthropological and sociological literature on fieldwork, fieldnotes from eighteen months of fieldwork in a metropolitan police department, interviews with researchers in cross-cultural and United States settings, and participant observation in medical settings. She candidly and courageously offers generous examples of her own transference responses—and their autobiographical roots—while she was studying police work and medicine. She writes, "The fieldworker's journey involves a complex transformation in the subject, object, and known cultural reality" (p. 28). Moreover, "fieldwork is, in part, the discovery of the self through the detour of the other" (p. 42). Hunt shows the intersubjective dialogue of fieldwork to be D. W. Winnicott's "squiggle" writ large. Describing examples of fieldwork as direct participation in people's lives, she implicitly shows how reality can be analyzed in terms of its unconscious contributions to social process (e.g., fieldwork texts as akin to free associations). Hunt shows how fieldworker transference can "facilitate" or "blind" understanding (p. 26).


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