Arve Hansen: Doing Urban Development Fieldwork: Motorbike Ethnography in Hanoi
In SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2, 2018.
Doing fieldwork in countries and cultures different from your own comes with a host of challenges and rewards. This case discusses parts of the research behind my PhD thesis on development, consumption, and mobility in Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. I focus on the “messiness” of fieldwork and champion the need for researchers and students to adopt a flexible approach to the field. This includes being open to changing research strategies and to questioning theories and other preconceptions. In this case, I also explain how one vehicle, the motorbike, came to play a crucial role in my research, to the extent that I ended up calling my approach a “motorbike ethnography.”