Waiting: The shrouded backbone of ethnographic research

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


Waiting is an integral and intuitive state of being in ethnography. However, nowadays there are wide concerns in neoliberal academia around time, mobility and doing more in shorter timeframes – all of which can reduce time in the field. Based on multisited ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Delhi in 2019, focused on documenting the lived experience of internal migrant workers in the informal sector navigating the legal system, this chapter argues for the role of ‘waiting’ as a methodological tool in its own right. The contribution is twofold. First, the chapter shows that waiting offers an opportunity to contextualize the social and political worlds of the participants. This ensures a methodological commitment to ethnography in the presence of institutional and time constraints. Second, waiting provides the space to build trusting relationships between the researcher and the participants in the field which is otherwise all about domination and inequality. This is especially valuable in migration and mobility studies where the field cannot be marked spatially and where the researcher must submit to the clock of the research sites and the routines of its people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Politics and Ethics of Representation in Qualitative Research
Subtitle of host publicationAddressing Moments of Discomfort
EditorsCritical Methodologies Collective
Place of PublicationUK
ISBN (Electronic)9780367281038
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2021


  • research ethics
  • research method
  • discomfort in research
  • fieldwork
  • representation
  • accountability


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