Advancing the Value of Ethnography

Resisting Resilience: An Anthropologist’s Paradox


Cite this article:

2022 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918,

Resilience can be a tremendous asset to any individual’s ability to carry on despite difficulties. At the same time, revering resilience without a healthy amount of respect for emotional vulnerability—by which I mean the intentional choice to tap into our emotional beings and allow ourselves to deeply experience the emotions that arise in us doing our fieldwork and analysis phases of ethnographic research—can be a hindering block to doing good anthropological work. Drawing upon three examples from my personal work as an anthropologist—one from academic research in interreligious relations, one from a healthtech start up context, and one from doing ethnographic work in corporate settings—I call out for anthropologists to not neglect our emotional experiences. I point back to the often-referenced “empathy” within anthropological spheres and, looking at empathy as both a cognitive and an emotional phenomenon, I join the conversation of others who are arguing for the intentional inclusion of affective empathy.

Colourful buildings in the background, with a bridge over a waterway

Photo by Nika Kuchuk and used with permission.

Nadya Pohran is a cultural anthropologist whose research interests and areas of passion include interreligious relations, healthcare, community formation, holistic wellbeing, and LGBTQ communities. She has published two academic books and a handful of peer-reviewed articles related to anthropology of religion. She currently works as an anthropologist in business settings and loves collaborating with passionate individuals.


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