When the curtain falls on a fieldwork project: The last chapter of a gay synagogue study

Moshe Shokeid*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ethnographic texts preserve the historicity and losses of both the people observed and their observer. However, anthropologists rarely inform their readers about the circumstances of their departure from a fieldwork project. Without formally indicating the completion of their research goals, they usually move on to a new field and cease publishing on their former site. This procedure seemed natural enough when anthropologists conducted their studies in remote Third World locations. The constraints of distance, time, and budget made that abrupt separation seemingly inevitable and self-explanatory. But when anthropologists choose fieldwork sites that are close to home or easy to revisit, or conduct long-term research, their relationships with their subjects change radically, both during fieldwork and during the stages of writing and publishing the ethnographic text. Consequently, their eventual exit from the field involves a different process. Based on the experience of a fifteenyear engagement in the study of a gay synagogue in New York, this paper explores the latter process. The issue of exiting presents a methodological, emotional, and ethical problem meriting serious professional consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-238
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Ethnographic text
  • Reflexive anthropology
  • Termination of research


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