Indonesia Inquiry

Conducting Fieldwork in Indonesia – Part II

July 21, 2011 Data Research Resources 0


The advice below supplements the suggestions from a previous posting on Indonesia Inquiry: “Conducting Fieldwork in Indonesia – Part I.”  A third post with further advice is also available at “Conducting Fieldwork in Indonesia – Part III.”


== Data Collection (Online Searches) ==

Advanced ways to use Google:

* Visit to conduct article searches, but you may have to refine your search to filter out mentions in someone’s thank you notes.  For example, type “author: name here.”

* Use Google Advanced Search to narrow down online searches:

* ”20 Great Google Secrets”:,2704,1306756,00.asp

* Google Web Search Features:


== Ethical Issues in Fieldwork ==

* Confidentiality:

  • You may want to use pseudonyms for interviewees and research participants to protect their identities.
  • Your university (particularly if in the United States) will probably require that you use informed consent forms with human subjects. This may or may not be possible/feasible given certain circumstances. Talk with faculty and other researchers about their experiences, strategies, and compromises.
  • Though “name-dropping” is common (e.g., to open doors, provide reassurance that your research is legitimate, cater to curiosity, etc.), be careful about disclosing who you have conducted interviews with and what they have said.

* Corruption:

  • You may unwittingly or purposely participate in “corruption” while in Indonesia. Talk to peers and colleagues about navigating this sometimes rocky terrain and related consequences.


== Gender Issues ==

* Clothing & Gender:

* Cultural Encounters & Gender:

  • You can expect personal questions from anyone and everyone. People will ask about your age, marital or partner status, children, education, career, religion, physical health, your body (e.g., weight, hair, breasts, bottom, and skin color), the type of birth control you take, etc. How honest and complete your answers are is up to you. It might be to your advantage not to be 100% honest for instance. Certain situations might call for you to say that you are married or at least traveling with a man even if that is not the case. Another example is that you may want to be more “modest” about your education or “inflate” your education depending on how that status will affect your interactions with others. You can avoid answering or “lying” by saying that you prefer not to answer a personal question, but sometimes avoidance can create a negative vibe or confusion, thus limiting rapport.
  • Be very careful regarding opposite-sex (and even same-sex) friendships and relationships. Even if you are sure you’re “just friends,” the other person and his/her friends, family, colleagues, etc. may not feel or think the same thing. There may be problems concerning different expectations, reputations, reciprocity, etc.
  • Stereotypes (usually based on misinformation from the mass media) often exist about foreign women. People may say or do things that you find inappropriate and they may or may not realize they are offending you. You can ignore, leave, or “educate” a person depending on the circumstances.

* In the Field & Gender:

  • When arranging for interviews, be as specific as possible about the date, time, and location in advance. For example, “Can we meet for an interview on February 25, 2012 at 9am at your office?” When possible, meet at offices. Meeting at restaurants, homes, hotels, etc. has the potential of creating awkward situations or can hurt your image or reputation because of gossip.
  • If you are a woman researcher, it might be useful to hire a male assistant to help with data collection and/or secretarial tasks. A male assistant can help arrange interviews, as well as sit in on them, but beware that sometimes a dynamic develops where the interviewee and assistant end up having a dialogue instead of you and the interviewee.

* Transportation & Gender:

  • Though it is more expensive, taxis are often your best choice to get from Point A to Point B. They tend to be cleaner, safer, and the drivers don’t harass you as much.  There are exceptions of course, so beware of potential theft and harassment.
  • If you have a regular routine, a local becak or ojek can be great if you establish a professional working relationship.
  • It is customary to sit sidesaddle on a motorbike if you are wearing a skirt and you are a passenger.