Playing Bideshi (Western) by a Deshi (Local) Ethnographer in the Field: Ambiguities in the ‘Insider-Outsider’ Relationship

Camellia S1

1Radboud University

Drawing on my year-long experience conducting ethnographic fieldwork to understand the sociocultural construction of shame about sexuality among 72 urban middleclass boys and girls (15-19 years) living in Dhaka, this paper discusses how I think my affiliation with a Dutch University as a PhD researcher has influenced my rapport building with the research participants. On one hand, it positioned me as an ‘outsider’ to the participants – as someone from a Western country who is familiar with modern notions of sexuality. On the other, this ‘outsider’ position helped me to obtain an ‘insider’ status without much struggle. Participants saw their views of sexuality as modern as opposed to that of their parents’ generation and assumed my views would be similar to theirs. Hence, they thought they could openly share their thoughts and experiences about sexuality with me, which are usually considered taboo and cannot be discussed with an adult. This article contributes to the ongoing debate on the fluidity of insider/outside boundaries in anthropological research and suggests that these boundaries are often thin and blurred particularly when a researcher studies her own culture and own community.


Ms. Camellia is a South Asian feminist anthropologist. Currently she is doing her PhD at the Gender & Diversity Studies of Radboud University, the Netherlands. Her research aims at gaining a better understanding of what sexuality means to young people in Bangladesh through the concept of ‘shame’.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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