Navigating Area Studies: Insiders and Outsiders in Middle Eastern and North African, South Asian and Latin American Studies



area studies, positionality, autoethnography, decolonial feminism, MENA, South Asia, Latin America


In this collaborative article, we – Anwar Mhajne and Crystal Whetstone – investigate our positionalities in diverse area studies through a critical reflection on our experiences as political science graduate students conducting fieldwork for our dissertations. We work across different area studies – the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and South Asia and Latin America – mainly as an insider (Mhajne) or simply as an outsider (Whetstone). Taking an interpretive approach and using the method of autoethnography, we critically reflect on our different fieldwork experiences undertaken as political science graduate students, relying on postcolonialism to guide us. We ask: how can our fieldwork experiences complicate the structures of insider and outsider in relation to our situatedness in different regions of area studies? We engage with a decolonial feminist framework to help unpack these experiences and to imagine how our varied experiences disrupt the colonization processes embedded within area studies. We conclude by identifying eight ways to further decolonize area studies based on our fieldwork and other scholars’ work.

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2022.8