The paper discusses the specific challenges of ethnographic studies on experts. For this, it draws on experiences during research on electoral assistance. Although the research investigated the rationalities of electoral assistance as a global practice and not the culture of a group of experts, it entailed fieldwork among experts in domains like elections, democracy assistance, conflict management, or gender. The paper argues that expert ethnographies who "study up" as Laura Nader called it face the risk of analytic failure and epistemic struggles. The reason is that researchers lack the 'strangerness' that used to characterize Malinowskian fieldwork. Instead, researchers share knowledge systems and language with their research counterparts and they are on par or at disadvantage in terms of power.

Eva Johais

Post Doctoral Researcher

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