Our Book of the Month choice for October

The SSL ‘Book of the Month’ feature highlights a book in our collection that has been chosen by one of our Subject Consultants. This may be a recent addition to our stock or an existing item that we would like to share with you.

Helen Worrell (Subject Consultant for Anthropology) selecting a book from the SSL book shelves.

October’s Book of the Month was selected by Helen Worrell Subject Consultant for Anthropology.


Reciprocity rules: friendship and compensation in fieldwork encounters

edited by Michelle C. Johnson & Edmund (Ned) Searles

Lexington Books, 2022

GN34.3.F53.REC 2022



This recent publication was chosen as a fresh examination of the foundation of anthropology – ethnographic fieldwork. It addresses the dynamics of power that is often present in these encounters and contributes to wider conversations on decolonising anthropology.

Book Overview

Focusing on compensation, friendship, and collaboration, this book explores what anthropologists and research participants give to each other in and beyond fieldwork. Contributors argue that while learning and following the local rules of reciprocity are challenging, they are essential to responsible research and efforts to decolonize anthropology


This truly exciting volume addresses an acute aspect of anthropological fieldwork: that of reciprocity. As it can be a thorny issue, a systematic inquiry into it has been neglected far too long. How can, and should, anthropologists give something back to the people who have allowed them into their lives, even into sensitive situations? And for how long should this reciprocity go on? As the editors Michelle C. Johnson and Edmund (Ned) Searles argue, this raises key ethical and methodological issues. Filling an embarrassing gap, Reciprocity Rules is bound to become influential.

Helena Wulff, Stockholm University

A very welcome volume about that fundamental question within anthropological fieldwork: How to compensate our hosts? Based on the extensive long-term fieldwork experiences of the authors and richly illustrated with telling ethnographic details the chapters convincingly and insightfully demonstrate the importance of a nuanced understanding of reciprocal fieldwork obligations. Topics as the importance of studying local gifting practices, the pros and cons of different kinds of gifts and support, the importance of nonmaterial forms of compensation, the obligations—and joys—of fictive kinship relationships, reciprocal writing strategies, the context of decolonization, and many more, each exemplify the essential ethical and moral fieldwork lessons that can be learned from this original volume. Highly recommended for classes in ethnographic research methods.

Geert Mommersteeg, University of Utrecht

Reciprocity Rules is a great contribution to our understanding of fieldwork. Applying “the Gift” and “reciprocity” in concrete and reflexive ways, this collection portrays the inside story of how relations between ethnographers and those they are working with actually develop over time. Like all close relationships, those in the field engage challenges and misunderstandings as well as treasures of deep connection. Based on diverse fieldwork across four continents, the book’s authors average 24 years of connection with their field communities. For those interested in the ethics, methods, and experience of fieldwork, including junior scholars, this work is a gold mine of concrete and practical insights that reach far beyond the standard generalities of research design and methods.

Bruce Knauft, Samuel C. Dobbs Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

A brilliant and moving intervention into the fraught but fecund terrain of encounter between anthropologist and interlocutor, researcher and host community, and a profound set of meditations on the ethics of such engagement. Trail-blazing in its treatment of the unstated in anthropological fieldwork, this book should be required reading for fieldworkers, not only in anthropology but in all the qualitative research disciplines.

Charles D. Piot, Duke University

How can I access it?

We have one lending copy of this book, which is currently located in our New Books Display Area (around the corner from our Issue Desk). Its shelfmark is GN34.3.F53.REC 2022

Image of an open book with the pages curled to form a love heartWhat would your SSL Book of the Month be? Do you have a favourite book in our collection? If so, we would love to know what it is. Add a comment below or email us.

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