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Field Notes

Vol 7 No 2: September issue

‘A volunteer for life’: Interactions in resilience and service-use research in Malawi

February 19, 2020
September 30, 2020


In a time of renewed interest in the challenges of adolescent sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and service use, increased scholarly attention paid to fieldwork and knowledge production is critical. I describe the pleasure and challenges of engaging with multiple perspectives, spaces, places, and roles at a family centre in Malawi to understand the complexity of the interactions and relationships related to my doctoral fieldwork. This work is part of a large mixed-method study that explores SRH, service use, and resilience among adolescents living with HIV and attending a teen-club clinic in Blantyre, Malawi. Drawing from resilience theory and experiences of reflexivity, I reflect on my roles as a student of medical anthropology and public health, a ‘friend’, an ‘aunt’, and a ‘volunteer’; on my occupation of diverse spaces (clinics, homes, school grounds, digital); and on my use of multiple methods (including participants’ observations, individual and group interviews, workshops, feedback sessions, and fieldnotes), which make up the data collection, analysis, and interpretation processes. The reflections contained in this essay advance our understanding of the implications of the methodological considerations and ethical questions underscoring approaches to adolescents research.