• Trisia Farrelly Massey University
  • Rochelle Stewart-Withers Massey University
  • Kelly Dombroski University of Canterbury




absence, absence/presence, academic mothers, fieldwork, mothering


Much has been written about families and their influence on relationships and research in fieldwork. However, seldom has the absence of family in the field received analytical attention. The authors of this paper contribute to an emerging ‘anthropology of absence’ in a number of ways: We direct the focus of absence away from our participants to reflect on our own child/ren’s absences in the field; we attend to the absence of individual persons whereas most work in this field to date focuses on material objects and ethnic groups; we argue that the embodied traces felt in our child/ren's absence make mother-child relationships unique to other unaccompanied fieldwork experiences; we illustrate the relational and contingent character of absence as absence/presence; we examine the agency of our child/ren’s absence on the process and product of our fieldwork research; and we reflect on how our child/ren’s absence/presence in the field alters our subjectivities as mother-researchers.

Author Biographies

Trisia Farrelly, Massey University

Dr Trisia Farrelly is a Lecturer in Sociocultural Anthropology with the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Research interests include community-based development; protected area management; conservation; Indigenous Fijian epistemologies and methodologies, development, indigenous Fijian micropolitics, governance, and entrepreneurship; socio-cultural analyses of waste minimisation; informal economies; collective memory work; Pacific Islands waste management.

Rochelle Stewart-Withers, Massey University

Dr Rochelle Stewart-Withers is a Lecturer with the Institute of Development Studies, School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Her research focuses on the Pacific region where she has on-going research interests in parenting, households and family, gender, qualitative research methodologies, Pacific epistemology, and also sport as a vehicle for development.

Kelly Dombroski, University of Canterbury

Dr Kelly Dombroski is a Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her research interests converge around the home, everyday life, and the body as sites of social and economic change. Her empirical work is based in multi-ethnic northwest China and in urban Australia and New Zealand




How to Cite

Farrelly, T., Stewart-Withers, R., & Dombroski, K. (2014). ‘BEING THERE’: MOTHERING AND ABSENCE/PRESENCE IN THE FIELD. Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies, 11(2), 25–56. https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol11iss2id281