Cosmopolitan Methods and Recruiting the Urban Stranger in Aotearoa New Zealand

Molly George


This article emerges from the fieldwork experiences and methodological issues that arose while conducting fieldwork with older New Zealanders in two urban settings of diversity and multiculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand. Some of the encountered methodological complexities are discussed, including the inherent complications around categorization and ethnicity when approaching the urban setting as the ethnographic field, particularly in a New Zealand context. I argue that serendipitous, fleeting interactions between ethnographer and those encountered in urban fields do not afford individuals the respectful time and space necessary to discuss matters of identity, such as ethnicity. I suggest, then, that the urban anthropologist is a peripheral stranger among other urban strangers and must employ an ethical, cosmopolitan detachment by refraining from ready categorizations in the urban field. With this discussion of cosmopolitanism-as-method, I thus present Aotearoa New Zealand as sitting at the periphery of an “anthropological gaze” that still prioritizes ethnic groupings.


cosmopolitanism, urban anthropology, ethnicity, identity, New Zealand, ethics, fieldwork methods, ageing

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