There and back again: The biosocial dynamics of returning from the field

Mallika S. Sarma, Theresa E. Gildner, Michaela E. Howells, Sheina Lew-Levy, Benjamin C. Trumble, Agustín Fuentes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Leaving “home” to pursue fieldwork is a necessity but also a rite of passage for many biological anthropology/human biology scholars. Field-based scientists prepare for the potential changes to activity patterns, sleep schedules, social interactions, and more that come with going to the field. However, returning from extended fieldwork and the reverse-culture shock, discomforts, and mental shifts that are part of the return process can be jarring, sometimes traumatic experiences. A failure to acknowledge and address such experiences can compromise the health and wellbeing of those returning. Aims: We argue for an engaged awareness of the difficult nature of returning from the field and offer suggestions for individuals and programs to better train and prepare PhD students pursuing fieldwork. Materials & Methods: Here, we offer personal stories of "coming back" and give professional insights on how to best ready students and scholars for returning from fieldwork. Discussion/Conclusion: By bringing forward and normalizing the difficulty of the fieldwork-return process, we hope that this reflection acts as a tool for future scholars to prepare to come home as successfully and consciously as possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23673
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'There and back again: The biosocial dynamics of returning from the field'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this