How to Study People Who Do Not Want to be Studied: Practical Reflections on Studying Up

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

170 Downloads (Pure)


In attempts to gain a wider understanding of the social worlds they encounter, anthropologists have exhorted their colleagues to “study up” and pay attention to wealthy and powerful people, not just those at society's margins. Anthropology has met this call. However, anthropologists could stand to be more forthcoming in explaining readily generalizable research strategies for studying people who are difficult to access. This article offers a brief methodological introduction to the literature on studying up and the anthropology of finance, and then shares a sampling of failures and successes from my own two‐year research, using private equity investors as one case of accessing an elite network. I suggest anthropologists are best served in finding multiple public sites and building informant networks with people from these sites.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review
Issue numberS1
Pages (from-to)51-68
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • Studying up
  • Finance
  • Private equity
  • Ethnography
  • Methods
  • Failure

Cite this