Based on a doctoral research project on Tea Party groups in Pennsylvania, this article deals both with the various pitfalls I had to learn to avoid and the significant impact that being a young, white French woman had on the way activists interacted with me. In addition, I reflect upon the general ramifications of studying a right-wing social movement while not aligning with it politically. The automatic distance—and presumed ensuing objectivity that this viewpoint initially seems to afford—is much more fragile and complicated than apparent at first glance.
What specific challenges does the study of social movements and race/ethnicity in the United States pose for non-US-based scholars? Does distance afford non-US-based scholars possible rewards that make their research a unique contribution to the study of the United States? This edited issue is designed as a symposium in which eleven French-based specialists of various chronological and thematic domains share their experiences and insights on a variety of issues of concern to non-US-based American studies scholars. These relate to the distance between researcher and object, objectivity and engagement, the challenges and rewards of foreignness, as well as the epistemological and methodological positioning of American Studies scholars within the broader field of social science.