This essay prefaces a collection on revelatory moments of fieldwork engagement. Drawing upon brief vignettes from our own research experiences, we argue for the methodological significance of memorable events encountered in ethnographic studies. In addressing this relational production of knowledge, we are particularly interested in the role of emotion, discomfort and surprise in 'fieldwork' as understood in anthropology. The case materials illustrate moments of experience drawn from three studies conducted in different decades between 1980 and 2011, thereby marking important shifts in the methods and aims of the discipline, conceptions of where fieldwork is appropriately done, and the role of self-knowledge on the part of the researcher. We make the case for the value of revelatory moments and the epistemological approach that enables their apprehension.