“Fieldwork is like sex: It is often messy. It can be awkward, especially at first. It requires some flexibility. It is at best spontaneous and, no matter what one’s proposal may say, simply cannot be planned. Like sex, even bad sex, fieldwork is always productive: it produces sensations, emotions, intimate knowledge of oneself and others. ”—
Patty Kelly, “Awkward Intimacies: Prostitution, Politics and Fieldwork in Urban Mexico”
(Looking forward to that dissertation…)
[course] Wild Rockies Field Institute
Earn credit living in your tent next semester!
The Wild Rockies Field Institute offers field-based, academic courses to undergraduate students, accredited through the University of Montana and transferable to other universities and colleges.
“Our 12-credit spring semester course, “Colorado Plateau: Desert Canyons and Cultures” will take you backpacking and canoeing through the American Southwest while you explore ancient and contemporary indigenous cultures, hone your naturalist skills, and learn about current land management strategies and challenges.”
Contact one of us at PoE to see the syllabus for this course or visit their website for other opportunities at WRFI <— click it! :]
My fieldwork today consisted of:
- Multiple teachers thinking that I was a parent at the school for a conference; even asking if I was Mrs. __________
- Being greeted by my second graders as Mrs. Edwards (Apparently I’m married, lol)
- Randomly being told by a second grader that I looked pretty
- At least five students saying good-bye to me, and asking when I was coming back, despite how quiet I was while observing.
Seeing as I took the being mistaken for a parent thing in stride (Why is it that people think I am so much older than I am?!), it was a pretty good fieldwork experience. Was even able to write one of my fieldwork essays during it (though that was mainly to keep me awake; it’s not as much fun to observe as it actually is to teach. You just sit a lot.) Overall, very good day for fieldwork. And then I got to crazy finish printing and putting together my papers for my crazy nun teacher, and after that let out, I had to take an asthma treatment inbetween classes, gave a presentation to my first year seminar, and then straight off to work! And I get to go to Talent Show rehearsal tonight. I really hope I *don’t* have to sing, seeing as I’m still recovering…
“Each of us embarks on a journey outward into the world and inward into the self. We are, as Durkheim said, at once collective and individual. Society is mysterious to us because we have lived in it and it now dwells inside us at a level that is not ordinarily visible from the perspective of everyday life. Writing is one way we try to bring the two into some mutual understanding that we can share with others. ”—Keith Hart (anthropologist) from “Studying world society as a vocation” (http://thememorybank.co.uk/papers/studying-world-society/)
The female conspiracy
I’m a mid-level graduate student in a good social sciences program on the west coast of the US. My research involves a lot of fieldwork with other (largely female) graduate students and my (male) advisor.
The last time we were in the field, one of my advisor’s Norwegian colleagues, also male, paid a visit to our project house. As we were all sitting around the dinner table, he asked my advisor what the research interests were of all the grad students on the project. Not once did he speak to any of us directly, so we all sat around awkwardly while my advisor explained our respective academic work as if we weren’t there.
To make matters worse, our visitor went on to ask my advisor whether, in the US, our program of study was as heavily dominated by women as our team made it seem. My advisor responded that many of his best applicants just happened to be women, which is why he has a lot of female graduate students. “They’re taking over,” Dr. Norway replied, “what are we going to do?” My advisor laughed and said “I don’t know!”
Here’s a suggestion, guys: stop feeling threatened by intelligent women and try treating them like human beings instead!
Tila: The Reunion, Pt. III
Now that the driving horrors are out of the way (Part I and Part II) we can actually get to the town of Tila. 45 years ago my father came to Tila to do undergraduate fieldwork because no one had really been there or had studied the people. It was one of the few places that hadn’t been ‘discovered.’ The first summer he came was only for a week or so to make sure the locals were friendly and wouldn’t kill him (literally). He flew to an airstrip and trudged in the mud for 8 hours by mule and foot. The second summer he was a bit wiser – flew to a closer airstrip and only had to hike 2 hours. That entire summer he stayed with a family who had four daughters and a little boy (about 3-4 years old). He was the only foreigner in town, with rusty Spanish, and conducted research on the relationship between the Mexicans and indigenous Indians.
When we arrived in Tila we set about trying to figure out where everything was and finding anyone who could help us name and locate the people in my dad’s photographs. After trying the church priest who had only been there 20 years, we struck gold with the ladies of the Chatita restaurant. The owner, an elderly lady with a wide, jack-o-lantern smile was able to name a few of the people and tell us if they were living/deceased, and if they were still in town. She told us that Alfonso, the little boy of the family my dad stayed with, owned a store just one block away. We set off to find him and his store, La Casa de los Campesinos. We walked in and asked for Alfonso and after my dad introduced himself Alfonso told him that he remembered him! Wow. This was truly amazing. We spent the rest of the day going through my dad’s photos, naming people, finding out where they were now, etc. Alfonso had his children and grandchildren there and it was fun to see his daughter whip out her phone to take a picture of the photo of Alfonso as a boy. Back then, and still even today, locals don’t have cameras or computers. These were probably the only images Alfonso’s kids have ever seen of him as a baby.
We discussed how to send copies of these pictures to them and finally settled on mailing them an actual USB stick and…you betcha, Facebook! Yep, these people don’t have computers or cameras, but have Facebook that they can access from the single Internet café in town. -That’s a story for you, Mark Zuckerberg.- The reunion was really nostalgic, and Alfonso joked that back then, my dad (6’1”) seemed like a giant! He didn’t think that my dad would ever come back. The town itself hasn’t changed much; it has grown in size and population. The feel is still the same due to preservationist laws in the city. It was great to be able to share that with my dad and for it to come full circle for him.
And after 45 years…we were still the only foreigners in town.