Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The head-down crankies

Hey. It's almost November here, and getting a wee bit nippy.

I saw this cartoon on a blog and thought it would be good to blog today.
Lately my personal journal entries sound too much like the rantings of a mad man; The events and activities sound like public service announcements; The critiques, in this fragile time are too likely crude and undiplomatic, unbalanced, at best.

It's been busy, to be sure. But when life happens here at the speed of experience, the captured moments of private reflection leave me little time to write much that's articulate... or appropriate.. for a public blog. Between the inane updates of life tweeted and status'ed, what do you blog about in the work, especially -field- work when your mind is constantly brewing something, and everything is not -ready to serve-? I'm meeting fascinating people, doing amazing things--but ethically I can't tell you nuttin for confidentiality's sake, so trust me. Bleh.

I've been having that feeling, and I suppose it's completely normal. Having done my Masters fieldwork here, I knew some aspects of what I was taking on for the Doctorate. However, the discoveries keep coming and from all directions (expected), which are to be plunked into mental sorting bins and artfully, methodically, synthesized into cultural insights that are perhaps interesting and relevant. I'm drilling deeper into themes highlighted from my work in 2004, and other questions that have emerged during the last four years and honestly-- at this stage some things are still confusing as might be expected. After all, understanding a culture well (and the ability to crystalize and articulate insights in public fora) is a hard-fought battle that takes place over a sustained period of time (not "hit-and-run").

I think an apt metaphor would be something like the interrogation torture where one's head is grabbed, submerged under water then pulled out... repeat... repeat... as much as the half-drowned is able to stand. They might tell you something interesting while riding the fine line between -in- and -out-. Sometimes, one is so immersed in the culture but other times, the head gets yanked out (for better or worse) to ensure some presence of distance. In the end, however, I wouldn't be here gathering data if I didn't think there was something really important here to find. In the end, I truly believe the insights are worth the investment of time, money, angst, homesickness, and everything else that comes with this brand of ethnography... and that's what keeps me here.

So, before I delete this post, I'm going to hit publish.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you did decide to hit publish. This may sound a little melodramatic perhaps, but I have to admit that I was very moved by what you wrote in this post, as it seemed to so perfectly capture my own thoughts and feelings.

The life of someone so critically engaged with a society can often be a very lonely one I find, as most people don't share one's passion for one's subject, but can still be quite critical of the observations of and conclusions about that you make. Also, and like you say, what to write about when your mind is constantly brewing something, mentally sorting and synthesizing data, but still doesn't always have something to serve?

Fortunately though, you already have a well-established academic career (well, not "fortunately", I'm sure you got it through hard-work!), whereas with me I'm very belatedly going through a back-door into one via my blog and other projects, ironically meaning that I too literally have to publish or perish...and then edit and re-edit days or even weeks after posting, insights having come from the writing, but understandably too late for my readers. I'm really quite jealous(!) of more relaxed pace of which you have to produce material, although I'm sure you do much more work than I do overall.

Sorry, all that talk about myself really detracts from what I really wanted to say: again, that you may be surprised at how moving it was, and I'm glad to have found a kindred spirit, especially someone who can enunciate my own thoughts, feelings and frustrations much more eloquently than I can myself!

8:11 AM  

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