Los Angeles Countdown

As I prepare for the next move (both figurative and literal), I've been focused very narrowly on the CDC/STD project. It's kind of reassuring to have a focus, but I noted to my dad on the phone the other day that it's frustrating that my work doesn't have its own momentum. This is why I have felt I need to leave LA. Without my attention and constant pushing, I don't have a lot of fieldwork that goes on. After 7 months, I really feel this is a problem with my own project (and with LA), and something has to change. The radical decision to leave the field entirely does not, perhaps, seem like the logical conclusion for these frustrations, but I remain optimistic that the shift may produce some useful results.

I am, however, tired of the transient nature of fieldwork. I realized last night that after 7 months here, instead of feeling at home and relaxed, I'm plotting, again, another dis-location. Instead of feeling that this little mint green apartment is my home, it seems more like an obstacle to being somewhere else. (In fact, after a weekend at someone else's place, I woke up the other night, confused about where I was and where the door was, thinking I was still in SF, even though I've slept in this room for long enough not to be so easily disoriented.) I find that unease very hard to deal with. It's important to me to feel that I'm comfortable at home, and that's not the case here. The truth is, it has never felt quite that way here, but since it was all I had, it had to be good enough. I'm not sure I'm cut out for the fieldworker's lifestyle. I like familiarity, and I don't know how people do it for the length of their careers. I suppose that partly, when you feel that you have a home that you know you can always come back to, it's easier to leave. Life in Baltimore, though it became my home, still had an expiration date. I didn't plan on living there forever. When I moved to LA, I retained a small bit of optimism that I could continue living here past fieldwork, but that quickly became clear that it was not a possibility.

I guess what I'm trying to reconcile is what does it mean to do fieldwork at home -- and how can one navigate the merging of one's life with work/research/domesticity. I think my resistance to more traditional anthropology comes from the skepticism that one ought to freeze one's life and play outsider for an extended period of time. The segregating of time/place/life feels incredibly false. It's not so much that I want to begrudge those who choose such a life, but I do wish there were more guidance for what to do when one sees research as a more integrated approach. That's why I do what I do, because it allows me to officially think critically about the world around me. It is also exhausting and alienating in its own way. Yet, I suspect I was going to live in the world this way regardless, so why not get paid (if that's what you can call my income!) for what I do.

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