Two things, on fieldwork and also on the magic of PR

I will preface this post with the caveat that I'm exhausted and probably feeling unreasonably sensitive, but I came home to receive an email from one of the first non-profit groups I tried to work with when I moved to LA that was incredibly passive aggressive. Everytime I would email to follow up on a project they would not respond. Then they'd email me weeks later and ask where I was. Today I got an email saying they were "sad" that we were never able to "get going" and have me help them out. They mention they had a lot of work for me to do, but every time I would try to organize a time to meet with them or try to follow up, the guy who runs it, would fail to reply to my emails.

Because I've also had problems with the minority women's health organization, I feel that I really need to understand what it was that I did wrong -- as my default interpretation is that I failed somehow. I think some of the issues were with the medium of email -- all contact existed in the ether and there were no "sites" where I could go to do anything. Even with the minority women's health organization, their limited staff made it hard to gain access to the work space because it always had to be highly coordinated to let me in.

I went back and looked at the emails I'd tagged with their label, and in many of them, I propose a date or a set of possible times, and I never hear back from them. I offer to help with a proposal they wanted to work on, and they didn't reply. There's lots of evidence, it seems to me, that suggest I have tried repeatedly to be available and initiate projects, but there are no replies to these attempts. I sound whiny -- I know. I'm just baffled at the forms of miscommunication, especially since I seem to be the constant in both these circumstances. But I fear making that analysis makes me terribly self-centered. Fieldwork is not about me, but as a good friend recently pointed out, Margaret Mead and her posse believed one had to have gone through many years of therapy to be an anthropologist. On the upside, I've had that....

I write sometimes about the strange digital and technological integrations into popular knowledge and access to information. The other day, before I left town, I got an email from the PR person at the exhibit I mention last post (see below). It was incredibly unnerving to get an email the day after I posted it, though obviously she has an alert set for any references to their exhibit. She informed me that the inventor of the preservation medium used in the exhibit will be speaking in early June. I'm hoping to drag my neighbor/running partner/sole tolerator in LA along for moral support. She seems to be pretty game for any sort of weird anthropological adventure that involves bodies or autism or medical freakshows.

I do feel mildly guilty for disparaging the curation. I thought about it this weekend, and it is in a child's museum...it's not like they've mounted it at the Met. Still, I think of two museums in Philadelphia for kids, the Please Touch Museum and the Benjamin Franklin Science Museum, and they both felt far more accessible and kid-friendly (at least in my very hazy distant memory). I found it unnerving that the museum in LA had a McDonald's inside it, yet the exhibit had a portion devoted to the effects of obesity and why it can kill you. Was no one thinking about the contradictory messages they were sending? There were a lot of cases displaying the hazardous effects of cigarette smoking, and it would not have surprised me if the museum also had a Philip Morris wing, or some such thing.

For the few who read this -- forgive the incoherence. Will come back and edit it soon.

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