I've realized that when I'm in the field (actively), it feels painful and drags and I can't bear it sometimes. While that's happening, I have a clear recognition that it's important to stay present, be in the moment, and not fixate too much on the time after (post-fieldwork). But I don't think I've been successful at that. It's too hard much of the time.
Now that I've left LA, fieldwork feels distant and remote, and I can barely remember my life in LA. I feel so completely disassociated from the experience, and I have to write about it, and think about it critically, but it feels like a dream or a movie or another person's life. I think it's because fieldwork feels kind of traumatic to me. Separating from home (whatever that means these days), throwing myself into other people's lives, depending on and needing my research participants so much, and the need to be fully attentive to all sorts of everyday details, are all intense and overwhelming. It is an incredibly active and engaged way of working, which I think many people don't do in their day-to-day lives, but it's also so very emotional and physical and intellectual. There's no way to hide or disconnect from "being in the field".
When I came back from Morocco, I really feel that I suffered some kind of post-traumatic stress reaction. It was coupled with some major drama at my university, that just made everything worse, but I literally couldn't speak about what had happened to me. And the thing is, it sounds so very overwrought to equate my time in Morocco with trauma, when there are real world violences that happen every day, but I do think there were significant traumatic elements.
Los Angeles was more slow-burn -- because I was in my own country, and some of the isolation that I felt in Morocco simply wasn't present -- but at the same time, trying to see one's own world and culture critically is painful, too. A week ago, someone asked me how LA had been, and I felt as though that were another lifetime, not a month ago. Eight months somewhere doesn't really seem as though it can be synopsized, and the weird fluidity between quotidian (being in the States and somewhat familiar with the world around me) and the foreign made it neither distinct enough to be commented on nor familiar enough to feel at ease.
I'm trying to sit down and write something -- anything, damnit -- about my research, and I'm just not there yet. I'm not able to articulate how all the bits I threw into the pot as a form of analytic framework actually come together. I have (perhaps overexaggerated) a fair amount of faith in the logic of my own strategies and even when things seem meaningless and incoherent, that they have an internal structure that I should be able to access somehow. But writing about it stakes a claim and staunches thinking, in some ways. It feels that I have to be logical and committed to a direction, when I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. I find thinking about one vaccine specifically is just incredibly slippery. The minute I try to pin down a series of problems and reflections on the vaccine, it opens up a bunch of other directions of thinking. And I am convinced they're all connected and relevant, but I'm not sure how to make them seem relevant in a larger picture. Why should we care about this thing in particular? How does its particularity inform more universal/generalizable concepts? I am increasingly compelled by finding the universalizable -- which freaks me out, as a product of the school of 90s poststructuralist/postmodern/phenomenological/feminist philosophy.