I realize that I have not offered up much in the way of 1) fieldwork, 2) anthropology, or 3) research, but I am suffering from the malaise of an undirected malcontent.
The usual frustrations with my academic support system continue -- though perhaps they've never been fully articulated here. But more than anything, I'm just tired. That doesn't really seem like a terribly compelling argument to leave academia, but it is awfully tempting. I feel that my methodological approaches to my research are seriously limited, and it's kind of damn late in the game to be doubting foundational bits like methodology.
The main problem with my work is that the topic I'm most interested in -- vaccines -- is designed to be forgotten. Further, it's a one-time (or a few time, given boosters, increased adolescent vaccinations, and the emerging adult vaccination market) event, that's hard to capture in its emphemerality (is that even a word?!). As my advisor pointed out, vaccines have actually radically changed mothers' roles as parents, since the role of nursemaid has been significantly reduced by the fact that many of the more serious childhood illnesses no longer occur (in the U.S., at least). Vaccines have actually altered the types of care mothers have to give their children and demands on mothers' time. So here I am, trying to figure out how to study a thing that exists primarily in its absence.
My primary focus, on the STI that no one knows about, also raises questions of absence. The vaccine created a demand without widespread knowledge about the very thing it purports to protect against. Really, brilliant in terms of marketing -- framing an object that no one even knows they need to be protected against, even though it's incredibly ubiquitous. The virus is something that is very common and can lead to cancer, which in turn can lead to death, but the way in which people are (halfway) learning about it is through the pharmaceutically produced lens.
So in the course of studying one vaccine -- I found lots of absences and disconnects. People didn't know much about it, and what they did seem to know did not reflect any actual knowledge about the virus, only awareness about the vaccine. And now that I'm moving into broader generalities about vaccines, I'm finding it so hard to figure out how to study what is designed to be forgotten.
And, I guess, I'm not even sure if I am comfortable with the rarefied nature of academia. In some ways, I think I'd feel better about working in a field that I don't care terribly about, but at least pays the bills. I'm just not sure that I'm willing to go the full distance with academia. I'm not good at abandoning my whims and fickle nature to the long-haul of academia.