Savage Minds -- as usual, more eloquent than I

Savage Minds, a great Anthro blog, addresses the experience of anthropology as "personal transformation". The comments also capture the tension within anthropology to resist the dangers that some blame on the "reflexive turn" of the 80s. One commenter said he had been thinking of writing a piece called, "I am A Tool" -- which is exactly how I try to explain to others the experience of fieldwork and research.

It is comforting, in some ways, to hear the experience shared over and over again. It is disheartening that it is an experience that seems to be kept under-wraps for the most part, while one is being trained in school. There is definitely a fear in being too emotional or too personal in academic writing. At the same time, without the acknowledgment of the personal, writing becomes alienating and alienated, and the idea that one's work (especially when it involves fieldwork, whether sociological or anthropological) doesn't affect you as an individual seems absurd. Though in another post on the topic, one commenter wisely points out the danger of the sloppy "I am my own fieldnote" ethnography -- which is what I feel happens here on the blog. Hopefully what happens on my blog will not happen in my academic work. (And in many ways, this blog is an outlet for this meandering self-reflection, to keep it from becoming the form of my academic work...they are separate. I know that.)

And maybe, if this debate were more public and explicit, each student wouldn't have to tread the boring path (because I recognize that there is something tiresome about my concerns, even as I experience them nonetheless) of grappling for how to articulate the experience. Of course, just as our parents may find our youthful stresses and problems predictable (having already gone through the trials and tribulations of life), I suppose one has to "go through" the fieldwork growing pains in order to come out at the other side as a better and more reflective researcher.

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