Watered down, re-framed, and re-positioned

I'm working through my "rebuttal" to the IRB people, and it's kind of forcing me to confront some of my major methodological inadequacies. The easy solution is to blame my training -- for which I do believe some blame can be distributed. My department does not provide a particularly rigorous methods course, and when I try to work in the public health domain, I find that I have to constantly justify every method, every methodological approach, and the scientific rigor of the method. It's exhausting and deeply frustrating. Part of it is that it reveals my scholarly limitations, and I hate having to defend every research decision I make. I know that this is part of the road of academia, but have I mentioned I really hate it?

One of the least favorite parts is the demand to have lots and lots of references. I do understand why others' published work on something can help to demonstrate the reproducibility of the research methods, but it's particularly weird when the request for references demands evidence for the success of a very classic ethnographic technique -- such as observations. Casting around for the right bibliography is sort of impossible. Much of the ethnographies that I've read, the anthropology style ones, anyway, don't itemize their methods in great detail, and most anthropologists expect that we've already moved beyond needing to prove our more common methods to be legitimate.

I know, I know, I often proclaim my undying enthusiasm for explaining complicated concepts to those who may not be familiar with them (though this blog suggests that I am also terribly lazy when it comes to doing that, as well). But there is something different -- perhaps even haughty -- about scientists' skepticism that my research design is sound. Even better is when the very limitations and restrictions imposed by the higher-ups then proceed to cause problems with the research execution; yet, I'm required to justify decisions that had to be made given the confines of the project itself. It's all very circular and highly irritating. But, on the upside, it has forced methodological reflection. Not only in me, but in one of the beloved fellow "qual" researchers. I'm trying to see this like exercise -- often unfun in the moment but full of longterm benefits. Wheee.



I realized today that since I've moved, I've been so much less attentive. Technically, I'm not living in the field anymore, and so I get to relax and just live. In spite of this, I realized that the logistics and organizing that come out of moving have consumed me for the last few months, such that I don't even have the energy to notice things. I'm used to being in the world and constantly noticing and thinking about the social interactions I see around me. I'm used to observing people who pass by me, theorizing and noting and filing away for later information about their behaviors and their conversations. I haven't been doing much of any of that lately.

This afternoon, after a surprisingly positive medical exam, I decided to eat ice cream and sit in the park. Though my life is not particularly demanding (most of the time), it has felt so hectic lately. New jobs, new plans, travelling, blah blah blah. It suddenly seemed incredibly delightful to take an hour or so just to sit and think. I haven't made time for that at all, or if I have, it's usually been highly emotional and not super relaxing.

As I walked to the park, thinking about how pleased I was with a potentially very upsetting medical experience, I realized that perhaps this blog no longer serves the purpose for which I intended it. I'm highly ambivalent about fieldwork these days. I'm highly ambivalent about being a formalized anthropologist. I'm highly ambivalent about navigating between the personal and the professional in this space. I'm conflicted about participating in the blogosphere (or whatever it's being called these days), as I'm not terribly fond of reading online right now. How can I possibly expect my miniscule audience to also read online, when I find the act so distasteful? Further, I find my writing (cf. this very post) irritatingly self-referential. I'm in limbo, academically, trying to wind down the data collection, but not being able to do so completely; at the same time, I'm not willing to say that "I am now writing my dissertation" with full conviction. I'm hitting the point, with this space, that I hit every time I sit down to try to write more generally, where writing itself becomes belabored and unnatural. And I don't want to edit or revisit any of it. Is it that I'm lazy or just simply incapable of moving past a certain point?