Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Oddities of Anthropoloogy


Throughout my career as a graduate student I have been constantly told of the importance of networking.  It is not always phrased as networking, but the subtext is the same.  Attend conferences, connect with people from other departments or schools, present at conferences, go to departmental social gatherings, and do not forget to publish.

As I tend to be shy, this can be overwhelming, but that is for a different post a different day.

In order to finish my PhD I will be heading to Taiwan to do field research.  The last time I was in Taiwan I stayed for 9 months for the purpose of studying Chinese and doing preliminary research.  Coming home was in many ways harder than going there (Coming Home or Leaving Home?). When I returned to school I found my shared office half populated by people I did not know; the login for the computer had changed, some of the requirements for the job had changed, and for the first time since I began grad school, I was not living on campus.  I had returned home to feel like a foreigner all over again, and this made networking hard as I had to readjust to new circumstances all over again. (This was my third major life change in a rather short time period, so at this point it is possible that I have simply been “out of it” continuously for the last year.)

I have been back for 1 semester, but I have not, in all that time, gotten myself anywhere.  The entire semester was filled with bureaucratic paperwork all in the quest to return to Taiwan to finish my studies.  It was mostly a bore and a frustration.  Only my job offered me any sort of intellectual stimulation.  (I thank-whatever-god-you-believe-in for my job.)  I have not even had the chance to reconnect with my old WoW guild (I<3TrN) despite my dearest desire to do so.  It’s been 2 years….I wonder if I can go back?

So here I am preparing to leave in 17 days.  I will essentially disappear off the face of the earth for the next 18 months.  The time difference will make connecting with my old guild unrealistic, the distance will make conference participation unobtainable, and I can only guess at what changes my department will go through during my absence.  To get ahead I need to network, but to be an anthropologist I have to disappear. By the time I return home I will have been out of the loop for a total of 3 years. I fear I will just have to start all over again.     

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Preparing for Fieldwork

A wise man told me recently that these last few weeks will be the hardest.  I am leaving for Taipei in 19 days to do my dissertation research.  This will be my 2nd time living in Taipei and somehow I find the opening statement strangely true.

My language ability is stronger, I know where I will be staying, and I actually have friends living in Taipei; yet I am more nervous about returning than I ever was going in the first place.  Not that it is all just nerves.  Every time I step out into the whirlwind of snow outside I cannot wait to get back to Taipei.  It was 75F there today.

I left a new boyfriend back there too.  We have been apart from each other longer than we were together. He says we’ll have to start over from scratch if we want to date when I return.  I think he is right.  A lack of shared experience can really pull people apart. I do not think my chosen career path is particularly conducive to long term relationships.  The few colleagues I have spoken with on the matter all agreed.  Not that any of us are attempting a monastic lifestyle or anything, just recognizing reality for what it is.

It takes a special kind of person to live with a wanderer.

To add icing to the cake, I still don’t have my visa, funding, or IRB approval yet.  I think it might technically be more work to get to the field than it is to actually do the fieldwork.