The field and The Field: An Addendum

On Monday, I return to The Field.

Now, since this basically involves me moving my books and computer equipment back to an office just over the road from the UCL Anthropology Department where I’ve been hiding out for the last six weeks, it doesn’t sound like too big a deal. But things are never quite what they appear in multi-sited ethnography. If I was feeling the dull ache of liminality when I last posted about the anxieties of straddling two worlds at once, that ache seems so much more heightened now that I’ve actually had a chance to inhabit just one world, my life, for a short period of time.

You see, I quit The Field to concentrate on writing my upgrade paper (a research proposal and literature review that outlines what I’ll be doing for the next two years of my PhD) – I moved all my stuff to a desk in another building, I stopped attending ExCiteS meetings, I only replied to the most urgent of ExCiteS-related emails, and I sat and I thought and I wrote. I worked hard, because time was limited and the paper complex. I stayed late each night and I worked through the weekends. I’ve wrapped myself up in the warm, dark cloak of the writing process – the reading and the ordering and the fixing, the agonising writer’s block days and the beautiful days of flow when words just tumble out in the right place. And in spite of all that, I feel like I’ve recuperated from an ailment I didn’t realise I had. I’ve partied frantically, intensely when I haven’t been working, as if inhabiting the Anthropology Department were some blessed release. I love my field research, of course. I love my fieldsites and my colleagues and the projects that we all work on. I’m incredibly lucky to be doing what is basically my dream job while getting a PhD at the same time. And yet, I’m apprehensive as Monday looms closer.

When she read my last post, my mum said my description of multi-sited ethnographic research made it sound a bit like partially inhabiting the realm of Faerie. It struck a chord. I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to be able to live just one life. I hope that when I return to Faerie this time the glamour doesn’t kick in too soon.

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