Fieldwork, Year 2

I’m sorry to see I haven’t posted a thing in a month. That should change rapidly as I get back into the swing of fieldwork. Starting a second year of research feels quite different from starting a first year; the language is somewhat less problematic, the campus feels familiar, and there are a lot of people to greet. If anything, people seem a bit surprised I’ve stuck around more than a few months, which says a lot about the kinds of scripts that people expect to follow in research relationships here. I don’t think I’m the only ethnographer who’s had this experience; Amelia Fay wrote of her work in Newfoundland: “My repeated presence in the community seems to have separated me from other researchers, who come in, take what they need and never return… People here are starting to recognize me more, trust me and welcome me. It’s taking a long time to build this relationship but I’m finding it so rewarding.” I don’t know if I could bring myself to express it quite so forthrightly, but that does sound familiar.

The logistics of being a temporary visitor to a foreign country continue to frustrate, it has to be said. Here’s the view from the new apartment:

Alas, the place is too expensive to hold onto, and, somewhat against my better judgment, I’m moving into a big dorm complex for the rest of the fall. It’s not going to be the most pleasant place to live, but after all, all the famous ethnographers of universities seem to have lived in a dorm at one time or another. Admittedly, my research isn’t mainly about student domestic life, but I think it may be interesting to have some acquaintance with it.

Luckily, I have some work space to escape to, at the University of Chicago’s building in France.

It’s a bit strange having more office space than most tenured faculty at my fieldsite, which is a commentary in itself on the intense inadequacy of financial and material resources in French public universities.

Anyway, I have a lot of things to write about. More coming soon.

3 thoughts on “Fieldwork, Year 2

  1. Welcome back — I look forward to reading your posts again.

    This post in particular made me wonder — do you know of any French anthropologists studying US higher education? I am a US academic who has lived in France (and attended a French university), which is why I’ve been following your blog closely. I’ve begun to wonder about how a French academic would read it (although I’m sure you must have French academic readers, too), which prompted me to wonder about how US universities, in particular public universities (I teach at a land-grant institution in the midwest), would look from the outside.

  2. Thanks for the encouragement of the blog, Kyle!

    This blog does indeed have various French readers (Baptiste Coulmont being the most faithful and engaging). I don’t really know what kind of impression it makes on French readers overall, though. A few of them have been very encouraging, but I wouldn’t really expect to hear from the haters.

    I’m writing a paper that’s partly about French perceptions of American universities, as a matter of fact! I can send it to you later this fall if you like (it needs some work still). Some of the texts I’m looking at are linked here. There are high-level policy exchanges like these ones with UW-Madison, and there was at least one blog that chronicled the experiences of a French exchange student (ma pom pom way of life). On a more intellectual level, there are various French books in the humanities on the American use of poststructuralist ideas (François Cusset’s French Theory is well-known, though I haven’t read it yet)… anyway, this isn’t a very complete bibliography of the topic, which is an interesting one!, but it certainly would give you a place to start if you felt curious!

  3. Thanks — I look forward to following those links. Baptiste Coulmont’s site looks familiar — I’m guessing you’ve linked to it before. And the UW-Madison links are especially interesting because that is where I earned my PhD.

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