I am not an anthropologist. I’m not “trained”, I have no critical understanding of the theories or methodologies, and I have a functional legal background in interviewing, not a research one. I am also rubbish at “living in the community” – I’m a skinny-jeans-wearing, foreign-food-eating, boozing-and-dancing inappropriate nightmare.
Tag Archives: academia
It’s been pretty wet here. Continue reading
- Carrying water from the borehole, putting it in the bucket in the sun to warm up, and then showering at sunset outside in the grass open-air cubicle.
- Managing to work out how to use the choke on my motorbike to make it start in the rain.
- Waking up to tea and bread being brought to me by the toddler in the compound. Make ’em work.
- The moments where someone starts discussing something in an interview that I’ve been desperate for more details on, and my interpreter and I share a look of “jackpot”.
- Roasting coffee beans in a skillet in a green, green village, on Sunday afternoons.
- Being given a chunky-assed baby to hold for a bit.
- Heavy rain on my tin roof.
- People being genuinely happy and surprised when I say, I’ve heard that you were an activist for community language classes in Khartoum, ten years ago. And then them looking mildly terrified about how I’ve tracked them down.
- People giving me their “spy names” from secret work they did in Khartoum.
- Finding Nutella in a local shop. Bought three jars immediately.
- Film nights in my compound, and the joy of small boys seeing orcs and hobbits. (Ayak said she had nightmares about dinosaurs after we watched Jurassic Park, though.)
Earl Grey tea, in Mile 14.
And on the road to Wanjok from Aweil town, these lovely local schools.
I’m re-starting my PhD properly on Thursday, after six months of working on my Arabic, which is still only shweya, and on the South Sudan National Archives, which is also shweya, although a little less of a mushkila than when I arrived. I’m leaving Juba for Aweil – after my previous trip, I think it’s a good enough place to start work – on Thursday, with no real fixed plan after that.
This is probably not the advised method of moving archives around a town; but we have too much paper and we’re trying to resort 2000 files from Equatoria Province in a small house with no air con. Give us a break.
I’m trying to work on a project for a January conference that I stupidly decided to do partly on “youth”. This is a nightmare topic – I know it, I wrote an essay for my MA about the difficulty and arbitrariness of the concept, for heaven’s sakes – and I’m kicking myself for picking it. My preliminary work (which is mostly sitting, angsting about the topic, and moaning about it to friends here) has been pretty stressful (she says, knowing she should be doing it now).
As happens when you’re trying to do a small research project on the side while really focusing on something else, the best research I’ve done so far is when I’ve got home, tired, disgustingly sweaty, covered in bits of archive paper (sorry – not intentionally stealing the archives, just bits that fall off it) and dust, and I walk down the short stretch of mud path that leads from the main road to my compound gate.
The international Sudans conference in Bonn was only my second conference paper I’ve presented, and I’m definitely still learning the art of presentation (and still relying too heavily on notes to stop the shakey fear overtaking me too much).
One of the things I was particularly pleased with in my paper was that it was an example of an area of serious research – on citizenship – but using an example of how the theories of this citizenship literature and debate is actually working in practice; something that actually rarely comes up, other than in reference to the Southern Sudanese people stranded with no paperwork at all. The people with some paperwork are often left out in a focus on the terrible, extreme cases.
This meant that I had no conclusive answers and only the evidence that I have been collecting, in between my PhD research (as this is not the focus of my PhD!) over the last couple of years. I really enjoyed the fact that – despite being while I was still standing on a terrifyingly large, raised stage – people were giving me additional information and ideas in the questions; I also enjoyed the fact that I was confident enough in my work to say what we don’t know, what there is no information on. This is what a “work in progress” is like, I thought. It makes you feel both insecure – should I have emphasised the historical and Sudan-wide nature of what I was talking about more? But I had only suspicions about that, I haven’t been to the offices in Khartoum in the same way – and pleased – I am one of the few people who has looked into this process in practice, and it’s a good feeling. I don’t know what I’m going to do with the information, and it needs a lot more development, but it was fun.
And with a thing in progress, as soon as you start thinking about it, stuff appears: this article, about form-fillers in Khartoum, turned up on AFP yesterday, and nicely fits in to my little developing side-project.
I do concentrate, I promise! But I also find my notebook – which is a kind of field diary of everything – gets filled with illustrations of the people and conferences I go to, including listeners, ranters, speakers and other idlers like me. So here are some small cartoons of the past week, and from the Rift Valley Institute Sudans course in Lukenya in May. (All copyright is obviously mine, but if you’re illustrated here and want it taken down, or would like to use any of them, please get in touch.)