Last year, I met a very interesting PhD student from Harvard in a seminar/symposium/workshop (I never know how they call this kind of events…) organized at Sophia University, Tokyo. He helped a lot in my fieldwork by showing me around Minami-Sanriku (Miyagi Prefecture), where he was conducting his own research there. Talking with him made me realized things about my own research and made me think about broader issues. Well, this is not the point but… He often posts interesting articles on his Facebook page and it never hurts to read what he recommends, so I actually often follow his links.
Today, after reading an interesting article about star overproduction in the academic world, I clicked on a few pictures and found this very funny, but deep article. It is about the visit of the writer to a French university professor (Paris 8) in Britanny. You have pictures of the house and the garden, with explanations. To put it in a word: it’s a mess. But it’s a comfortable mess, if I may say. I know pretty well, since my mother (and myself, at a lower level) is a pro at creating these kinds of spaces. What actually struck me most was the bookshelves, which look ex-act-ly like the ones in our apartment. What I really liked about this article is this paragraph:
There’s a lesson here for researchers, like me, whose main ethnographic sites are institutional ones. If you only look at what happens in, say, a campus, you’re at risk of forgetting that what you’re looking at is one of the most highly regimented spaces in the society in question, and probably needs to be understood in relationship to the relative spaces of freedom that people have in their domestic life. No one lives their whole life in institutional space, after all. At the same time, on the other hand, a foreigner like me is bound to have limited access to these domestic spaces, especially when they’re not the main focus of the project.
I actually totally agree with him, even though I believe it’s a bit difficult to conduct these kinds of fieldworks (for many reasons). I went to a few interviewees’ places during my own fieldworks, and those spaces tell so much about them. But it’s very difficult (even more because I’m in sociology and not ethnology, I guess) to make any comment about those particular spaces in our analysis. I thought it was a bit of a shame, especially because I’m nosy and tend to notice a lot of small (sometimes very not interesting) things.
If I make it to the PhD program I applied for in Berlin, I’ll be researching about care functions of self-evacuees’ families. This is a very private space that would open to me, even though I am supposed to look at it from a very institutional point of view. I’m already wondering how to analyze such a private space, how to make it in a “scientifically ok” way, what can be analyzed and what cannot, etc. I am just super hyped about the idea of pursuing with a real research project (sorry Sciences Po, I wasn’t focused enough last year) and I have a thousand questions rushing through my head. I really hope next October will rhyme with TOLL and WUNDERBAR! (Just realized that it means… that… for the first time in my life, I might be in Germany for the Oktober Fest! Yay!)
That was a totally random article, but I guess I just needed to talk about this. It makes me smile when I think that I get very excited reading this kind of articles. I guess I really put a foot in this world and would not want to step back.