Today we’re talking about the quintessential anthropological experience: fieldwork! We heeded your requests to do more casual episodes, so we’re answering questions about what the field is, what it’s like to go to the field, and other tips we have.

We start out with Zora Neale Hurston’s imagery of culture as a tight chemise and the spy-glass of anthropology. We discuss how we got to our research projects; how we define the field; ethnographies that inspired our fieldwork; tips, strategies and resources for getting through the difficult parts of field work; doing field work in the pandemic and the future of field work; maintaining boundaries; and what our next research project would be. Plus a little moment where the field and the podcast collide! 

Zora’s Daughters Podcast: Season 2 Episode 11

Co-Hosts: Brendane Tynes and Alyssa James
Title: Notes on the Field
Total Length: 01:17:32

[00:00:00] [Music Plays]

[00:00:25] [Music Fades Down]

[00:00:25] Brendane Tynes: Hey y’all! Welcome back to Zora’s Daughters, the podcast where we tackle topics of interest to Black folx through the lens of academic scholarship and colorful insight. I’m Brendane and I use she/her/hers pronouns.

[00:00:37] Alyssa James: Hi everyone. This is Alyssa, and I use she/her pronouns as well. So after our debrief of the AAAs last semester, you all asked that we do more casual episodes without all of the structure. So today we’ll be speaking about the experience of doing fieldwork, particularly as Brendane is moving towards the end of hers, and I am finally starting mine. Finally!

[00:01:01] BT: You know, praise be to whomever the praises go [laughter]. There is also just so much going on in the world right now and we simply do not have the tools to speak about all of the things that are happening in a way that’d actually would be insightful, impactful, or powerful. So we are modeling the true Black way of staying in our lane so that we do not get hit and amplifying the voices of those who truly know what they’re talking about.

[00:01:33] AJ: Yeah, and if it’s a surprise to you that even in the midst of war, people will still find the time, space, and energy to be anti-Black, then have you even been listening to this podcast the last year-and-a-half? [Laughs]

[00:01:45] BT: You know, if there’s one thing people gon’ commit to, it’s anti-Blackness. But [laughs] before we get too carried away, we wanna thank everyone who has contributed to our podcast. So whether that’s through being a Patron—which, hey, y’all! We out here chattin’ it up on Patreon—donating via PayPal, following us on social media, or leaving us a rating and review on Apple Podcasts, or sharing an episode with a friend, we truly appreciate each and every one of you. Like, you’re truly what keeps us doing this every other week.

[00:02:19] AJ: Thank you. So if you would like to become a Patron where you can access the ZD conversations, recordings of our talks, receive a book of the semester and/or invite to our semesterly hangouts, please head to patreon.com/zorasdaughters. Let’s get into it.

[00:02:39] BT: [Imitates gunfire]

[00:02:40] AJ: Let’s do the thang. The thang thang.

[00:02:42] BT: Do the thang [laughs]. [Laughter] Not the thang thang. That thang th-thang thang thang [laughs].

[00:02:48] AJ: That thang th-thang thang thang. All right! [Laughter] 

[00:02:57] [Music Plays]

[00:02:59] AJ: So just to have some fodder for today’s conversation, we did read a little bit of Mules and Men. We’re not really gonna give you a summary or anything, but it is one of Brendane’s go-to texts around, you know, what anthropology offers her. So if you wanna read the excerpt.

[00:03:20] BT: Yeah, so this is from the Zora Neale Hurston—thee Zora Neale Hurston [laughs]—and she says, “I was glad when somebody told me ‘You may go and collect Negro folklore.’ In a way it would not be a new experience for me. When I pitched headforemost into the world I landed in the crib of negroism. From the earliest rocking of my cradle, I had known about the capers Brer Rabbit is apt to cut and what the Squinch Owl says from the house top. But it was fitting me like a tight chemise. I couldn’t see it for wearing it. It was only when I was off in college, away from my native surroundings, that I could see myself like somebody else and stand off and look at my garment. Then I had to have the spy-glass of anthropology to look through at that.” Like, who else makes anthropology sound like a religious [laughs] folklore experience, like—and I don’t know if you recognize, but the first sentence—”I was glad when somebody told me, ‘You may go and collect Negro folklore’”—that’s very similar to a call that is made in Psalms, I believe. Like, “I was glad when someone told me you may go and preach the Lord’s word.” Like, it’s very much a call. 

[00:04:41] AJ: Interesting. 

[00:04:42] BT: So, Zora definitely saw her life in anthro as a call, as something from God. And so yeah, that’s very parallel language. 

[00:04:56] AJ: Interesting. Yeah, I like that she calls it the spyglass of anthropology. Not just because in another life, I would totally be a spy, but, you know, I usually say the toolkit that anthropology has, that offers certain kinds of insights that I found in other disciplines I wasn’t able to see or to get. So fieldwork, even when done at home, as she’s talking, about is still you know, about being able to uncover and explain the local or member meanings of concepts and experiences. And I think the thing that is—we were just talking before we started recording—I was saying, you know—Brendane was saying that she hasn’t done enough interviews yet, and I said, “That’s not really our bread and butter. We’re not sociologists, you know?” Our thing is really the fieldwork, the fieldnotes, and, you know, that’s what I think is part of that spyglass of anthropology. That’s the main thing in our toolkit that makes us anthropologists. 

[00:06:04] BT: Yeah, I was always very drawn to the “fitting me like a tight chemise.” Because when I think about what anthropology has done for me, and over the course of my career from undergrad to graduate school, is really allowed for me to look at my experience as a Black person, as a Black queer woman, as someone from a low-income background with a poor family, like, to say, “Actually, all this shit is constructed,” right? Anthropology has allowed for me to say the shit that I thought was familiar and how the world is actually very strange, and how can I take it apart and look at it? So the spyglass—also the image of the spyglass is something that allows you to look at something outside of oneself. I think it’s also interesting, like, anthropology is always looking outside of itself or at the Other. So for her to say, well, I need that Othering to look at myself, I thought was also very interesting. 

[00:07:12] AJ: Yeah, and I think there’s a process of also getting to know herself in a different place. It’s almost like, you know, people take gap years—at least, I guess it’s more of a European thing, you know—people take gap years and they travel or, you know, because they need to experience some kind of hardship [laughs]. So, like, I [crosstalk]—

[00:07:34] BT: How did you know that’s what gap years were for?! 

[00:07:35] AJ: [Unclear] [Laughs]—experiencing hardship. But no, I think it’s going and experiencing your life in a different kind of way that makes you reflect on yourself and the way that you’ve been living your entire life. And so I often say that some of the most—you know, people who are sheltered, they tend to be ones who don’t leave their hometowns or, you know, leave the very enclosed spaces and experiences that they’ve had in the past. Which, if you’ve heard me talk about academics being institutionalized, that’s one of the things that I’m talking about is from birth until they retire, they’re in some kind of educational institution for many of them. And that doesn’t really allow them to take a step back and look at the institution in a different kind of way.

[00:08:35] BT: Yeah. I’m happy for my little two years of hardship—I’m just kidding, let me not. Let me not characterize teaching like that even though I had my hard days that Tevin Campbell got me through. I do think, for those of you who are in undergraduate thinking about graduate school and listening to this, like, taking that time away so that you can understand yourself more is very important. But anthropology does offer you a way to do that as well, as you were saying, so. Yeah, I think we’ve talked before about, like, how we came to anthropology, but I wanna know, like—and I know people—the girls are dying to hear how we came to our dissertation research projects. So do you wanna start or do I wanna start?

[00:09:28] AJ: Sure, I will start. It’s really—I mean, there’s the long story and there’s the short story [laughter]. And the short story is that my research project basically landed in my inbox.

[00:09:43] BT: Yo, we love a blessing! An easy blessing.

[00:09:46] AJ: Yeah, I was—you know, I—because I had been living in Martinique in the past and I was also—I did some research there for my master’s degree, I was getting the local newsletter delivered to my email. And I kinda wouldn’t really read them, I wouldn’t really go through them because it was a lot, they’d come every day. And then I was just deleting some and deleting some and at the time I was, you know, thinking about what I wanted to do for graduate school if I wanted to continue to the PhD and all of that. And I saw this project that they were launching reviving coffee production in Martinique. And I was like, “Okay! This is interesting, this is it.” And it was just like a spark that kind of lit this fire in me, and I was like, “Yeah, this is a project. This is really interesting.” The longer story, or the longer part of that story, is basically coming to food and commodity production and things like that. I think food is just one of those things that every human has some kind of connection to, right? Like, everybody has to eat.

[00:10:59] BT: I know, me especially, honey.

[00:11:00] AJ: [Laughter] And I think that food is this really interesting product that kind of speaks to this metaphorical or symbolic—you know, these symbolic things around anthropology, right? Which is like, you know, its preparation is kind of part of how we produce culture, how we create culture. And then its consumption is similar to how we incorporate that culture into ourselves. And I think that’s what really got me fascinated in studying food and how people produce and consume it. So anyway, so yes, my project itself [laughs]. It’s about the revival of coffee production in Martinique in the 18th century. Martinique was the first place to grow coffee in the New World. So in the coffee industry, the island is known as the gateway to coffee in the Americas. And Jamaica and Brazil and all of these other coffee-producing countries, their coffee plants actually came from Martinique. So in the 19th century, the production kind of fell off, and it stopped and people continued growing it, but there wasn’t an export industry anymore. So in the last few years, the natural regional parks of Martinique in conjunction with a Japanese coffee company, they’ve decided to revitalize this historical coffee production and they did genetic research to find the descendants of the first plant that came to Martinique. So it’s this whole-

[00:12:45] BT: So much money! So much money!

[00:12:46] AJ: It’s so much money, this whole heritage project. And the goal is to, you know, contribute to Martinique’s economic autonomy, as well as preserving history and heritage. And so the question that I’m asking is, why does it seem in the Caribbean that the past must always be built into the ways that we conceive of our futures? You know, even when they claim to be leaving it behind, right? They’re like, “Oh, you know, we’re getting away from this colonial connection with France, and we’re moving away from our dependence on France through this project of autonomy.” And yet the reason that Martinique was the first place to produce coffee in the New World was because of colonialism and slavery. So that’s essentially what my project is.

[00:13:36] BT: Right, it’s the history that we don’t speak about that magically makes a way for things to be, you know? Yeah, I think that it’s really interesting you say it just popped up in your inbox. I think my story—which is not anything new I think—I came to my dissertation project by a series of coincidences that now, what, five years later started to make a little bit more sense in its own way. But yeah, I put 2017 I was coming to graduate school. I had just resigned from teaching so I could go. And I needed to make some money over the summer, because if you know that public school teacher struggle, you know the summer months are real hungry. They were hungry months. So I decided to take a job at a university locally here in Baltimore that everyone knows is here in Baltimore. It’s a big name. And I worked with their Center for Talented Youth. And so it was my first time working with kids who were basically at the opposite end of the, like, socioeconomic spectrum from the kids that I worked with. And most of them were white. Most of them their parents could afford to pay $4,000 for them to have a three-week experience. And the whole goal of the program was to teach them, expose them to different, like, social justice projects. So as a teaching assistant, I would help them—”help”—assist, which I really was—anyway. That’s a whole ‘nother bowl to get into, a whole ‘nother thing to get into. As a teaching assistant, I was in charge of making sure that they had, like, smooth experiences when we would go out and do these kind of community-based projects. So one of the community-based projects that we did was at this local organization that did, like, neighborhood cleanup and employed the youth in Baltimore. And so before we left, I had to teach the students this whole kind of, you know, “We’re gonna encounter Black people, we’re gonna encounter poor Black people, we’re gonna encounter Black kids your age, right, who—you know, they’re gonna be your age. Let’s talk about how we interact with people. Let’s practice this so that we’re not being offensive to them.” And so we did that and then we were cleaning up and—you know, that was back when I was young, so I had my young knees, my young back, and I was out there also doing neighborhood cleanup, too. So, like, pulling up weeds, picking up trash, all that, with the kids. And this is, like, the middle of summer [in] Baltimore. So it was like a hundred-something degrees, but we was out here. We was doin’ it. And one of the camp—oh, let me not call it a camp—one of the neighborhood leaders, he was there, and he was in charge of the program. And he was telling me about how he used to teach Freddie Gray. And he was telling me about how Freddie Gray was very much still a memory in the community and how everyone in the community still loved him and thought of him even though he had been dead at that point for two years. And I thought it was very interesting. Kept that in the back of my mind. It was very interesting how he spoke about him being dead—like, he was dead, but he spoke about him as if he was very much still there. And then once I learned more about Korryn Gaines and her story, I was, like, “Why is it that this Black woman isn’t talked about in the same way, [she] doesn’t hold that same memory?” And so that is what unlocked my dissertation research project, was just thinking about why is it that everybody’s trying to remember Black men in their communities usually—and I’m gonna say this—like, usually better than how they were before they die, right? Whereas Black women, if remembered, they have to be remembered, in a certain way, right? They have to have a certain kind of meaning attached to them. And so I actually met some anti-sexual violence activists who were very active in kind of the memorial space and work for Black women and girls. And through talking to them got hooked up into my research project. And that’s why I’m here in Baltimore. And it seems that I’m here for—these days, it feels like I’m here for more reasons than just that. So [laughs] it feels like things just came around in a lot of ways. But I’m very happy to be on the kind of tail-end of my fieldwork and moving towards the writing phase of things for sure.

[00:18:38] AJ: Yeah! 

[00:18:38] BT: For sure. 

[00:18:41] AJ: I hear that. Fieldwork is actually one of the more distressing parts of research for me [laughs], of doing all of these things. But I really liked what you said about “unlocked,” you know. That that’s the key that unlocked your dissertation project, that unlocked your research, you know. There was this key into your interests, which shows you that research—even though people often say this as a negative—but research is me-search. I think that there’s a way in which you, and myself, you know, we use our research to kind of uncover the things that we really wanna know and uncover the things that we’re really curious about. And you may not quite have the framing for it or the theory for it, you know, when you first start out, but it’s this process of discovery—of discovering yourself and your interests, and, you know, the true question that you have. And I spent one summer, the summer after my first year, trying to really figure that out, trying to really figure out what is it that I wanted to know. What’s the question that’s animating my interest in this project? So I did want to ask was this—is the project that you’re working on now what you applied to the programs—what you applied to your PhD programs for?

[00:20:17] BT: Hunh. Hm, was it? Well, definitely not as specific. Like, I didn’t have a fieldsite in mind. Yeah, mine was very broad. I think in the beginning, I kind of imagined a comparative project, like going to Brazil and comparing Brazil to the US. Definitely still focused on political movements, Black youth, and women. But it’s so wild. That was, like, six years ago when I wrote that. Like, I—and I didn’t believe people when they said that it would change either, but now I’m like, no, it’s definitely not the same. But it’s very similar.” Like, I would say it’s not a complete 180. It’s like, “Oh, I focus on a place, I have a hook.” My hook is trying to understand why people don’t love us Black women like they want to—well, they say they do, if they say they do. But I don’t think I could have imagined in 2016 that I would be doing what I’m doing now or where I’m at now, for sure. 

[00:21:34] AJ: Right, and I think the hook is that underlying question, right? That one that you’re really trying to discover what exactly it is that you’re trying to answer, what it is that you’re trying to know. But you talked about not having a fieldsite in mind, and one of the questions that we got on Twitter was how do you define the field? How would you define the field?

[00:21:58] BT: How I define the field? 

[00:22:00] AJ: Yes, before we talk about fieldwork, we’ve gotta talk about how one defines the field [laughs].

[00:22:07] BT: I mean, I guess it just depends on what kind of project you’re doing, right? If—because I think the field is not just a physical place, it’s also kind of, like, you, wherever you’re at. Wherever—like, whatever you’re thinking, whatever you’re working on. But that’s not a very, like, definition-definition kind of thing. So, yeah, like, for me, the field is dependent upon my project in and of itself, right, which is more or less, if we wanna really boil it down to understanding Black women’s experiences moving through the world—through an anti-Black world, right? And so, like, as a Black woman, then, my life and my experiences become part of the story, even if I don’t want them to, they become part of what I have to tell. They become how I am able to, like, understand what’s important information versus what’s not. And so for others who might go abroad, the field might be that actual physical place. So I might only be doing “fieldwork” while I’m there. But I think a lot of anthropologists now are turning towards defining the field as something that actually travels with the anthropologist and not necessarily being a stationary place. But what do you think, how do you define it?

[00:23:31] AJ: Yeah, I—well, I think that historically, the field was limited to the village, right? That was generally what the anthropologists did, is they traveled to a faraway village and that was their unit of study or their unit of analysis, that was their levels. Then you kind of have, you know, people who start talking about interconnections and global connections, you know. Very much connected with, like, Sidney Mintz and Eric Wolf and then Anna Tsing kind of took that and exploded it in ways that have been really positive. And then now, you know, of course, we have the internet and all of these new kinds of sites that people are looking at as the field. I often think about Trouillot’s distinction between the object of observation and the object of study. And so while your object of study might be your political movements and sovereignty, you know, and you can come at that through different ways—so you can look at that through performance or you can look at it through environmental activism or, you know, people who do memory work in Baltimore, you know? So those are your objects of observation. So I think the field for me is the site or the sites in which the object of observation is located. I mean, it might be simplistic, but, you know, for me, it’s the places where I’m going to be able to learn about the processes that are undergirding the phenomena that I’m trying to examine. And that can be, you know, circumscribed in any way that I’d like, you know, while acknowledging that the things I do learn are inherently partial.

[00:25:16] BT: They have to be. There’s no way, you know. You’re no longer believing the lie that as an outsider, you’re objective, right? That’s the old anthro, OG anthro. We’re not doing that anymore, we’re not lying to ourselves anymore about that.

[00:25:33] AJ: But what do people say when you’re like, “Yeah, my research is in Baltimore.” I have an idea of what it might be but [laughs]—

[00:25:41] BT: Well, most of the time people bring up The Wire, which, you know, I have not finished watching, so. And a lot of times, in talking to people, they’re like—you know, in interviews, they’re like, “It’s not like how you see on The Wire.” And I have to be like, “Well, girl, I only saw, you know, a few episodes of that. So, you know, don’t gotta worry about me asking”—

[00:26:03] AJ: You gotta at least watch the season with the kids [laughs].

[00:26:07] BT: I know but don’t—doesn’t something bad happen to them? The whole time I’m watching, I’m like, “Yo, if they kill these kids, it’s over for me.” With children—I can’t watch children be hurt and die. That— 

[00:26:19] AJ: So people say The Wire. I would’ve thought people would be more like, “Is it anthropology if you’re saying in the US and not studying native people?”

[00:26:29] BT: Yeah, I think anthropologists ask that question more. But if it’s just, like, a regular person, or someone who’s kinda in the know of anthropology, they’re like, “Oh, is it, you know, like The Wire?” Or, “Do you feel safe there?” I’ve gotten that question before, like, “Do you like it?” Yeah. But most of the time, people are concerned about my safety, I think, here. Which, for me, I’m like, I felt unsafe when I moved to the white neighborhood. Like—

[00:27:08] AJ: [Laughter] Like where you live now? 

[00:27:09] BT: Where I live now! That’s when people started breaking into my car when I started living over here, so. And that happened one time and nothing was damaged, if you’re curious. But yeah, so I definitely think that Baltimore has its own lore around Blackness, around murder, around violence, but people don’t ever really figure Black women into that matrix, either. Which is, like, part of my—what I’m interested in understanding. Like, even when you think about Baltimore, like, as a violent place, like, people don’t think about violence against women. They think about, you know, young Black men killing each other, so—or the police killing people? So yeah. What do people say about Martinique when you say—

[00:27:59] AJ: I just tweeted about this, actually. I said, “People always say, ‘Oh, must be nice! How nice! Oh! So luxurious! You must really enjoy it.’” And I’m like, “You clearly have only ever stayed on a resort in the Caribbean. Like, you don’t know nothin’ about this life. You don’t know about almost being killed by falling coconuts.” That’s happened to me [laughs].

[00:28:22] BT: Oh, girl! 

[00:28:23] AJ: You don’t know!

[00:28:23] BT: Not nature tryna take you out!

[00:28:26] AJ: [Laughs] It really did. I was trying to relax and a coconut fell next to my head. You know, you don’t know about how you can’t leave any crumbs anywhere because the ants will come. You don’t know about the roaches and the humidity so your clothes never dry and everything smells damp for some parts of the year and it’s just like—today, I had to pick up a dead beetle. Otherwise, the ants would come and they eat the beetles, which is very disturbing. I didn’t know [laughs].

[00:28:56] BT: Circle of life! It’s the circle of life. You have your own National Geographic

[00:29:01] AJ: I do! I did not know that until I moved here, you know, ten—it’s been 11 years since the first time I’ve been here and I saw a whole, like, group of worker ants just carrying this tiny beetle away and I was like, “This is so disturbing,” you know? Like, everything has to be in the fridge, you’ve just—it’s just different—it’s a different way of life, like, so when people are like “Oh, must be nice,” I’m like, “Oh, you’ve stayed on resorts where, you know, Black people are paid to be nice to you, where they’re your servants. Okay, cool.” [Laughs] I see what kind of person you are. You don’t know nothin about this life. So—

[00:29:40] BT: I would like to know, though. Please get me off this—

[00:29:43] AJ: I mean, don’t get me wrong—

[00:29:44] BT: —this particular side of the rock. 

[00:29:47] AJ: Don’t get me wrong, there are nice—there are absolutely great things about, you know, being in the Caribbean being—you know. As exercise, I go for a swim in the ocean, but, like, how is that different than someone who lives in California? It’s not! It’s not really that different, so [laughter]. All right, so we have this interesting question, which is which types of fields choose you?

[00:30:16] BT: Wow, we have—do philosophers follow us? I think that’s a really interesting question, thank you. What type of fields choose me? I have never been the type of person that was like, “I’m interested in studying people who aren’t Black.” That was, like, never me. I think the only time I’ve ever done that was when I was forced to do a speech—[laughs] this is gonna sound horrible—in seventh grade, and I had to dress up like a Nazi and do a speech in seventh grade.

[00:30:59] AJ: Oh my god! 

[00:31:00] BT: Yeah, I don’t understand the purpose of it. Now, looking back, I’m like, “I don’t know why we had to do that.” But, yeah, I think it was—we were studying point of view or something, and so we all had to do our research projects on—it was the Holocaust and you drew names out of a hat. And I drew Hitler’s right-hand man, whose name I can’t remember. And I had to write a whole speech and memorize it from his point of view. And so that’s the only time [laughs] I’ve ever…You know, I don’t know! South Carolina, South Carolina. So I—

[00:31:39] AJ: I dressed up as Sojourner Truth once and gave her speech—

[00:31:43] BT: I feel like I would rather—

[00:31:44] AJ: —when I was grade 8 [laughs].

[00:31:46] BT: Would have rather done that. I feel like I didn’t really have a choice. And so, the fields that choose me are ones that impact Black people, wherever Black people at, whatever they doin’. But I feel like everybody’s fields choose them. It’s not like people just are conscripted into things. So, I don’t know. What do you think? What kind of fields choose you?

[00:32:13] AJ: Yeah, that was my—I didn’t take it as a personal question about the fieldsites that choose me. I thought, like—[laughs] I took it as a more general question—

[00:31:24] BT: Oh! [Laughs]

[00:32:25] AJ: —of what kind of fieldsites choose their researchers, I guess [laughs]. And so my thoughts were basically that they all do, you know? Everyone—you kind of choose and are chosen by your fieldsite, right, because you—in the one sense, you kind of have to be accepted into it, right? And that can be in different ways, you know. In some places, people might be given a kinship title that, you know, will then require them to interact and behave within the community in a particular way. You know, in other places, it’s like you have to get that internship or you have to get people to be like, “Oh, yes, I trust this person to give them an interview and things like that.” So, you know, we don’t have anthropologists who are going to study random places—I mean, even though they weren’t random, they were chosen strategically in many cases in history—and to learn about their structures, like kinship, religion, you know. As I was saying, your research is me-search, so you’re kind of choosing it and it’s choosing you because you’re studying it because it’s what you are interested in and because you have experience in it. And it’s the thing that you kind of have to do now because, you know, when you’re an ethnographer, your body and yourself are the tool of research, you know? Those are the major tools that you’re using to answer the questions that you want to know about. That I will come back to a lot, by the way everyone. That’s my question. Whenever people ask me like, “Oh, can you help me with my research proposal,” or “Can you help me with applying to grad school?” my question to you is, “What do you wanna know?” That’s the first thing I ask everybody and it stumps so many people [laughs]. So, I think that good research starts with your question.

[00:34:27] BT: Of course. You know, it starts within. Like, everyone’s always trying to move out. Honey, have you checked in with yourself lately? [Laughter] And, you know, you might check in with yourself, check in with your guides and realize that what you are interested in actually might not be something you need to be studying, like…But that’s—

[00:34:49] AJ: That is another conversation—

[00:34:52] BT: That’s another conversation.

[00:34:53] AJ: —for another day. I tweeted about that today, too. [Laughs] I was like, “Give Black women research money. Because you don’t need another white man studying the Africans of the Gobi Desert.” The Gobi Desert is not in Africa [laughs]. And I wrote it all purposely. I wrote it in that way purposefully, because we don’t need any more of those kinds of projects. But in any case. 

[00:35:26] BT: [Laughs] Or that—

[00:35:28] AJ: I said what I said.

[00:35:30] BT: [Laughs] When I tweeted and was like, “All these good jobs out here, but my dissertation is still a whisper between me and my ancestors,” and all these people were liking it, and a lot of them were not Black, but studying Black people. And I was like, “Have you talked to your ancestors about this because would they be on board with what you’re doing right now?” I mean, and maybe some of them would for wrong reasons, right? But, like, some of you might check in and be like, “Actually, the work I’m doing is not for me to do. I need to shuffle my money, attention, time.”

[00:36:09] AJ: But if they don’t do it, who will? [Laughs]

[00:36:14] BT: And on that note—who will? Because there’s nobody else in the world that can do the work that you do, right? Isn’t that what they teach us? We’re all unique and special and—anyways [laughter]. Isn’t that what they teach us?

[00:36:28] AJ: I mean, they’re creating lanes and pathways for us to come in behind them [laughs].

[00:36:34] BT: Yeah! Absolutely.

[00:36:37] AJ: They’re creating the demand for our kind of work [laughter].

[00:36:43] BT: You know? Where would Black Studies be without white people? I don’t know [laughs]. What is it? This whole Harvard thing is people talking about white people in African Studies, and it’s like, where would African Studies be if the Africanists were not white? And I think, you know, that’s a great question to ask somebody else. 

[00:37:10] AJ: That is what I think. That was what I was gesturing towards [laughs]. All right, before we get ourselves in too much trouble, let’s move on to next question [laughter]. Which is, what is the ethnography that inspired or inspires your work? [Pause] [Speaks French]

[00:37:34] [Music Plays]

[00:37:36] BT: Wow, French! That’s what French sounds like.

[00:37:41] AJ: Oh, yes. Maybe I’ll leave it in the recording so everyone knows that I’m linguistically competent for this project [laughs]. Okay, yes. 

[00:37:56] BT: The ethnography that inspires your fieldwork? I’m gonna let you go first while I think about this more [laughter].

[00:38:05] AJ: Well, this is gonna sound terrible, but there isn’t one that inspires my fieldwork. There’s definitely ones that have, you know, inspired my research, which is—

[00:38:16] BT: Yeah, I think I was gonna say something similar.

[00:38:18] AJ: —-not one and the same, but I will explain why. My fieldwork itself is, I suppose, modeled on Trouillot’s work, you know, in Silencing the Past and Peasants and Capital. You know, my supervisor’s work on the social life of coffee, it’s called From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive. You know, there’s definitely some Sidney Mintz in there as well. So, you know, I say that there isn’t one that that inspires my fieldwork specifically, because the ethnography and the ethnography, as in the practice in the product, they’re such different beasts, right? And I don’t think that anyone truly conveys their research experience in their books and articles. I don’t think they ever really can. I don’t think that you really get a true picture of what someone’s fieldwork was like for you to be like, “This is what I want my fieldwork to be like,” you know? I think the book—and even when you talk to people, you just get a small slice of the experience that they’ve had. And the book tends to mythologize the field experience, right? It’s like, “Oh, you know, I just came across this situation, and it led to this amazing insight about political economy,” or something like that. And it’s like, that’s not really how it happens. And we don’t really ever know what happened in the field. So that’s why I’d say I don’t necessarily have a have a specific text that inspires my fieldwork. That’s not to say I don’t have ethnographies that inspire my research, my thinking, and my anthropological practice, which I consider different.

[00:40:02] BT: Yeah, I think that’s an important distinction and probably one I would’ve wandered my way to in my response. [Laughs] I think as far as like the actual ethnographies that inspire me, Vita, which I think is, like, a really well written—it was my first time encountering an ethnography. I was like, “Oh, I like reading this,” you know. [Laughter] I’m enjoying reading this, how well written it is. And then also—wow. The name came and then it left me, but it will come back to me. There’s another ethnography written by an anthropologist. It’s based in, like, the southwest. She’s studying mostly indigenous people who are recovering from, you know, heroin addiction and—wow, wow. And if it was sitting on my shelf, I would be able to look at it and remember. The Pastoral Clinic, I think is what it’s called. But that was one that really struck me as something that I was like, “I would love to write like this, and make my ethnography read like fiction.” But as far as, like, methods in the field, I think Aimee Meredith Cox’s book Shapeshifters is one that definitely had me thinking about ways I could implant myself, I guess, more or less. Like, I didn’t have to feel like this researcher who was on the outside. Like, I could find people to work with and that be a part of my ethnographic journey. And writing about that, too, because I think she writes really well about what it’s like to be working at this shelter, and then being director of a shelter, alongside thinking about these Black girls and their experience with violence and homelessness and trying to carve out a life for themselves in Detroit. And so I think that may be one model. Like, I was like, “Okay, maybe I can pitch myself as an intern to different organizations, and whoever is willing to let me, a stranger, in with all my experiences and write about my experience, and also interview them,” I was into it. And I got turned down by a few places, so it was not easy. Or—and by turned down, I mean never heard back from a few places. But one organization did graciously accept me, and, like, I’m still working with them, and it’s really exciting, because now it’s like I’m doing work that really matters to me and also getting to write and do things for my fieldwork. But yeah, I would say I guess [an] ethnography that inspires or serves as a model, I would definitely name Shapeshifters as one.

[00:43:14] AJ: I think that’s a good choice. All right, next question, and I’m going to combine a couple questions. So what’s the hardest part about fieldwork for you? Did you formally get taught methods in your program? Or what are you excited/worried about/wondering about most re: your fieldwork? And what are your top tips/strategies for fieldwork, notes, resources, etc.?

[00:43:41] BT: Ooh honey, hardest part of fieldwork. I started fieldwork during the pandemic. So, hardest part was recruiting people to talk to and literally being a stranger on the internet and talking to these Black women, Black non-binary people. I’ve interviewed one Black trans man, and what’s—and then also had to turn down people who didn’t read the flyer and, you know, showed up and were not Black. And it was very confusing to me. But again, how clear can you be when you literally say, “Are you Black?” on your recruitment flyer? Anyway [laughs]. I don’t know. 

[00:44:27] AJ: You have a very generous [laughter] compensation for your interlocutors compared to a lot of research, so I think that I would probably be that person. You know how they say, “Apply to jobs even if you don’t have all the qualifications”?

[00:44:44] BT: [Laughter] Well, honey, you do not want me to be a hiring manager.

[00:44:48] AJ: I think that your compensation package is possibly what spurred those kinds of [unclear].

[00:44:53] BT: Yeah. For those of you who are curious, I compensate people for interviews because I live in Baltimore. It’s got one of the highest rates of unemployment and things like that, and I want people to feel valued for their time. And I’m talking about hard shit. So I pay people about $150 for an hour and a half of their time. And, yeah, I’ve had white people sign up. And then I have to say, “Well, I’m so sorry, this study is not for you.” But yeah, so that’s why I can’t be your hiring manager, because I’m not really good at sugarcoating things. As far as being formally taught methods, in our current program, there’s no, like, methods course, per se, we—they’re starting to change that, but when I went through, we got, like, a little dab of methods in our grant writing course. Like, “Let’s try these things,” and some of those—

[00:46:00] AJ: That was new to your cohort, too. 

[00:46:02] BT: Oh, yeah. It was brand new. It was the first time doing it. 

[00:46:04] AJ: So you were the first ones to have that and then we had it as well.

[00:46:08] BT: Yeah, it’s one of those things where people kind of just assume you know how to interview, you know how to ask questions, you know how to create interviews that answer your research questions, which—that is a skill, right? Like, you want to learn about colonialism and history? Well, you have to make sure you have questions that actually get you the answers that you want. And then if they don’t, then you have to think about “Okay, well, what answers am I getting?” Because that, too, might be interesting. Which I learned in my interview process, actually. I thought I was asking people questions to get at the themes that I wanted, and then other things would emerge from that, which was really beautiful if you allow it to happen in the process. So yeah, what tips/strategies? I would say please find a way to organize the things that you’re doing. I am not a very organized person outside of, like, really just school stuff. Like, my day to day, I am not very organized. It’s the Gemini in me. I just kinda do things as they come. And maybe that’s surprising [laughter]. 

[00:47:22] AJ: It is, it’s surprising to me. I thought you were very organized. 

[00:47:27] BT: I don’t see—and my therapist actually probably would disagree with me—I don’t see myself as very organized. But, yeah, maybe I am. But I would say and would definitely encourage organization as far as if you are keeping fieldnotes, keep them all in the same place. If you’re in the archive, keep your archival notes in the same place. 

[00:47:52] AJ: And back them up.

[00:47:52] BT: If you’re having to schedule—and back them up! Keep copies. I write by hand—we were actually talking about this before recording—I write by hand. I have a notebook. And I keep that notebook in the same place in my desk. And when it’s time for me to write new fieldnotes, I write there. But I also have a journal and my journal records my thoughts and what I got going on in my life but as I review it, I’m realizing some of that is also kind of fieldnote-y. But since I’m not out and about in the streets [laughter] like anthropology of old, you know, my participant-observation is very much different from how it would be if the pandemic did not affect how we interact with each other. You know, things are different. I’m writing down different kinds of fieldnotes, I would say. But yeah, what are your top tips, hardest part—well you just got started so [unclear]—

[00:48:57] AJ: Well, I’ve done fieldwork before so—

[00:48:59] BT: Oh yeah, you have! Of course you have.

[00:49:00] AJ: The first thing I will say is—and not preliminary, I did fieldwork for my master’s, but not as long as this period will be. But, woo! The hardest part for me is talking to people [laughs]. Which is, like, “Why are you an anthropologist?” I don’t know. I don’t know why I chose this. I do and it’s actually a really basic reason but I’m actually really shy [laughs]. 

[00:49:27] BT: I can see that.

[00:49:28] AJ: And, you know, people—I’ve talked about it on the podcast before, social phobia, and I feel like I’ve never really explained what that actually is and people kind of throw around “Oh, I have social anxiety. I have social anxiety.” My therapist says I have social phobia, y’all. It’s not an Instagram diagnosis. So generally—I’ll just say what that means. Usually what happens is you’re under pressure or if you’re in a conversation or something like that you might feel like people are constantly judging you. So your mind goes blank and that happens to me a lot. So you’ll—you know, that’s when I’ll kind of, like, trail off and stop speaking [laughs]. Because I’ve just kind of forgotten what it was that I was trying to say. And I find that it even happens in, you know, close social situations. So if I’m talking to someone, one on one, it’s fine. But if I’m in a group, and I start speaking, and everybody looks at me, at the same time—you know, obviously, people change attention to this person who’s speaking—I will get kind of freaked out by that, and, again, lose my train of thought. So anyhow, fieldwork is itself, the hardest part for me [laughter]. It’s interviewing people and expecting people’s—you know, asking people for their time, because I think that, you know, one of the things that we assume—and you were talking about the things that people assume that they know to do for fieldwork—one of them is that we assume people feel entitled to other people’s time [laughs]. But there’s an essay by Ashanté Reese that’s really good. You know, she talks about those assumptions that we make about people who will be doing ethnography, you know, particularly when it comes to their personality and their temperament, and she talks about shyness in that. And she writes that we privilege the gregarious, the able-bodied, and the linguistically agile. And, oof, that is so true. So I’m sitting here in my office here in Martinique and the anxiety about not being able to do my research because of COVID has given way to this new anxiety about actually having to do what I said I was going to do.

[00:51:54] BT: [Laughter] Which is, like, part of it. It’s part of it. 

[00:51:56] AJ: I’m like, “Oh shoot, I have to do interviews, I have to try and get this internship at this organization.”

[00:52:02] BT: I mean, you could not, but then you’d be like…

[00:52:06] AJ: Some other people. I know someone who thought that they could do fieldwork in the place that they went to do fieldwork. And then they weren’t able to. So they wrote their thesis about, like, not making connections or something like that. It was about—he turned it into, like, an affect project where he just talked about, like, the feelings and experiences, but he couldn’t actually speak to anyone because he wasn’t linguistically prepared. So anyways—and then the, I think, the Director of Graduate Studies said that it was the future of anthropology. And look at us now! [Laughs] Look at us now. 

[00:52:44] BT: Look [laughs].

[00:52:45] AJ: You know, not actually being able to do research with people in person. So anyways. So there’s an aspect that’s preparation, but there’s also a part that involves just putting yourself in the right places. One of our beloved professors, who’s so lovely—hi!—she explained it to me as just like, “Where are you going to put your body?” She was like, “Figure out a place where you can put your body and, you know, put yourself in a position to find out the things that you need to do.” And so my advice is to be gentle, be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and just, you know, let things unfold. And there are two books that I’ve read. One is called Being Ethnographic that was really helpful. And then there’s Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, I just reread it and I was like, “Oh, some of these fieldnotes are kind of problematic and anti-Black.” But [laughs] the parts about how to write fieldnotes and the purpose of fieldnotes, I’ve found really, really helpful because, you know, we did get a little bit, again, of methods and I got some methods as well in my master’s. But, honestly, nothing really prepares you—even if you had a whole course, which I did—nothing really prepares you for actually doing it in the fields. Which is often what people use as an excuse to not teach methods and that’s—no.

[00:54:21] BT: Yeah, no, I think it’s better to have the toolkit and not need it than to not have it and have to kind of come up with it on the fly. I think that I’m privileged in the aspect that I’ve been coming to Baltimore for a few years, meeting people through connections. And something that I get from my mother is that if I need something Imma say it, or if I [laughs]—when it’s time for me to advocate for myself, I can do it, or advocate for others, I can do it. And I think I really was just very intentional about making sure even if these people don’t remember me, that I’ve met them, that they—so when I do reach back out, I can say, “Hey, remember this event at this time? I was there, we talked.” And that’s really how I got to know the activists that I’m working with now. And it’s been such a joy. So, yeah, field—we got a question about fieldwork in a pandemic. Does it seem like fieldwork has permanently changed because of COVID? Or does it seem like it’s reverting back to kind of an in-person, direct contact type of fieldwork? I believe that—one of the possibilities that the pandemic gave us that I think so many people were so hung up on [is] reclaiming what they perceived to be lost, right? Like, this lost way of life, this lost way of contact with other people—was that actually anthropology and its methods became a lot more accessible to some. Like, now—you mentioned Ashanté’s quote about the able-bodied, linguistically agile, like—one thing about being online, being on Zoom, is that I don’t have to be necessarily able to, like, walk or do all these things to still conduct research. And so this kind of, like, digital research that people kind of pushed off to the side as not “real” anthropology, or maybe just a special kind of anthropology, now is becoming a lot more mainstream, I think, in my opinion. Or seen as a lot more valid. What do I do? I now do kind of a mixed methods approach when it comes to that. So my interviews have all been on Zoom, which has been interesting, because then you see people’s homes or wherever they at, wherever they choose to do their interviews. Ways that I would not have seen had we did it in person. But then I do in-person work as well with activists, where we’ll meet up and we’ll talk. And that’s, like, my participant-observation kind of stuff. What do you envision doing? Do you wanna share that or do you wanna share some of it. I know you just had to write all these grants and stuff, so you probably have a list of what you see yourself doing.

[00:57:19] AJ: I envision it to be mostly in person as people are comfortable, and people are working in person, because I want to do an internship, right? They are doing that work in person. And because a lot of it is farming, it’s outdoors, and it has to be in person, right. I mean, I have a backup method to understand how farmers are working and see how they’re working on the coffee farms without being in person. But in an ideal situation, I would be there. So, for me, it would be in person. I don’t think that we’ll be able to answer that until the COVID ethnographies start coming out.

[00:58:02] BT: Oop!

[00:58:02] AJ: [Laughs] I think that—

[00:58:05] BT: And you know we always, like, 5 to 6 years behind so, maybe 2030. 

[00:58:08] AJ: Yeah. We’ll see. We’ll see, chile. Honestly. Yeah, I think people can—you know, they’ll the wax lyrical about digitally mediated research and all of these kinds of things right now, because we have to. But there are a lot of people who don’t want to change the discipline, right? Who don’t want us to change, who want us to continue doing what anthropologists are known for, which is in-person research, and anything that is not that is not valid, is not rigorous, is not anthropological. And so I think if we start seeing in 5, 6, 7, 8 years, the COVID ethnography winning awards, and all of these kinds of things, and people talking about how rich and how rigorous they are, then I think it will kind of become more accepted. But until then, I think we’re going to continue having professors who are going to be like, “Get to the field if you can.” So we’ll see. 

[00:59:06] BT: Yeah. We’ll see. We’ll see, chile. Honestly…

[00:59:10] AJ: But speaking of them oldheads who want the discipline to stay the same [laughter], we had another question about what does fieldwork mean when there’s a call to burn the discipline?

[00:59:24] BT: Oh yeah, I guess fieldwork gotta go, too, honey. I—that’s what I was getting ready to say, like…. Especially—we talked about the ontological turn, I think, in one of the events that we were at—and maybe one day on the podcast we’ll sit and really talk about it for real for real, deeply. I think there was already a move away from that in a sense. Or at least fieldwork being “I’m out in the field talking to other human beings about the way they live their life.” Or in the case of the oldheads of the discipline, observing people and assuming that I understood how they live their lives. I think that’s already moved away from that. And when you think about the ontological turn, which is the focus on the non-human beings, for some—lemme not say for some reason—but for lots of reasons [laughs] in the discipline, I think that if we are truly going to burn anthropology, right, we’re going to recognize anthropologist colonial roots and say, “This shit shouldn’t exist no more,” then yeah, fieldwork’s gotta go, too. Fieldwork is part and parcel of what it means to do anthropology. I don’t think you can do anthropology really—or define anthropology, really—without it. I don’t know.

[01:00:50] AJ: So, for those of you who are not anthropologists and managed to make it all the way through this podcast episode, if you’re wondering what are we talking about with “burning the discipline”, there was an essay that was published in 2020 by Ryan Jobson, who’s an anthropologist, and it was called “The Case for Letting Anthropology Burn.” And since then, there have been a series of conversations and—what’s that thing called? 

[01:01:17] BT: Panels. 

[01:01:19] AJ: Panels! [Laughs] 

[01:01:19] BT: Seminars— 

[01:01:21] AJ: A series of panels and seminars and talks around—

[01:01:24] BT: —hate letters. 

[01:01:25] AJ: —you know, letting anthropology burn, and, you know, thinking about what will come out of the fire and [unclear]. And I think people are committed to the process and the method, maybe more so than they are to the discipline. I think that’s what you’re talking about with the tight-fitting chemise and being able to take that off, and for me, the toolkit and the spyglass. I think a lot more people are committed to the method and the kinds of insights that it brings over the discipline and being a child of Malinowski and of Boas and all of those things. Yeah.

[01:02:08] BT: I think fieldwork, if we think about it like—yeah, like Malinowski, right—you hop off a boat and you’re somewhere and you don’t understand what they’re saying, but you “observe” them. You probably exert some kind of colonial power. We know that a lot of these old anthropologists were going to these different colonies and, like, having sex with these people. Or—I mean, we would hope it would be consensual in some way, shape, or form. But it’s—when you think about that as, like, fieldwork in and of itself, it comes with, like, some kind of—I don’t know. I think if we’re gonna commit to fieldwork, we’re gonna have to commit to maybe letting fieldwork be a thing of the past. And we say, “Okay, what parts of this experience can we draw from to create whatever’s new?” Which might be what you’re saying—from the ashes, whatever—but I don’t think we could still call it fieldwork, because fieldwork still has that power relationship. It still has that this is born out of, like, kind of this exploitative relationship where I, as this colonial power, am coming in to understand your people so that way we can take y’all over or exploit you in whatever way. And even those of us who do feel work now, it’s still—like, it was a really a revelation for me when I—one of my first preliminary fieldwork summers when I came to Baltimore, and I had a realization that when I’m interacting with men, right, men don’t see me as a researcher, right? Like, they might ask me, “Oh, what are you doing here?” And I say, “Oh, I’m a student at Columbia and I’m trying to write about violence against Black women,” or whatever, right? It’s like, “Oh, no, they see me as a Black woman, just like the other Black women that they’ve violated.” And so, having continuous experiences of a violation and having to realize that, like, this relationship of researcher and object or subject or agent—or however you want to define the other side of that—is purely constructed. And if you have a body like mine, have a body like yours, any point in time that can be troubled for variety of reasons. So I do think—yeah, I think maybe process method, but also, what does it mean to say instead of anthropology existing as, like, a researcher coming into a community and making the familiar strange and the strange familiar, what would it mean to have members of that community study themselves or, like, produce work about themselves, right? Which is not anthropological. But, who knows? Will the university exist in the next 2 to 3 years? But TBD.

[01:05:11] AJ: I’m sure I will be running away from Gilead in 2 to 3 years. My go-bag is getting ready [laughter]. I laugh, but you don’t even know how serious I am. Okay! 

[01:05:25] BT: We’re all preparing [laughs].  

[01:05:27] AJ: All right, so we have two more questions. Our second-to-last question is how do you maintain personal boundaries with fieldmates? I’m an Aries and will tell you my whole life story at the drop of a hat, which is not always the best. Laughing so hard that I’m crying emoji from Gabriela from That Anthro podcast.  

[01:05:47] BT: Hey! [Laughter]

[01:05:49] AJ: Hey. How do you maintain personal boundaries? Well, I tend to just come off as standoffish apparently [laughter]. Not apparently. That’s a really good question. I…don’t?

[01:06:10] BT: Yeah, but I think you do. I mean, you maintain boundaries.

[01:06:15] AJ: I maintain boundaries, because I just have a wall up with everyone [laughs].

[01:06:20] BT: Yeah, I was going to say, I think—-yeah, I don’t think that’s not maintaining boundaries.

[01:06:24] AJ: It’s not on purpose. That’s the difference between having a wall up and maintaining boundaries. It’s that the boundary is not communicated. It’s more so just in existence [laughs]. 

[01:06:40] BT: I think especially in the work that I do, the things that I asked about—I am asking people about death. I’m asking them about grief. A lot of times, a lot of my interlocutors, we have deep conversations about the gender and sexual violence that they experienced as children. Because I’m very interested in understanding when do Black people understand violence to be a thing that’s a part of their life, no matter when and where and how they show up. And so we end up talking about childhoods and things like that. I am very careful to—because I don’t want the interview to feel like an interrogation. So I’m very careful in sharing enough of my experience so that people understand that I, too, have experienced these things. So, I too have been through, you know, all these different forms of interpersonal violence, but I am not telling my story because this is not about me, per se, right? Like, this is not—I’m not compensating someone $150 to spend an hour and a half listening to me talk about myself. Like, we’re not friends. We can be friends. We can grow to be friends. And I think—yeah, like, the word fieldmates to me is very interesting, right? Are these people you encounter, that you interview? And, if so, maybe just internally saying, “Oh, this is someone that I want to talk to and learn more about their experiences than I want them to understand mine at this moment in time,” right? And it could be treating it like any other relationship where you want it to grow over time, right? You don’t want to—what do they call it? It won’t be like love bombing or, you know, trauma bonding with people. You want things to grow over time. And maybe seeing it less as this kind of, like, transactional and extractive interaction, where you are telling me so much about yourself, I feel like I have to share X, Y, and Z, and you know, being like, “Actually, this is the beginning of a relationship.” And for some of my interlocutors, that is how I enter into the interview. I say, you know, “This is the beginning of us—you might see me 2 or 3 times over the course of this year. We talk, etc.” Some of my interlocutors are my friends now. We hang out, we spend time together. But that’s—like, and I have made it very clear to them that when we hang out, this is not part of my research. Like, I’m not going to be interviewing you. I’m not going to be compensating you [laughs] for this time that we spend together because we’re friends. And I think it’s really easy to maintain that boundary because money’s involved. And I mean, I’ve also done a really characteristic anthropologist thing that I won’t go too deep in. But even in that relationship, right, there’s an understanding that, like, this is purely personal, right. It’s not a part of the story of my dissertation or whatever moves forward with that. So Gabriela, I understand being an Aries, I understand wanting to share that fire energy, but it’s really about, you know, what is the end goal? What is this project about? Like, what do you want? Do you want to establish friendships and other types of relationships with people that you encounter in the field? If so, then sure, share! But if that’s not the end goal, then thinking about “Okay, I feel inclined to share this about me, but does that actually help me reach my goals?” And that might be helpful in thinking about personal boundaries? And also making sure that people, you know, that don’t have your number, that you don’t want having your number. Just kind of basic safety things, too, I think are important to think about with boundaries as well. 

[01:10:48] AJ: I think you covered it really well.

[01:10:51] BT: Yeah, I think if—you’re just getting started, too, in this iteration. So I feel like you’re going to encounter some questions and some people and you’re going to be like, “Oh, let me set this boundary.” [Laughs] “Let me set this boundary.” [Laughs]

[01:11:07] AJ: You’ll see. My way of setting boundaries is just ignoring things. Which is not setting boundaries, as I said. In any case, we shall move on to our final question which is actually my question. Which is what do you think would be your next research project? 

[01:11:23] BT: Ooh, that’s an assumptive, question, honey. [Laughter] I’m just kidding. Okay, in a perfect world where I could get a job as an anthropologist and study whatever I want, my next research project would be studying Black queer relationships in political movement spaces. And for those of you who know, you know exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. I am so confused, but also intrigued, by what happens in these kind of liberal to “radical” spaces with Black queer people and the way that they relate to each other. How, a lot of times, gender and the violence of gender is…really—how do I say it? The violence of gender, particularly when it intersects with feminism—and I’m not saying this the way I want to, but this is how I feel—causes Black trans people to be displaced from spaces that are supposed to be uplifting them. And that to me is such an interesting problem, right? We see kind of similar things happening in Black movements that exclude Black queer people in certain ways, where Black men kind of sit to the top. But in Black queer feminist spaces, we see Black cis women occupying positions of power and committing acts of violence that are horrible. And so I’m just very interested in that process and how it happens. But that’ll probably be my next research project. Not gonna lie. And now that I’ve said it out loud, and someone else wants to do it, have at it, honey! Have at it.

[01:13:26] AJ: I think it’s interesting that we both want to study relationships in a sense, actually.

[01:13:34] BT: [Laughs] We’re like, “Those big questions? We’re through with that! Let’s go through with it!” [Laughs]

[01:13:39] AJ: I know! No, I mean, it would be related. But there’s a question—we did a talk last week at the University of Virginia. Hey, y’all, thank you! 

[01:13:48] BT: Thank you!

[01:13:48] AJ: And one of the questions we got asked was what TV or movies would we incorporate into our research? And at the time, I was like, “I don’t know. I don’t know.” And then obviously, like, 2 days later, I was like, “Obviously, it would be reality TV.” 

[01:14:04] BT: Yeah! I was like, “Wait, MAFS [Married at First Sight].”

[01:14:11] AJ: [Laughs] If you follow me on my personal account, you know that I live tweet a lot of reality shows, particularly ones about relationships. That’s something that I’ve found particularly intriguing. Even since I was a child—I think I talked about how I threw my diaries away and I read them over again, and I was like, “This is really embarrassing. I just seemed really boy crazy.” And my therapist was like, “No, you were interested in relationships.” And I was like, “You know, I’ve been like that for a long time.” I’ve been interested in love and communication and negotiating, you know, two individuals coming together. So I guess it would be something related to that, you know, pursuing something like that in the future. So my project now it examines the way heritage and commodities and consumers of those commodities must be constructed. So, you know, maybe my future project would be about how the entertainment industry or, you know, reality TV networks “construct reality,” and you know, how that influences consumers.

[01:15:22] BT: And, you know, I would love to read it. I would love to read it. I would love for you to, you know, interview me about the one reality TV person that I know personally. I—ah-ha!

[01:15:39] AJ: Look at that. You might even be my gatekeeper, you know [laughs]. My key informant.

[01:15:43] BT: Look, I think I’m really good at providing profiles of people. So I could do that. It could be like oh, you know, your research project is a series of profiles of different kind of reality TV characters. I could provide one: the psychopath.

[01:16:03] AJ: Excellent. Yes, oh, my gosh, that’d be so interesting. 

[01:16:06] BT: The psychopath! [Laughs]

[01:16:08] AJ: Kind of like psychological anthropology stuff. But, you know, anyways, look at that! We did this whole episode on fieldwork and we didn’t talk about gatekeepers or key informants or anything like that. So I guess you all are just gonna have to ask us for a second episode about fieldwork because you asked us to do this, and we gave it to you. 

[01:16:29] Music fades up

[01:16:29] AJ: That is our episode, everyone. Thank you all for listening. This episode was produced by Alyssa James and Brendane Tynes and distributed in partnership with the American Anthropological Association. This season of the podcast is generously funded by a grant from the Arts and Science Graduate Council and donations from listeners just like you.

[01:16:49] BT: So, thank you all for the support. Like, roo roo, rah rah. Thank you. 

[01:16:54] AJ: Hey hey, ha ha!

[01:16:55] BT: [Laughter] If you liked this episode, please leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. And we would love to hear what you have to say about this episode, so be sure to follow us on Instagram at zorasdaughters and on Twitter at zoras_daughters. And for transcripts, syllabi, and information on how to cite us or become a patron, please visit our website, zorasdaughters.com. 

[01:17:21] AJ: All right, y’all, be kind to yourselves. Bye!

[01:17:24] BT: Bye! Byyyee!

[01:17:28] AJ: Especially if you’re doing fieldwork [laughs].

[01:17:32] [Music Ends]

[End of Recording]

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