Thursday, October 22, 2009

Finding Solace in Anthropology

Recently I've been pretty torn up over a developing issue in my community. An ongoing problem has come to a head, and I'm still not sure what the outcome will be. It's been enough of a block that I haven't blogged for like over a week, OMG, what's to become of my internet-addled generation...

In the midst of this community turmoil, I'm also in the most crucial period of my dissertation program: grant writing for fieldwork money. This means I need to convert all my wildly complicated ideas about bicycling, Los Angeles, cross-cultural interaction, marketing, fashion, and redesigning social life into a coherent statement.

I turned to a resource that I've seen others use, a listserv for anthropologists who work on environmental/ ecological issues. I wrote an email with a short description of my project (bicyclists are creative hybrids that have the potential to change urban life since cities, however segregated, are also creative, fluid zones).

I got so many responses, so many leads on things to read, so much encouragement, that I feel somewhat taken aback.

For a long time I've done this thing where I bash anthropology and all academic disciplines for their out-of-touchness, their lack of engagement with the real world, their forced withdrawal from "the field" for the period of intense introspection that is a dissertation.

And now, I'm so grateful to feel like I'm part of an academic community. The world is tough, confusing, messy. As an anthropologist I can inhabit a space that reflects on the world and its problems, not disengaging from it, but allowing me to suspend judgement for a little while.

Now that I feel like my life overlaps with my work too much, the long-critiqued distance of the anthropologist makes more sense.