Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Motherhood in the Field : a new thread

I am about to embark on a years worth of anthropological fieldwork into social pregnancy and maternal subjectivities. It is my aim to spend the next 10 months 'hanging out' with pregnant women and their families, midwives and other health professionals and generally anyone who can stand my presence and questions for a long period of time!

In preparation for the field I have learnt much about interview techniques, fading into the background (or not!), the effect of the researcher on the fieldsite, best way to take notes etc. but little about the specific aspects of my own life that cannot be suspended in animation whilst I go about my field life. 


I have found noted in odd ethnographies and papers where anthropologists have noted the presence of their children (Sheper-Hughes in Death Without Weeping, Gutmann in The Meanings  of Macho), some reflections/mentions of pregnancy in the field (Rapp in Testing Women, Testing the Fetus , Ivry in Embodying Culture) and nothing so far on leaving one's small children behind to go into the field (though I am happy to stand corrected). I have come to conclusion that like much ethnographic fieldwork mysteries it must come to to initiation and guarded experience. Arguably if ethnography is to be a reflexive practice there needs to be a space for discussing such experience - it is either woefully lacking or I have failed to find it. 

I have decided to treat my posts here over the next year as a thread for my field experience and its clashes/coincidences with motherhood. This way such reflections may stay out of my confidential field notes and I will have a space to reflect upon myself and hopefully open up a discussion space for all parent anthropologists to contribute. 

OVER THE NEXT YEAR I SHALL EXPERIENCE THE FOLLOWING (in my personal life as mum, wife and woman): Being accompanied in the field by a small child; leaving another small child and husband at home for the duration; being pregnant with third child; birthing said third child and continuing in the field. 

Have I gone mad?? Is a question on the lips of many..Is it ethical/moral to separate one's young family in the name of fieldwork and what right do I have to do so? I have been asked and have asked myself many of the same and similar questions HOWEVER, as is the concern of many a fledgling academic - as much as I love to theorise about the cultural construction of the human body, my womb does have a shelf life; women have to fight hard in academia to achieve their goals and qualifications; I live under the illusion that if we can't have it all we can at least try; although I struggle to find published evidence I surely am not the first woman (or parent) to be in this situation.

Crash, burn or be successful...only experience will prove my resilience and that of my family!