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The reason why I became an anthropologist is that anthropology can include anything. Early in my studies, when I still aimed in an other direction, a professor told me that until her MPhil she had had a very broad field of interests, including reading French novels in their original language. But in order to reach her position, she had had to forsake much of that. Talking to her, made me realise that I wasn’t ready to give up on all my different interests in pursuing a career. So, if my future job wouldn’t spare me time to immerse myself in social and political issues, travel, film, literature and other things that interested me, I would have to take all that with me into my future job. And if I wasn’t a hundred percent sure when I started with anthropology, I certainly was after reading just a few pages of the introductory text Small places, Large issues. Anyway, the title says it all, doesn’t it?
My previous research project followed a typical comedy structure. It was a difficult but steady upward struggle, with hard work overcoming challenges and a quite happy ending. The present one, however, staggered right from the outset into a maze of existential brooding and substantive challenges. Some of the challenges pertaining to the research in Paris as compared to the study in London, I’ve written about elsewhere. But there’s more to a life in research than just research difficulties.
All of a sudden, people I knew from different circles in France started appearing on Facebook, about two years after the craze hit Norway. It reminded me of a question brought up in a seminar preparing graduate students for fieldwork I lead a while ago: Should one include one’s informants on one’s regular Facebook account? A girl wondered whether to keep two accounts; one for the fieldworker and one for her private self. If not, all attempts at anonymising would of course be futile.
…that I went to Paris for the second time, but this time on my own with friends. Perhaps Paris isn’t as eternal as Rome, but it’s far more eternal than London. London must be the capital of fads and fashions and subcultures (last time I was reminded of this was when I saw the film This is England about skinheads in the early 1980s), while Paris is almost the opposite. It might import foreign subcultures like Anglo-American punk and hip-hop (and put its distinct mark on them), but all it can come up with by itself is bohemians, poets, artists and anarchists dating from the 19th century and a whole range of philosophical fads from the 20th. All with their distinct attire and ways of life, of course. And these historical types still somehow live on among almost all age-sets (perhaps not among the youngest, who seem mostly to be into hip-hop). So, we didn’t go to Paris to go to punk concerts and try to find squats. We went there to experience some of this eternal Paris (and of course we found it!) And if we had found the squats, that would have been strange and distinctly Parisian as well, as the most well-known squats in Paris are artist squats, and not the kind of art one finds in squats in Northern Europe, but real avant-garde plastic arts and poetry (slam, for instance) and that kind of stuff.
Tomorrow is my first day in my “home office” (a Norwegicism for working from home). The little lion turns three months this week, and the progress he has made recently makes life with him far more joyous as well as a lot easier. His recent decision to refuse drinking from a bottle is on the other hand something we’ve not been too happy about as the day for sharing the parental leave has come closer. He’s a real slow-drinking glutton (who has grown 13 cm and 3 kilos in 11 weeks!), so how are we going to solve this? However, luckily, as part of the parental leave, I have the right to two hours of nursing time deducted from my 7 ½ hours working day, so I think we’ll work it through… And I’m so much looking forward to starting up again tomorrow!
…not today, but this spring, at least. The students were protesting in Tiananmen square, my favourite teacher was soon to give me a poem saying something like “when I was 18 I knew everything…” and I was going to Paris with three friends for three weeks. (And on the radio, they frequently reminded us that it was twenty years ago that Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band was released. 1969 seemed like another world in 1989. I find it hard to believe that the same amount of time had passed between ‘69 and ’89, as between ‘89 and now. For kids today the same is of course the case: “Ha! You didn’t live in the 80ies!” my boy… eh husband was told when he lectured some kids in the library where he works some facts about that decade. For my son, born two days after the election of the first black American president, the1980ies will in an ancient millennium long time passed.)
The roar is not really loud, it’s rather tiny, but with a high pitch. He learns and develops new sounds at the moment, the books say and we’ve certainly noticed that. On the brighter side; he’s also learning to laugh. I find that wonderful and such a good symbol of the human condition (as a product both of nature and society): the urge to laugh (and smile of course) is innate but babies has to learn to make the right sounds! So, now my son opens his mouth and tries to make the “h” sound…
A friend who checks my blog on a regular basis and know me well in “real time” commented jokingly that “style, voice and perspective” wasn’t really what concerned me at the moment, so, where’s the update? Numerous updates spin around in my head daily when I, hours on end, feel like I do nothing, but, when I in fact do nothing less than providing the total nourishment for keeping another human being alive. I try to see it that way, that I actually do something very important with long lasting effects and which in the big scheme of things doesn’t take that much time… But it’s hard to change outlook entirely and over-night from one aloof and intellectual to one almost entirely concerned with biological and material necessities. Naïvely, before the little creature arrived, I imagined I would have at least a couple of hours a day for doing other things. But unfortunately we happened to call him Leo and indeed he eats like a lion. …well, duty calls with a loud roar. That’s it for today. I didn’t even get to the point of telling what happened twenty years ago and what that has to do with cities and why this is of concern for this blog.
I’m curious to see how many parts it will take me to get me to finish this post or even get to the point. Well, that’s life at the moment.