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A little red robin just whistled outside the bedroom window. My son takes his midday nap in my lap this summer. For a long time now, he has let us know that midday laps are a waste of time, and the only way to get him to sleep is to make the environment as boring, but cosy as possible. I bunk up with a cup of tea and a novel or a pencil and paper, and for an hour or so I can slouch peacefully in the bedroom in the middle of the day.
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?
…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.
…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…
For 3-4 months I’ve been so immersed in fieldwork that I’ve taken it to be my one and only life. Vaguely, I’ve remembered that there exist a parallel universe up north (which seem to be my one and only life when I’m not elsewhere), but it wasn’t before I actually dipped back into that life for 9 days that it all crashed back into my conscience: There is an office there waiting to host me at inhumane working hours in just a few months time. There are students to be taught and colleagues to exchange with, and loads and loads of books to read… (Unfortunately, there isn’t any home with a view over Oslo to hibernate me, my plethora of succulents and dusty books anymore…).
When I entered the field again after a short trip outside of it, I couldn’t get one sentence from a book on anthropological method and the darker arts of fieldwork out of my head:
Blogging is hard these days. I’m busy, I’ve had visitors and I’m experiencing a personal earthquake*. And when all this is going on in the fieldworker’s life, the presidential election is approaching.