It’s warming up (20’s!) as I get ready to publish this post, but with the wind chill these past few days hovering around 0° F, it has seemed an ideal time to crawl into my hibernaculum and do some intense writing, thinking and planning. It’s a new year and I have an agenda. I’ll spare you the quotidian details of my resolutions, but I do want to outline some of the topics that merit special attention in my own work and those which I intend to attack in the coming months. I’ll never waste time apologizing for the general dearth of posts–I will post when I have something worthy to share. In any case, I’ve been busy–doing anthropology!
Colleague and dear friend, Ellen Rovner, and I co-wrote and presented a PowerPoint talk (accompanying slideshow with text attached) at the November AAA annual meeting in Chicago–Home: Structures Real and Imagined . What had initially sounded like a simple idea turned out to be a huge amount of work and logistically difficult (since we live three and a half hours apart) but was, in the end, vastly rewarding. I’ll offer some observations on that experience–what I learned, what inspired me and what made me think. At that same meeting I attended a most constructive and engaging workshop sponsored by the society for Visual Anthropology, and facilitated, to my great delight, by one of the few other ethnographers currently studying the ballroom world, Jonathan Marion of the University of Arkansas. This was an opportunity to meet someone who shares my fascination with a particular social world, learn some rudimentary skills for using images in my work (critical in inquiries that focus on a richly visual world like that of dance), and see some of his own great shots of great ballroom dancers, all in all a satisfying and productive morning.
Numerous other workshops and talks broadened my horizons–which have narrowed somewhat due to my cloistered existence since grad school. It felt rejuvenating to re-engage with current discourses in the field, to see old friends and meet some new ones. Ellen and I savored several fantastic meals and I got to enjoy a brief visit with my stepdaughter, a lifelong Chicago resident, scholar and educator in her own right, and major foodie–we did have fun! On the last day we wiled away the afternoon at the Art Institute. Much to our surprise, upon entering the Institute’s current exhibition, “Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine,” (there until January 27th, for anyone who might be able to nip over there and view it–I highly recommend) we encountered the Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom from Want,” that we had featured in the first slide of our presentation. There it was, in the flesh, so to speak, a very special treat and fitting end to our trip.
I’ve just published a review of one book on language (see post of January 6) and have agreed to review another–Allan Bell’s Guidebook to Sociolinguistics (2014) for the (Wiley) Journal Gender and Language. I will post that review once it is in print. Delving back into Linguistics feels a little like having a date with an old flame and not being able to remember why in the world you ever parted. Fortunately, I’ve kept up with some of the major epistemological threads and journals in linguistics. In addition, when it comes down to it, ethnography is ethnography. Whether one’s inquiry is focused on language and communication, household economies, or ballroom dancing, the mechanics of getting a particular form of data might differ slightly (word lists and tokens of vowels versus budget items or stories about how someone got into a hobby) but the skills are the same–engaging interlocutors, working your way around their self-consciousness, showing sincere interest and developing empathy–doing your best to acquire the native point of view.
Topics I’ll be exploring and posting on in the weeks to come include:
- Backing Line of Dance: The Gendered Deictic of the Ballroom
- Will the Real Rich Please Stand Up? Exploring Perceptions, Evaluations and Discourses of Class in Contemporary Culture
- What’s Fairness Got to Do With It?: Households, Gender and Money
On the nuts and bolts side, my goal is to learn how to use all of the great tools to make the interface of this blog more engaging, to learn the ins and outs of using media and begin linking the websites and texts I find edifying and special.
I look forward to publishing these posts and to hearing your feedback. A Happy, Healthy and Productive 2014!