Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Newcomer's revelations. Spinosa's lenses.

After day-long reading of books in qualitative methods I realized what challenges I am going to meet. I've realized that my MA project and my first fieldwork are going to be harder than I had thought. And that being researcher demands much more discipline than I had supposed. Truism of the newcomer!

The textbook I've just read "Systematikk og innlevelse. En innføring i kvalitativ metode" (Systematics and empathy. An introduction to qualitative method) by Tove Thagaard is one of those books that you do hesitate to read and you start reading because you have to. A textbook that seems to bore you rigid but you do hope that it will turn out to be inspiring and helpfull. This book was such. Just after few sides you realize how ignorant you are. Ignorance to the subject that you love so much. It is like dreaming of being a pilot. You have to go through a mass of boring theorethical courses to be able then to reach the sky. And you appreciate all the knowledge you had to assimilate, in spite of being filled with nausea at the sight of a killing stack of papers you had have to read. And you value it at once you sit in the cockpit.

Revelation! I needed it. Now I know I needed this book so much that I feel embarrassed with my own naivety. Novice's failure. Mistakes that your wisdom is built upon. Fortunately. Those mental experiences and "eurekas" that leads you to clear mind.

Reading of methodological secrets has coincided with the new design of this site. For those who hasn't been here before I post a picture that was a motif of my blog.

A few days ago I realized that I am not going to arrive anywhere if I am sitting naked in front of my objects of interest and watching them behind the glass. Symbolic nudity. I took off my clothes which were my identity, experiences and values. In my artless searching for objectivity I was trying to throw away everything that could influence my understanding of "the others". What a foolishness! I was like sitting and gawking at the picture that was becoming more and more vague and impossible to read (Yeah, yeah, I knew all this about participation and so on, but the case is some mental block that all of us have to break at some point). Phenomena and objects of my interest became like this screen that consists of billions of dots and I was not able to grasp the meaning.

And then I found this picture from "Five Obstructions" and I realized that I mustn't lose myself and my "self" to understand "the others". I have to be like this plastic screen that absorbs the two sides of reality. Of course, this picture is an exaggeration of my ideal but I think that it is what anthropology is about. Participate but be yourself. And observe. Don't try to cheat yourself. You can watch the glass screen but the image is becoming blurred the more you try to see something. An anthropologist has to be able to go to the other side and come back and not reject what she/he was and still is. And while analysing and presenting results, you have to be the plastic screen that does not take side with anybody.

See both side!
Remeber who you are!

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