This field work term has been the most stressful I’ve had, by far. It’s shown me both how difficult it can be to access certain people and how warm and open many individuals are. Few of my interviewees hesitated to welcome me into their homes and most made sure I had some kind of drink in my hand. I spent more time than I thought I would chatting about anything and everything on porches around the city, pleasant follow ups to the more formal conversations had in the presence of a recorder. I am coming away from this winter term with a better sense of my academic interests, my city, and myself. I’ve done more internal reflection than I expected and have found that to be just as enriching as the project itself. With one week left there’s still much to do, but I am looking forward to tying those strings together and returning to Bennington for my final semester. I do feel a strange sense of sadness about coming to the end of the interviews and conversations this project has facilitated – it has allowed me to glimpse into the homes and worldviews of my fellow New Orleanians, something that has been truly fascinating.
The more interviews I do the more strongly I believe that returning to New Orleans in a professional capacity is an important thing for me to do. Speaking with New Orleanians working in different ways for environmental groups around the city has not only been enlightening, but inspiring as well. I feel closer to understanding the complexities of the environmental landscape of New Orleans as well as what it is I might want to do with my degree from Bennington. The other night I spoke with a fairly recent Bennington Alum (we actually overlapped one term) who is living in New Orleans and working her dream job with a group called Gulf Restoration Network. We hung out with her dogs and drank wine while we talked, making for another almost ideal interview situation. Speaking with her and others has made me realize how perfect this flawed landscape may be for not only my academic, but my professional interests.
I arrived at my interviewee’s home mildly sick and bundled against the chill of this unusually cold New Orleans winter. I was welcomed in, preoccupied with how I would suppress my coughs for the sake of the audio recording, and was pleasantly surprised by a warm and welcoming tea spread in his living room. We chatted and the interview got started, taking a familiar trajectory right off the bat.
“Nature for me is something that I’m not connecting to in New Orleans and so I- when I think about it I almost feel lost […] Nature for me is- in this area is, the swamps and dangerous and kind of scary and uncomfortable.” We continued to talk, covering topics from the mostly invisible but groaning Mississippi to the museum-like Audubon Park, this feeling of disconnect following through. “You know, we’re sealed off from the river. We don’t- we have this big wall that goes down, so we can’t even really see it unless Read More…
A couple of days ago I got bit by a dog at my job at a doggie daycare, sent out five email solicitations for interviews (confirmed one), got a chunk of reading done, and enjoyed happy hour at a Christmas themed bar with my friends – this has been the gist of my last FWT and its been pretty great, although stressful, so far.
In my busy days I’ve been trying to find a balance between my life at home and spending time on my project. This has proved, by far, to be the hardest part of this independent study. All of a sudden I feel like I’ve lost the ability to gauge how much work I should be doing, and time seems to be moving along more and more quickly, making me more and more anxious, but I suppose that’s part of doing this kind of independent work.
Researching a place I am so intimately familiar with has also proved difficult in interesting ways. The line between research and recreation has become blurred in a way that makes me uncertain about whether what I am doing is actually ‘work’ or not. This, I think, has worked both for and against me. It has meant that I am thinking about this work most of the time, regardless of what I am doing; but it has also made me seriously reconsider what does and does not count as anthropological research and information. This is something that is completely fascinating but is, especially the midst of a project like this, something almost terrifying. I feel good about what I’ve accomplished up to this point, but I am feeling the pressure to untangle my life from academic interests – an impulse which may or may not be entirely helpful.
My name is Caroline and I am a senior studying Media and Anthropology with a focus on the environment. I am spending my last Field Work Term in New Orleans, my hometown, conducting interviews with locals about how they make sense of and interact with their environment. The specific question I am trying to address with my research is: Within the city of New Orleans, what are the different definitions of nature at play and how are they acted out in relation to each other and to the environment? This question is one in a web of others that this project will touch on tangentially, all of which are concerned in some way with how the physical environment of the city informs its personality, how this collective identity changes over time, and how nature facilitates this change. In an attempt at making this line of inquiry more manageable and meaningful, I’ve decided to try delineating between different types of people, namely: the state, general citizenry, and experts (i.e. environmentalists/scientists). I will be pairing my interview work with visual contextual information that will be provided by a fellow student. I am excited to use this opportunity to delve into the world of visual anthropology as well.