Richmond, CA — The standard opening of an ethnography begins with the “arrival scene” of the researcher to foreign host country. As those who have been following my blog know, part of why I have been blogging (albeit sporadically) has been to foreground my own research training and process and to complicate the idea of the “field” (as scholars like Gupta and Ferguson 1997 have long been doing). I think my outlining here of the learning and research work that I have been conducting while still located in Northern California (Richmond Annex to be exact) helps to displace the idea that ethnography only begins once we land on foreign soil. What kind of preparation and work (beyond just reading a sh*t ton) goes into getting ready for our ethnographic engagements? How do we ensure we are getting ourselves into the right headspace while fully recognizing and being ready for things to completely and utterly shift once you are in the field? I believe this is in line with what McGranahan (2014) has written about as ethnographic sensibility. Raul Pacheco-Vega (2016) has also blogged about his understanding of what an ethnographic sensibility might mean.
As I increasingly find my project turning into a “digital humanities” project that includes setting up a data archive, I am necessarily having to skill up and prep myself to have various ideas and “tools” in my arsenal to help foster and facilitate the engagements I anticipate in the field. Therefore, I have been thinking of this phase of the process (between passing my orals and arriving in Nairobi) as my “skilling-up” stage where I am learning more about IP, tech tools, server pricing and technologies, available qual data repositories and accompanying policy and guidance documents, etc. Who knows what will turn out to be relevant (and I know I will need to learn much more once in the field) but I hope that this will help to get me ready for the work that is to come in 2019!
Below I repaste a slightly modified version of my first “official” email update to my dissertation committee since becoming “ABD” (all but dissertation). I plan to send them snapshot updates on a monthly basis all of next year as a way to keep the members of my academic committee updated while I am in Nairobi. I also plan to circulate a similar type of “summary” of the month to the various research organizations I will work with as a way to not only keep them in the loop of what all I am doing but also as a way to “circle back”/ “repeat back” to them what I observe and hear (and leave space for them to dispute/correct anything as needed).