Saturday, July 1, 2017

A sociologist, an anthropologist, and an economist walk into a bar.

I love garage sales.  I love the feeling of unearthing a treasure, and not just a bargain, but something with its own stories.  An inscription on the front cover of a book, the idea of wearing a shirt that someone else wore while hugging their best friend goodbye, or a trinket that was picked up on a special vacation- I love the physicality of those things.  I think it’s sweet that humans collect stuff… what funny soft animals we are to accumulate these bits and pieces that appeal to our senses and surround ourselves with them.

The green glass teacup I snagged at the last garage sale can’t tell me where it came from, or who loved it, or what shelf it used to sit on.  But in the research I am doing now, people tell me stories.  I get to hear about swimming and fishing.  My job is to collect those stories and it’s a way to hold the intangible, to preserve memories of faded summers and the people who loved this earth years before I walked on it. And it’s not just a romantic-mushy-soft-science-kinda thing; understanding the relationships people have with each other, with agencies, and with their shared resources is powerful stuff. It informs a community’s capacity for positive action and lays the groundwork for a shift in discourse.

I love being near the water and wandering through natural history museums.  I love cooking food with smart, funny, kind people, and I love the long dinners that follow.  I love campfires and pink skies, tattoos and baby donkeys, pretty shoes and bad movies.  I want to travel and eat fancy cheese and drink beers and read books and have conversations that startle and inspire me.  And I want to have all of those rich experiences with an awareness of the deeper connections that lie beneath. My research project is already shaping that understanding.  I might not ever find concrete answers, but I can start by asking better questions.

A sociologist, an anthropologist, and an economist walk into a bar.

It’s not a set-up for a joke. It’s what I hope my afternoons look like for a long time.  The level of collaboration across disciplinary lines that this project embraces is pretty rare in academia. My research partners and mentors have made that look easy, and have brought together their interests and expertise in a way that makes each more than the sum of its parts.

My favorite things to do don’t generally fall into tidy disparate categories.  They overlap and blend, with sauces and stories that are never exactly the same.  I wouldn’t expect my research interests to be any different, and I am privileged to be in a generous setting that consciously leaves room for both expansive and nuanced thought. 

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