Saturday, 29 September 2012

Avoiding Snares in the Field: Reflections on Fieldwork

Fieldwork is not some static line in the sand defined by the absence of any shifting tides. You can't just wake up in 'the field' and say " I am going to do fieldwork", and in the next moment " I am finished with fieldwork." Fieldwork doesn't end. Today, just when I figured that I had finished collecting data for my paper, I found myself gathering vital information this afternoon.

Rodney Byrne showing me the rabbit trails.

(Photo: Ed Millar)

One moment, I was returning a photo of young Rodney Byrne's first hare. The next, I found myself drinking a cup of tea; followed by mussels, lasagna, and bread. Before I can grasp the importance of these exchanges, I am off with Keels' own wilderness expert, Rodney Byrne, on a tour of the rabbit trails near  Harbour Pond. In only an hour, Rodney taught me how to spot rabbit trails, where to look for them, how to place the snare, and prepare the slip. He also demonstrated some moose and coyote calls from on top of a ridge. Rodney invited me to record and photograph our trip this afternoon, and as a result I gained even more useful information for my own use, for archival use, and  for any other future users of this data. All this, in an afternoon which I had previously planned to eat some left over rice porridge in the fridge and look at an Excel spreadsheet.

Perhaps this misconception of a 'finite fieldwork' comes from the assumption that because the written product pours forth from our pen, fieldwork must then stem from us. Well, it doesn't. Fieldwork emerges in that liminal space of the interaction between ourselves and the outer environment, whether they be people, places, or things. While we do hinge on the assumption of the self when conducting fieldwork to identify the 'outer' from the 'inner', we often forget that all life is in motion. Our lives spin like whirlwinds gathering experiences, emotions, and beliefs as we make our way through time and space. As we cross paths with one another, they intensify each and leave in their wake a base of information: fieldwork. In this way, fieldwork constantly expands.

Will our fieldwork here end when we leave Keels?

Well, I guess that is the big question all this raises. Does fieldwork end when we leave the field?

I wouldn't make it as a rabbit.

(Photo: Ed Millar)

The simple answer to that is, I don't know and I don't dare to answer.

But I hope one day I will have the clarity and sense of mind to approach the answer.

Perhaps I could ask Rodney Byrne to help me find the path...and hopefully I won't be the one snared.

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