“Wasting Time”: Re-encountering the Hometown as Anthropological Field Site

 

Open-Anthropology-Matters 2017
Image by the American Anthropological Association

 

My fieldsite is my hometown located in Luzon Island, Philippines which is called by its residents the “Town of Dollars.” Returning to the field as an absentee resident and beginning to re-immerse in it as kin, neighbor, and anthropologist proved more complex than the host of theories and methods I had come equipped with. This paper presents an ethnographic account of some of the “temptations,” “invitations,” and “distractions” that persisted and followed me around while in my hometown, which, in the purview of “the researcher’s time” (Fabian), may be seen as digressions from knowledge-production expected from an ethnographer. The first months were spent restoring our family home which had been left behind by my members of my family members who are now located in different parts of the globe. My work as researcher was interrupted by seemingly unavoidable engagements: volunteer work during the local elections; commitment to a management position for a locally produced indie film; revival of my grandparents’ defunct basket-weaving business; consultant to those desiring to migrate, among many others. I discuss here the messy contexts when engaging with projects that appear to “eat time” and that impinge on the anthropological work of data collection. This paper opens up discussions about the expanse of the forms of engagement while in the field which may complicate the work of writing about, and writing for, home. Knowledge production when studying the hometown is inevitably un/made and un/settled by local conceptions of time, labour and productivity.

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