or, the juxtaposition of previously unrelated trajectories

Care-Work on Fieldwork

My children often accompany me in my research. It is not always easy!

My children often accompany me in my research. It is not always easy!

Every time I publish an article based on my personal PhD experiences with fieldwork, I tell myself it will be the last. So far, I have four. Just last year, I was part of an awesome team and put out this one:

Farrelly, T., Stewart-Withers, R., & Dombroski, K. (2014). ‘BEING THERE’: Mothering and absence/presence in the field. Sites: a journal of social anthropology and cultural studies, 11(2), 25-56.

Previous publications include:

Dombroski, K. (2011). Awkward engagements in mothering: Embodying and experimenting in northwest China. In M. Walks & N. McPherson (Eds.), Mothering: Anthropological Perspectives. Toronto: Demeter Press.
Dombroski, K. (2011). Embodying Research: Maternal bodies, fieldwork and knowledge production in North-west China. Graduate Journal of Asia-Pacific Studies, 7(2):16-29.

Earlier last year while on maternity leave, I somehow pulled together a book chapter on a similar topic, which is due out any month now.

Dombroski, K. Forthcoming. Seeing Diversity, Multiplying Possibility: My journey from post-feminism to postdevelopment with JK Gibson-Graham. In W. Harcourt (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Gender and Development. Palgrave.

You can see the pre-pub version here. To be completely honest, it is almost getting embarrassing. People will start to wonder if I can actually write about anything else bar my own life. (I can! See some publications here!) . But every now and then I am reminded why I actually do this. It is part of my ongoing strategy to make care-work more visible. This week, I was reminded once again about how important it is to continue to do this when I received this great article by Danielle Drozdzewski and Daniel Robinson.

Danielle Drozdzewski & Daniel F. Robinson (2015) Care-work on fieldwork: taking your own children into the field, Children’s Geographies, 13:3, 372-378, DOI:10.1080/14733285.2015.1026210

I really like the simple, straightforward approach of this article. Like Drozdzewski’s other work, it emerges from an active effort to make care-work more visible, particularly the parenting care-work of early career researchers. I also really like the symmetry that the author’s are called “Danielle” and “Daniel” IN REAL LIFE. It’s like boy-version, girl-version. There is plenty of work out there on taking children on fieldwork, but the more the better, I say! What I like about Drozdzewski and Robinson’s piece is that it acknowledges the embodied aspect of parenting in the field, and the biological differences between men and women in this regard, without making it out to be a “women’s issue”.

Like the appropriate chapters on parenting while doing fieldwork in Regina Scheyven’s excellent edited collection Development Fieldwork, and the above piece by Trisia Farrelly, Rochelle Stewart-Withers and I, the authors find that having their kids with them in the field can actually make them more accessible as people rather than ‘just’ researchers. Because we (visibly) become ‘all just parents muddling our way through this parenting gig’, there is a powerful levelling factor to having our kids in the field.  Even when our kids are not with us, the trace of our kids in the field can help: such as pictures, embodied mothering such as being visibly pregnant or having a letdown, or even just mentioning our parenting. Katherine Gibson found that once her research participants in the Latrobe Valley discovered she was a mum ‘just like them’, her status as an educated outsider-researcher became less important (See Gibson-Graham 2006, A Postcapitalist Politics).

I still think I have published enough on this particular issue, but I am heartened to see others publishing on it too. I love reading about other people’s experiences, and I am so jealous that UNSW provides some funding for children and/or carers to go on fieldwork! (I lamented the lack of such funding in my piece on Breastfeeding and Academic Travel). As I come into the last year of my last breastfeeding relationship, I am heartened to hear that those coming after may be subject to more enlightened policies. It is too late for me, but when I am in academic leadership roles later in my career, please remind me to fight for this.


One comment on “Care-Work on Fieldwork

  1. Pingback: Doing fieldwork with kids: Part I | anthropod

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