Gender and Fieldwork

I feel like I ought to have a lot to say about this topic, as I am particularly interested in the ways certain intersections of identity are performed and negotiated, but after my walk I am only reminded of how gender and other parts of my identity, as well as those of my co-laborator (jenny hay) played a role in past field work in Ida, LA.

We had to acknowledge our fluid identities, which marked us as insiders, e.g. our ostensible whiteness, southern-ness and general willingness to subvert our perceived undesirable identity markers such as queer and nonreligious. When interacting with one of our key informants, Mayor Clyde “Smokie” Maddox, we found ourselves performing roles we typically did not in our everyday lives. We had to negotiate our relationship with the Mayor’s identities of ‘provider’ and ‘southern gentleman’ as performed through his insistence on opening doors for us and his wife at all times, and not allowing us to treat him to dinner. He, in turn, had to negotiate jenny’s vegetarianism, as well as our expression of concern over the fate of the Ida Museum. Gender was constantly negotiated and highlighted at particular times when the mayor expressed to us that he was so grateful for our help that he wouldn’t even care if we painted the museum hot pink (which of course he would not have agreed to had we had even the slightest desire to do so)! Mind you the museum celebrated the epitome of masculinity, as it was a World War II museum honoring a particular fighter group. I imagine I will always be aware of the ways in which gender plays a role in field work and how I adhere to or reject gender roles depending on how they allow me greater or less access to communities and individuals with whom I work. 


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