Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pitfalls of Paradox: Scholarship in the Wild

   When I went to live in the Arizona forest, I intended to record a year of hermetic and monastic existence. My research had yielded a route of travel which would leave me in any one location  no longer than two weeks. I would follow the weather and maintain a proximity to streams, lakes, and rivers. I would live off the land.
    Two weeks out, I had escaped a forest fire and survived a raid by federal agents. Both of these factors contributed to my initial change in plans. I was diverted to nearby Sitgreaves Forest and Bear Canyon Lake. I began to socialize and my focus changed.
    The diversity of people and purpose I encountered fascinated me. More often my journals reflected character sketches and stories about the people I met and less concerning the day to day efforts of survival. I was hooked on the culture of personality I found among these visitors and inhabitants of the forest.
    My year in the forest stretched to nearly five. I abandoned my original route and opted to spend most of my time in only two locations, the better to observe and document the unusual assemblage of society I had found.
    During my investigations I became thoroughly acculturated. I was a part of this society. This afforded me a perspective unique to the peoples I sought to study, but also negated any possibility of objectivity; the researcher became the subject.

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