I am now completing the final weeks of my field research in Spain and beginning to write up my thesis. It seems like an appropriate time to re-open this blog, which I hope will be a useful place for me to air my writing-up frustrations and to reflect upon the past year.
I've decided to begin writing up my doctorate while I'm still in the field. Or rather, I've decided to remain in the field while beginning my write up. This is for a number of reasons (some unrelated to the fieldwork enterprise entirely, which I won't mention here). Still, it has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, I can pop out of my flat in its convenient, central location and follow up on things, people, and places whenever I need to. Impromptu interviews and meetings remain within the realm of possibility, thereby relieving the frustrating sense of urgency or finality in the analysis of my written notes. On occassion, I might even reasonably hope to turn a critical eye on my own writing and ideas by seeing what a few of my esteemed local contacts might think of them. I also have access to the provincal and municipal archives, local news sources, print media, and the local library which holds the only accessible historical material on the town and its surrounds. I will (read: might) now actually have the time to read through all of this background information in detail and make copies where appropriate. Hmm, what else? Well, the weather is much better here than in England. (I can't be the only one who has thought about that in their final weeks?!)
On the other hand, I've always felt that a certain amount of distance is needed to gain perspective on a place and an experience as a whole, or at least semi-bounded, unit. In this way, it would be nice to be away from the same few streets, names and tasks, and to recall what it was like over a year ago when I felt completely detached from local affairs. Now, to distance myself in theory whilst remaining absorbed in physical locality takes a bit more effort. Not that the feeling of being totally out of place has ever really gone away. Luckily, this particular urban setting provides plenty of isolation if I need it.
The second downside is that I'm separated from my University and the departmental atmosphere, which, more often than not, encouraged me to work (as opposed to my current atmosphere that finds me trying to come up with reasons not to take a 20 minute train to the beach). I'm communicating with my supervisor from a distance, which is manageable as I did it throughout the year. But the discussions should be more regular and substantial now, and getting geared up for a face-to-face meeting was always a good incentive for diligent preparation. And, dare I say, I actually miss the university library. Yes, complain as I might about its lack of sources and inefficient loan system, when I hit the electronic pay wall which bars me from the journal article of my temporary desire, I'd more than happily make the trek up to the campus to thumb through the shelves of journals and photocopy the print version (5p per page gladly accepted over clicking hopelessly and fuming in front of my computer).
With luck, I'll be able to prioritize my tasks so as to minimize these inconveniences. Returning to the University for the spring term would be ideal. Hopefully I'll have the substantial makings of a draft by that point.
So, for the moment, I'm at the stage of scribbling plans, crossing them out and scribbling some more; thinking of grand overarching theories and small microexplanations; and fitting the pieces together like a poorly cut jigsaw puzzle.
And I can't wait to get started.
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