Post field work re-balancing act

Time has flown by since I returned from Svalbard, it’s been 2 months already! It has been an interesting and slightly chaotic time. I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like having ‘done’ my fieldwork, except that it meant I ought to get on with analysis and writing and could for a while forget about organising funding and travel details. For the first couple of weeks it felt a bit like coming down from a long holiday – trying to get back into some sort of routine, enjoying the comforts and beauty of home, but missing the excitement of exploring a new place.

PictureSun beams on the sea, sheep, grass and trees on my way to the office 🙂

I wouldn’t say I was suffering complete ‘post-fieldwork blues’, but I can certainly relate to some of the experiences of Michelle Redman’s post, especially about loving the ‘doing’ aspects and instant feedback opportunities fieldwork brings.

My quite planned- in- advance- response was to do some work, talk to supervisors and catch up with people then take myself and (much-missed husband) to one of the most chilled out places/ events I know of for a couple of weeks camping, singing, dancing, fires and baking cakes. Things like that put things in perspective.  Plus afterwards I no longer looked like the colour of snow from missing a lot of sunny summer weather (so grateful for the amazing Welsh summer we’re still having)!  It also created some proper pressure to do work giving me two weeks to transcribe, read and think about some of the material I brought back and turn it into a decent paper to present at the conference session I was co-organising. Nothing like a deadline to create motivation!

Dancing in evening sun, barefeet to the grass. No thinking required. (Photo credit: Henry Edmonds)

There is a crucial thing I hadn’t twigged or planned for though. I can’t just file my snaps away/ post them on Facebook and enjoy it for what it was like I might for a holiday. This research trip – its notes, photos, recorded interviews and sounds needs to now become my routine as I continue to think about and analyse what I’ve read, heard, seen and experienced in connection to Svalbard and practices of value there. My immersion must continue, whether I am in Svalbard or not, yet not being there feels a lot more strange than it was before – I see daily updates of what is going on there, and now I recognise some of the names and places featured, the stories mean more. Plus there’s been a polar bear hanging out across the fjord from Longyearbyen!

All this transpires to mean I am constantly re-visiting the question that I was asked so many times as I was leaving Svalbard, will I be back? And the answer is still the same: maybe. Do I have enough ‘stuff’ to write a PhD with? Yes, probably. Does it feel like I would benefit from going back and continuing work, especially in a different season? Yes, almost certainly. Do I have enough time and funding to go back within the PhD? Probably not. Still thinking on that one then…!  For now, I’m back in the office after that conference, attempting to make sense of it all.

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