Returning from fieldwork is jarring

By Hannah Ruszczyk

Hanna Ruszczyk is a second year PhD geographer.  She is investigating the concept of resilience and how it is understood in rapidly urbanising contexts of Nepal and Bihar State, India in relation to natural hazards such as earthquakes.  Hanna is analysing whether and how community resilience can be operationalised. In this blog post she considers the difficulties of coming back from fieldwork and how this offers a chance to reflect upon everyday ways of living in the UK. 

I find coming back from fieldwork jarring. Working in rapidly urbanising cities of the Global South is vastly different from Durham and Hexham where I live. Life here is too orderly, laws are enforced, food is packaged and readily accessible everywhere (this is not positive), utilising transportation is not life threatening nor very uncomfortable. Houses are warm in the winter, electricity functions 24 hours a day, lights are on after dark, life does not follow the patterns of sunrise and sunset. I find myself very grateful when I come home but also angry at my society’s excesses. I find academic literature created by and for the North difficult to reconcile at times with what I encounter when I travel to the Global South. It is difficult to communicate my fieldwork experiences with individuals who do not travel. It takes a bit of time to reconcile these tensions; to get my equilibrium back. I have learnt to walk away from my research for a week or two, spend time with my family, meet colleagues and friends for a coffee or a trip to the pub and then I come back and find that my research speaks to me in a new way.