Well, today is my last day in very hot and clammy host city #1. All the interviews have gone well, the digital recorder has worked, and all required forms are signed. I have not been so sad being alone, which is good. I am thinking this may be a reflection of (a) age, (b) being busy with multiple interviews each day, and (c) developing routines in the host city (breakfast at the same place everyday, etc.). Of course, it does not hurt that I have called the gf probably 4-5 times each day!
I am struck, as I often am, by the local recent history of this city. Sometimes it is the race history of a place that interests me, especially in the South, but this city has some queer history that informs my study as well.
Also, almost everyone I have talked to is gay or lesbian, and I love to see the great diversity of our community. Everyone has their own stories regarding coming out, their perceptions and expectations of the community's friendliness and support, and their levels of openness.
I always wonder, when I do fieldwork, what the people I interview think about me. In my dissertation fieldwork, I had local informants who would pass along information they had heard about me from community members: assumptions people made, criticisms, concerns, jokes, etc. It helped remind me that my identity was being constructed by my participants as I worked to develop my own understanding of the people and their community. It made me feel a little more humble as a researcher.
In this study, it is less possible to know what they thought of me. I assume they know I am lesbian: I sometimes talk about my partner, my own experiences as a lesbian, or my other queer research. They also know some of my story, because Southerners, even those who started somewhere else, always begin a conversation by asking where you are from. (If I actually lived in the area, and they were born-and-bred Southerners, they would ask who my people are.) So, I have told my tale of academic moves more than once here. And I tend to disclose personal details that I have in common with the interviewee, such as religion, professional pursuits, places I have been, people I know, and so on.
Tonight I fly out to host city #2, a much bigger city, also pretty hot. (Of course, it is June in the US. Most of the country, especially the South, is very hot. I am just whining, as usual. If you haven't guessed, I do not like the heat.) For the rest of today, I hope to stay as late as possible in the hotel in City #1, perhaps spend remaining time in a local air-conditioned restaurant or library with internet access, and then head to the airport. Stay tuned...the fieldwork continues!