A Short Story of How I Started Writing My Way Back from Fieldwork

In 2015/16 we ran our conference funding for Early Career Researchers scheme for the second time. In this series of posts, some of the winners report from the conferences they attended with our support.

By Tatiana Sanchez Parra

The last stage of my six month period of fieldwork in Colombia was shaped by a series of emotions, geographic conditions, and physical, emotional, and academic challenges. From Zika to a daily six-hour-journey using different means of rural transportations, I learnt to cherish the path as much as the destination. By the end of it, I was physically exhausted, amazed by the experience, excited with the data, and nostalgic for having to say goodbye to people I had met. Luckily, there was something to help me transit from fieldwork to my desk in Colchester, at the University of Essex , where I am studying a PhD in Sociology. One day after finishing fieldwork, with just enough time to unpack and pack some clean clothes, I got in a plane on my way to New York City, where the 2016 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Congress was taking place between the 27th and the 30th May.

My paper ‘Children born of war: The production of a gendered experience of the conflict in Colombia’, was part of the panel titled ‘Women, Children, and Men at Risk: Gendered Bodies in Conflict Zones’. In this presentation I explored the way in which narratives about children born of war have not created a notion of these children as independent subjects of concern among the categories of war-affected children, but instead have taken part in the configuration of fragmented representations of the experiences of women. In particular, a notion closely shaped by a local concept (and expectation) of motherhood.

Almost a year ago, when I thought of a paper idea to present at LASA, I counted on my research project and some data I had gathered before ethnographic fieldwork. Writing the abstract forced me to push my hypothesis and academic creativity. However, as fieldwork began and I started walking those familiar but unknown landscapes, I realised that although the conceptual frameworks were helpful to approach those realities, the information I was collecting was going in all sort of different directions. I was soon standing in the eye of the tornado and I could not see how my everyday activities could turn into an academic argument. It was not until I started preparing the paper for LASA that I saw light.

Getting ready for the presentation forced me to summarise the context of my fieldwork, organise information into concrete ideas, and physical and emotionally transit from Colombia back to England. Attending LASA at this particular stage of my research allowed me to engage in transdisciplinary conversations that enriched and broadened my understanding not just of my own topic but of the whole region. It also allowed me to contribute with new and original data to those conversations (based on my recent fieldwork), and to challenge my ideas in the light of current political and academic debates.

I want to finish with my sincere gratitude towards the Sociological Review for their support and commitment to Early Career Researchers. Without their support it would have not been possible for me to become involved with this exchange of experiences and knowledge.

Originally posted 20th July 2016.

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