My poor neglected blog! I have done a number of things in the last month, including attending and presenting at the Health in Transition conference in Bucharest, and spending a week down south observing a course in preparation for the interview stage of my current research (which I start next week).Being back in Romania was wonderful. I was delighted that my language skills were still up to the job, I reacquainted myself with my favourite Bucharest restaurant and – probably for the first time – felt relaxed and ‘at home’ in Bucharest (previously I have lived and worked in other towns and cities there, and whenever I was going to Bucharest I would be regaled with tales of muggers, thieves and ne’er-do-wells, so I was always on edge whenever I went). The conference was great, quite small but that meant that delegates had the chance to listen to all the other papers and do lots of networking. There is a lot of fascinating research going on in central/eastern Europe, and some really interesting debates (such as around the validity/utility (or not) of the terms post-socialist and neoliberalism) which have been going on for ever but it was good to still hear some new and refreshing takes. There is also a lot of research going on with various vulnerable groups – as you might expect in a conference focusing on health – much of which was very moving.
My own paper (on morality and its role in sexual/reproductive health in Romania and Moldova) went well, I think – I was nervous as when I had practiced the night before it had gone way over time and I’d had to chop quite a bit out of the talk, so I was worried about it not making sense, but I got some great questions and people seemed interested in what I had to say. I now need to think about turning it into a journal article – my challenge is finding somewhere where it will best ‘fit’. That is one of the good things, but also one of the disadvantages, of research in area studies: there are lots of journals, either area studies-specific (Central/East European Studies, CEES) or discipline/methodology-specific where the research could be disseminated, not least because a lot of area studies work is cross-disciplinary, but the best ‘fit’ journal might not necessarily be such a great idea if I am looking for a position in a department which is not an area studies department. I have a couple of journals in mind, but will need to think (for the non-area studies ones) how to explain the contextual background for non-CEES specialists, background which is much more familiar to those working within the CEES field. It’s a good dilemma to have though, I do like writing so once I know where I am aiming I will enjoy writing this paper.
My week down south also went well – although observation isn’t strictly part of my research, intensively observing one course generated lots of insights which have now informed my interview topic guide. I am really looking forward to the interviews next week and getting into a new project. It is in an area I’m not so familiar with, but as a colleague pointed out yesterday, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – hopefully it will mean that I will let the participants talk more rather than interrupting them with all my vast knowledge!
It will almost feel odd this time that I am doing the interviews in English, with English-speakers. I spoke briefly at a Doctoral Training School event co-hosted by my former department on language issues in research this week (although sadly I had to leave after I had said my bit, as I was not well; up to then the debate had been really interesting and I may well come back to revisit the issue here as well as possibly in another journal article). I think most of us who were either conducting or writing up our research in languages that were not our first language had found language a ‘magnifier’ for our reflexivity and for noticing things which may otherwise have been taken for granted, so it will be really interesting to see if I experience any differences interviewing in my first language this time round.
I think that’s me caught up now, after a month of not blogging. The #acwri targets fell by the wayside slightly due to travel, but I have plans to get myself back on track so am still bearing the at least 100 words a day in mind and will hopefully get back to that with a vengeance in the next couple of weeks.