An Ethnography?

Being a novice researcher and a novice blogger I enter into this dialogue with some trepidation! I have been told to write “whatever I wish” and those of you who know me well will understand that I am fundamentally driven by doing as little as possible, so inevitably this entry will be, by most people’s standards, short.

Having given this whole process some thought and discounted many areas of slightly dubious debate I have decided to regale you with some of the incidence whereby my research topic has unintentionally spilled over into everyday life. As you know my topic is considered by some to be a highly personal and private, not for discussion in polite company. This presented my father with a significant problem when I announced that I had received funding to undertake my PhD. I am the only daughter and the first member of the whole family to commence a PhD. My father has a propensity for gushing pride, but was somewhat foxed on this occasion. After congratulating me his first question was “how will I explain your study to my friends?” He obviously continued to give this some thought over the subsequent days, he then saw fit to confirm with me that he was going to say that I was investigating risk factors for heart disease. We agreed that for the preservation of his pride we would stick with that as an overarching theme!

The irony of my father not wanting to explain that his daughter had a greater than average insight into erectile dysfunction was juxtaposed by a very bright ten year old boy. On walking into town with him and his father we bumped into a colleague of his dad’s. We were introduced and I explained to this middle aged lady that I had never met before that I was a full time student and therefore not really “working” as such. To which the ten year old said “yeah she is doing an ethnography of men who can’t get boners”. My immediate response was to exclaim “IT’S NOT AN ETHNOGRAPHY” and his father’s response was to usher him swiftly on his way. Apparently he had been studying the work of anthropologists at school and had been told by his father that I was studying erectile dysfunction, put these two pieces of information together and come up with an altogether inappropriate piece of research!!!

The problem with studying subjects that are considered “socially inappropriate” is that people find them fascinating, and with the assistance of a few alcoholic beverages are very keen to engage in conversation. This is an excellent way to get messages across and bounce ideas around but it does somewhat make me worry about life after the PhD. Will they still want to talk to me on a night out and what will they talk to me about? Will I be known for evermore as the girl who “has a PhD in erectile dysfunction” or the “blue pill expert”? Will my whole career be based on this one rather specific problem? And more importantly, will I ever get to do an ethnography? Only time will tell, for now the more pressing problem is not whether I will have any friends left at the end of all this, but rather how I am going to manage all of the data I have collected, and so I leave you as an initiated blogger…….. wonders will never cease!

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