The Secret Lives of Us

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Bell, Sharon
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In the decade since (re)joining the academy I have been in the habit of commencing my CV with a statement that emphasises the marriage of creative and academic interests – specifically filmmaking, research in the fields of anthropology and ethnographic film, and tertiary teaching and administration. If recited quickly this sounds credible, perhaps evoking an effortless combination of scholarly and creative interests with academic leadership. On the occasion of this lecture I do not intend to explore the advantages and disadvantages of this more often than not ‘marriage of inconvenience’, but do feel I should start with a confessional statement. This multi-faceted professional profile is no accident. My career has not followed an established path. I embraced geography as an undergraduate, anthropology and motherhood as a post-graduate, ethnographic filmmaking and more mothering as a post-doc, and documentary filmmaking and academic administration in mid-life. As a ‘professor’ I cannot pretend to the academic depth traditionally associated with holding a Chair in a specific discipline. Even in the broad field in which much of my research has been conducted, Sri Lankan studies, I refrain from claiming expertise – I explicitly speak ‘not as an expert but as someone whose life has become inextricably linked with that tiny island’. In a formal sense I have not practiced nor been employed as an anthropologist since completing my doctoral studies, but anthropology has informed each of the professional roles I have undertaken. It is not surprising then, that in the reflective mode of production demanded by this occasion, pressed to identify the focus of my intellectual journey I find myself returning again and again to the ethnographic experience – the defining experiences that for me inextricably link the academy with the community, the personal with the political. As such this is a public statement of an ongoing internal dialogue – a dialogue that has undoubtedly informed my professional roles and united my rather fragmented scholarly identity. In a text that purports to speak the unspoken about fieldwork, including the difficulties of leaving the field, one contributor poses the question ‘Do we ever leave the field?’ (Stebbins:1991) I pose the question ‘Does the field ever leave us?’

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© 2004 Griffith University

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