Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses

Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses

Indexed in: Book Citation Index, Social Sciences & Humanities.

Based on six years of extended ethnography in multiple agricultural areas of the Eastern United States, Down Country Lanes, Behind Abandoned Houses is a monograph which explores the lives of migrant ...
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Pp. 103-133 (31)

Keith V. Bletzer

Abstract

This chapter opens with elaborated field notes from a primary site a few hours from Agton, where the author spent time with sex workers who canvassed local neighborhoods, in addition to street solicitation for “dates” that paid for sexual services. In some ways the site is typical of a seasonal locale to which farm workers travel onthe- season, and home-base from which they migrate to other areas. The example leads the reader into an appraisal of classic ethnographies in the social sciences that exemplify fieldwork on social adversity and marginality in single-site urban locales, against extended ethnography through multi-sited fieldwork among farm workers across several locales. Core elements are reviewed that characterize everyday matters in each form of ethnography, namely, transportation, sports, swearing, drugs, alcohol, dating, and ethnographic process. Each element in one way or another enables ethnographer (field)/author (text) to share the experience of immersion into the field site, which led to strategic social relationships. Shifting among locales and settings in the ethnography of farm labor in contrast enables entry into a new site with cumulative information newly learned in other sites to that point in time, which also leads to strong social relationships with key people.

The chapter opens as I begin a day of observations, spending time around a convenience store where migrant men and local residents make purchases and sex workers spent time singly or in pairs, when not “working”. The women called the store owner, “Mom”. They sometimes share problems with her. One of the sex workers, Zubira, is introduced in the excerpt that opens the chapter, which illustrates how fieldwork requires flexibility and patience, acceptance of others, and attentiveness to interactions.

Keywords:

Atypical encounter, cultural guide, discriminatory practices, economic hardships, ethnographic gambits, exemplar studies, field relationships, field research, immersion 24/7, lateral contacts, local language, on-site, participant observation, Pink Edict, role identity, seasonal harvesting, Sex Work Study, social adversity, upgraded techniques.

Affiliation:

School of Human Evolution and Social Change Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ (USA)