I recently returned from several days in the Midwest attending a conference on qualitative research methodology. I saw several friends and acquaintances and met some interesting folks while we discussed possibilities and practicalities of our chosen methods. I gave two presentations and had a blast!
I know—to most people this sounds boring, esoteric, and possibly pretentious. I can’t honestly blame you for rolling your eyes. Yet I find this topic exciting, engaging, even thrilling. I’m happy to be a total nerd about qualitative methodology.
We all have things we are waaaaaaaay into that our friends, family, and significant others cannot even begin to understand our interest in. I think we as a society underestimate the sheer joy of hanging with our peeps, going out with our squad, or geeking out with our tribe. You might be into rehabbing classic camping trailers (another thing I learned about on this trip, thanks to my friend Shirley) or urban farming or chess tournaments or model trains or surfing. Your thing may be as common as football fantasy leagues or as hipster as learning to make peach preserves.
My big thing just happens to be exploring the intersection of poststructuralist and feminist new materialist theory with qualitative methodology. And I cherish the opportunities I have periodically to talk with other people who are also waaaaaaaaay into this—admittedly odd—thing.
Whatever your thing is, finding a group of others who share your interests brings a sense of belongingness and connection with others who don’t need to have the intricacies of your thing explained to them, say for instance, the comic supervillain hierarchy and the relative merits of Dr. Strange versus Wonder Women, which are as unknown to me as my forays into rethinking methods are to many of you.
This conference is a place where my tribe gathers to talk about our work and our lives, our ideas and our plans. We enjoyed meals together, listened to presentations, did a little shopping, ate scones, and stayed up late eating chocolate and talking about everything from the politics of data to the wonders of being a grandmother. I listened with respect to others and they did the same for me.
I left feeling wonderful because I left feeling like I belonged in my tribe.
With studies showing that loneliness is on the rise in the age of social media, the importance of finding one’s peeps and feeling connected becomes even more important. Nothing can substitute for gathering in groups large enough to allow for the development of shared identity and of resilience sufficient to sustain productive disagreements within a tribe.
Back home, two sweet friends who are part of my local tribe smile indulgently when I talk briefly about my conference presentations, happy that I had a good time but uninterested in hearing about the intricacies of my passionate argument for rethinking embodiment in analysis. Of course, I smiled and nodded with enthusiasm as one friend described her gardening plans and another discussed plans for rebuilding the rear deck of her vacation home. They were waaaaaaaaay into their topics. Our local tribe has points of connection and plenty of room for differences.
I am grateful for all the overlapping groups, local and far flung, in which I find belonging.