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¿Somos Mamás, Verdad?: Motherhood as a Recombination of “Home” and “Field”

The week of my daughter’s first birthday party, I learned I was pregnant with our second child. I was preparing for a yearlong ethnographic fieldwork stay in Mexico City, to research the experience of deafness from the perspectives of deaf youth and their families. I quickly re-organized my research timeline to fly home at the midway point of my fieldwork to give birth, and return to Mexico City soon after. Though I did not have a theoretical framing for it at the time, I realize now that this arrangement exemplifies “patchwork ethnography” which draws attention to “how anthropologists have been innovating methods and epistemologies to contend with intimate, personal, political, or material concerns” (Günel et al. 2020). In this essay, I ask: how does being a mother and mothering in the field contribute to my ethnographic enterprise? And: how can reflecting on “motherhood” help identify points of resonance with mothers and children in the field and also disentangle imbalances that persist between researcher and participants?

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Stories on the Edge of the Sea

Visual Essay by Ryan Anderson

“And yet, like that single human figure, and the others throughout these images, we humans swim, play, contemplate, push back, and adapt. We persist. Despite the enormity and immensity and inevitability of it all.”

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