Sunday, February 8, 2009

Compartmentalization and Censorship

I’ve been writing much less lately than I thought – or hoped – I would. Until today I couldn’t quite put into words why this might be, but I’m going to try to explain.

I think the fundamental issue is that the purpose of this blog no longer really matches my daily experience. I had intended to write about my impressions of Moroccan society: I wanted to share something about my attempts at getting to know this complex and very interesting society, about the general process of a foreigner’s attempt to integrate herself into a different world, and also about the process of doing anthropological fieldwork. Last fall, that is exactly what my daily life was all about. I spent my time learning, studying, and observing the lives of others – and found in those experiences a multitude of things to reflect upon. Yes, I put my own personal impressions, thoughts, and frustrations on paper – but only insofar as they pertained to the three themes above. I intended to leave out my true personal life: the relationships I formed and the relationships that fizzled, the people I felt affinity for and the people I did not, the silent opinions I formed on aspects of culture, customs, ways of interaction. This was not difficult: I largely left this personal life out of my daily interactions at home and in class, in attempts to be a full-time ethnographer. It became conveniently compartmentalized in my head – separate from the world I observed (insofar as that is ever possible, of course; it must always be conceded that one’s personal life shapes one’s interpretation of the world), and therefore easily separable from what I wrote about.

This time around, I am no longer observing the lives of others; I am, rather, involved full-time in the attempt to build up a life of my own. It is a transition I am happy with – and a transition I need to make if I truly am to spend at least the next two years here – but it is a transition that suddenly makes my day-to-day experiences acutely personal in a way that they never were before. There is no longer a comfortable sense of compartmentalization. I have personal relationships with the people I spend my days with, and have become an actor rather than an audience.

This means that I must re-think what goes into this blog, and what stays out. I want to uphold the threefold goal I set out with in September, and leave undiscussed any aspect of my personal life and thoughts that are irrelevant to the blog's three themes. But in order to effect that same kind of compartmentalization that I employed before, I will need to tweak my standards of self-censorship a little. It means that in all likelihood, I will be writing a bit less frequently and a bit less elaborately than I did in the fall. I will, however, keep writing. This blog remains my sense of grounding. And I’m sure I’ll find enough inspiration around me – there’s still so much I have left to discover, and so much I think I will need to adjust my interpretations of…

And all in all, despite the slight sense of writer’s block, I wouldn’t change a thing about this new Moroccan personal life I’m leading. Already it’s turned out so much better than I had dreamed, and I truly cannot stop smiling…

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