What I've missed...
...while slogging through graduate school is one of the fundamental motivations for entering in the first place to write the dissertation I've been thinking about for years, namely the pleasure of person-to-person conversation.
As I have been researching my Generation(s) of Diaspora chapter on Hmong video over thirty years and over three generations of refugees/immigrants, I have been able to do the research that is most satisfying and pleasurable to me. I walk into a Hmong video rental store and start talking to the owner, asking questions about the inventory, asking about a particular old movie I've heard about, looking for insight into the video scene. Everyday conversations offer profound satisfaction and enjoyment.
As my schedule has generally kept me on campus, I have felt frustrated trying to research in the "usual" way of library and internet. It doesn't work for me or for my dissertation. And I knew that long ago when I chose my topic. And I was actually excited because I knew that I wouldn't be stuck in an archive or a library, but that I had to be out and communicating with people. It's what I like best.
So four or five video stores later, I've met some remarkable people and come across videos and filmmakers and ideas that never would have presented themselves in isolation—or in more formal interviews. There is probably a description of this methodology that is circulating, but I'm not aware of it. Certainly, there is something ethnographic about it, but it feels quite distinct from an anthropologist's approach. In any case, I don't much care about what it could be called or what a literature review on it would be called. I'm content that it supplies a tremendous amount of energy to me as a researcher and a dissertation writer and it makes me feel more—not less—connected with humanity in an otherwise isolating pursuit of higher education.