Throughout this semester of graduate school we have continuously discussed native anthropologists and their roles within the communities they study. I often wonder if I could be considered native to my study.
Yes, I grew up within an hour of the communities I am studying. Yes, I am Hispanic, as many of the people within these communities are. No, I have never done fieldwork. No, I was not raised in an Hispanic home. No, I did not grow up in a small agricultural community.
Overall my lack of first-hand experience within Hispanic families in agricultural communities is what makes me consider myself a non-native anthropologist. I don’t see this as hindering my work, but my issues with identity will probably be something I must analyze each time I begin a study.
In my grad school essays I discussed how I have always felt like an outsider. Being of mixed race I think I will always feel like I am walking a strange, undefined line of society. I am never going to be white enough, and I will never be Hispanic enough, and that will never change, especially in the eyes of those that are solid in their definition of these races and choose to place me in a category. Over my lifetime I’ve developed a different view of identity. Race is merely one way we define ourselves, and yes, it may be comfortable for others to put me in one category or another, but I embrace my multifaceted self.
From what I’ve read on native anthropologists, it seems that even within their study groups, even the ones they grew up in, they find themselves questioning their identity and place. I think this internal struggle to define ourselves will always be present on some level in fieldwork. Sometimes it will be amplified and others it will be minimal.
I feel that with my fieldwork with Hispanic migrant workers I will look at the facets of my life that I consider “Hispanic,” but this will not become the most important part of my project, nor will I try to make my personal ponderings on identity take my fieldwork in a different direction.