Acceptance and belonging

by Johnny Yungut Tjupurrula

There are many joyous little moments in life. For a writer, one of them has to be that moment when we learn our submission has been accepted for publication. It occurred for me again last Thursday.

I’d been waiting for an email from work about something entirely different, so was avidly checking my email (which is highly irregular for me). On my first scan of the day, my eyes were led straight to a name I don’t often see in my inbox. Instantly I knew it was news on my submission.

The submission in question was a research paper I’d first pondered after returning from a visit to Papunya in late 2011. Visiting the remote community for just a few days had caused me to reflect on my self as a researcher. My previous research had been with participants a lot like me – skilled machinists and supply chain managers, to name but two. I’d always thought I’d belonged in the field. Yet there in Papunya, I asked my self, how could I ever belong?

I was, not long after, inspired by a presentation by a leading academic in our field on the intersubjectivity of the researcher and the need to account for it in our writing. So I continued to reflect and began to write. I came up with a narrative of my previous research encounters and discovered a series of moments through my life that had led me to consider belonging to be an important part of being an ethnographer. I took it to conference and was pleasantly surprised by the reception for my early ideas – another joyous little moment. So I though about it some more, developed my paper and submitted it to a journal.

After some very helpful guidance from reviewers and my resubmission, I learned from the editors on Thursday that (subject to one last minor revision) it’ll be accepted. While it may seem trivial to those academics out there who rattle off a dozen submissions a year, this is a pivotal paper for me. As an engineer turned ethnographer, this paper tells a tale of that journey. It says ‘I’ve arrived’ and ‘this is how I got here’ – Tim the ethnographer.

There will be more to follow, including the all-important ethnographic monograph. This joyous little moment for me is just a beginning to my odyssey. I’ll let you know when it’s in print.

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

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