Thinking Science, Figuring Anthropology

Do Anthropologists $hop at Ikea?

Well the short answer is: Kanske ja , kanske nej.

First, I have to tell you that it is a tropical paradise here and there are a few pictures included throughout the text.

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, HKUST

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, HKUST, 14 September 2009

When I arrived in Hong Kong I was, of course, exhausted from travel and the months of preparation that it took to make this all happen. Mr. Lee held a sign for me in Area A and called a colleague to help us with all of my “very heavy” luggage—the burns on my shoulders will not argue with Mr. Lee. I arrived at the University around midnight and was surprised that my apartment was so large …although smelling of Michigan-up-north-cabin mildew. You would think that I immediately fell into the double bed that was already made up for me, but by this time I was wired with excitement, anxiety, and whatever that feeling is when you are in a safe but unfamiliar place where every detail stimulates. I oiled cabinets and drapes to improve smell, I rearranged the ample furniture provided me, and I even fully unpacked. I was finally ready to sleep.

The next day was more of a logistical endeavor. I spoke with administrative people who helped to orient me in this Kafkaesque Castle of a university—it was only yesterday that I was finally able to locate the elusive Lift 25-26. I shopped for groceries. I made lists of things to do. And I spent the evening going over the PowerPoint presentation I would give the next morning. I fell asleep early to abruptly awake with horizontal rains forcing their way through my tightly closed windows and air conditioning unit cracks, to winds that I have only experienced through “Dreams,” Akira Kurosawa’s (黒澤 明 or 黒沢 明, Kurosawa Akira’s) *amazing* magical realism film—the winds made me specifically recall his “Blizzard” dream.

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, HKUST: Enhanced with Corel Paint Tools

After the Typhoon with Corel Paint, Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, Hong Kong

If you think that I am being a little dramatic (as I did while this was all happening), it turns out that we experienced a Level 8 typhoon—and typhoons here are rated on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worse.

The next day, because I still believed I was making a big deal out of nothing (I mean who doesn’t have their bedroom and living area flooded on their first full day entering the field?), I headed to campus to give my presentation. It felt like a Zombie movie because there were almost no people, everything was tattered and torn, and the people who were there seemed weary and on edge.

The next events: Gave presentation to one person, was introduced to the few faculty who showed up, enjoyed a lovely lunch with two professors and an accounting student, learned where to obtain a phone and hair dryer, fell asleep early, woke up early.

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, HKUST, 17 September 2009

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon, HKUST, 17 September 2009

So by my third day, I headed into town to obtain a cell phone and hair dryer only to spot Ikea. For about $200 US I obtained new bedding (including a quilt), some new curtains, an additional clothing rack, a small table, sugary-smelling candles with holders, a cutting board, and shower curtains. Not only do I feel like I have this enormous apartment, but now feels a lot more like “home.” Is this an anthropological way? I might not have servants like Margaret Mead or sexual fantasies about “the natives” like Bronislav Malinowski, but something feels a little wrong about shopping at Ikea. And then this has me thinking about how I am going to conduct anthropology here and about what kind of anthropologist I am becoming. For now, I leave you with this as I prepare my next entry…

uDesire @ Telford Plaza II, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong

uDesire @ Telford Plaza II, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong, 16 September 2009


Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. * Amy says:

    Love being able to hear about your experiences through this blog! Thinking of you!

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 10 months ago
  2. * dankprofessor says:

    I think that a sense of dislocation may be an integral part of an anthropologist doing fieldwork.

    It was good hearing from you via Facebook and now thru your blog.


    | Reply Posted 9 years, 9 months ago
  3. * Kelvin says:

    Must be an shocking experience to have the Level 8 typhoon in Hong Kong. In comparison, the snow storm in Michigan is not too bad. Love to hear more of your stories in Hong Kong.

    | Reply Posted 9 years, 6 months ago

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