A Davidson alumnus called me yesterday to catch up on news. Ben Ralston was not an anthropology major; I knew him as my goalie on the Davidson men’s lacrosse team. He was one of the players who came with me to China (see earlier entries), and is now working in finance. Ben forwarded me a picture that he took of me from the summer that he thought was a good “fieldwork” picture.
It got me thinking about the effects of the various groups that I’ve taken to China for various reasons — a faculty group doing a study tour, a group of students from Butler University doing fieldwork on globalization, and this past summer with the men’s lacrosse team and with some other students working on their own fieldwork projects. What kind of impact does that kind of group experience in China leave on them? Is something missing because they are travelling as a group (and not as a lone individual)? It’s so easy now to travel in China, and the issues that were a normal part of being in China and that were very illustrative of grappling with an emergence from the Maoist period are now not there. I will be taking another group of 13 students to China for an “alternative spring break,” where they will be involved in an educational service project essentially teaching English in an underserved area. For me, the trip will be reflecting on the impact of such group trips.