Moods in the field

The morale of this story is that any kind of social science research implies going in and out of moods. Being in a mood, and throughout life, in different contexts, going in and out of moods, is a precondition for human lives. And of course, this is a lived experience that is totally left out in social science textbooks, conferences and PhD education. Different moods imply different conversations, different writing, different analysis, different reading, different, well, you name it. So, here follows a rather moody text about different moods in our project – so far.

At first, we passionately ”wrote” the project (i.e. research applications). Passion, then, was the primary mood. Then when entering the field in Kiruna, we fell in love with the project. Love at first sight, actually. Call it “the Kiruna people effect”, all the stories they told, the way they did it. The mine and the people are deeply, historically, connected, and so are our interests in the project, changing power relations and the labour process.

After that we got into a sort of “nitty-gritty” mood; visiting the site, trying to understand the complexities in rather familiar ways (eg. very loose conversations, normally called interviews in the genre of social science) and in unfamiliar ways (eg. shooting film, taking photos, writing blogposts, making music). The prime mood in this stage was joy.

Then all of a sudden, we stumbled upon problems: we were denied entry to the mine. The mood here was a mild shock. The post-shock mood, at first, was of the kind that “this will be solved”, a mood best called pragmatic. Working in this mood for a couple of months, eventually realizing that this will most likely not be sorted out, led to a post-shock sadness (on some days, even a bit anger) mood. The project continued, but was seriously changed as we could no more observe and take part in the daily work in the mine, and also losing out on the top-management perspective.

However, sadness turned to a need to change plans. We entered into a sort of a strategy mood and started to focus on broader categories of people and society. These had been on our “radar” and in our plans, but now we took time and effort to meet and engage. New meetings, new people, brought back some of the initial passion and love (meeting new people up here always do!), but experiencing difficulties meeting more employees of the company (as we’re always honest with them about how top management approaches us, employees get a bit worried, even though they would like to meet us), there is always a semi-dark cloud of hanging over the project.

This is where we are today, reflecting on our research process in a hotel room in Kiruna (where we are right now). Time has therefore come to start taking stock of what we have, partly in order to start writing up, partly to return to the field with analyses.

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