When Beti asked her twelfth-grade students to consider Guatemala’s contemporary challenges, their suggestions quickly filled the board. In large letters, their words loomed like storm clouds: corruption, violence, extortion, threats, robberies, assaults, exploitation, discrimination.
The difference between a poem and an ethnographic poem is fieldwork. My ethnographic poems are written based on my field data, and sometimes as part of my field methods: they are attentive to the qualia of social life and the complexities of human experience as encountered in fieldwork.
There is a tendency to think about love as something private—an intimate matter between two people. But as a friend once told me, “You cannot understand Acholi love if you think that it is between two people.” If she is right, and I think she is, then our understanding of the phenomenon of love should consider the wider societal backdrop as well as the particular web of social relations in which lovers find themselves.
One crisp January afternoon one of us (Sarah) sat in the living room of Guadalupe, an immigrant farmworker in California’s Central Valley, as she explained why she had refused to accept Emergency Medicaid to cover her children’s delivery. Quietly and calmly, as though she were describing an ordinary event, Guadalupe shared how she and her husband scraped together the funds each month—on a farmworking salary averaging about $18,000 a year—to pay off the more than $20,000 debt they owed hospitals for the births of their children.
“Okay, let’s start the memes,” posted a member of a community Facebook page in the town of Playa del Carmen, shortly after the first presidential debate concluded. Within minutes, the comments section of the post filled with hilarious, insulting, insightful, and downright offensive memes making fun of the five (currently four) presidential candidates.