I originally came to Brazil and more specifically, Salvador, Bahia because I wanted to write about the conflict between FIFA and the displacement of a particular type of street vendor prominent in the region: Baianas de acarajé.
I knew my research would have to change because the Baianas were allotted 6 spots within all of the FIFA games to sell the regions’ traditionally African-rooted food acarajé. I knew I’d have to gather information and begin to head into a more specific direction with my thesis.
I started working with the Association for Baianas (ABAM) a lot—everyday during the week and then spending time with the street vendors themselves on the weekend. Throughout my five weeks of fieldwork, I learned two main things. (1.) I don’t have an “in” and “out” time. Unlike a historian, I can’t close the archives and decide to pick up where I left off tomorrow. I was doing a lot of ethnography, although I wasn’t exclusively an ethnographer. Thus, I did have “time off.” I can only imagine the intensity of a full-time ethnographic fieldwork project. As I worked more and more at the association, doing all sorts of tasks from answering the phone, writing official documents to the state, to sitting in on meetings with secretaries—I had to learn to be flexible and soak in the intensity. The association lacks funds, staff, structure, and so on; thus, although people agreed to be interviewed and help me with my research, they also expected me to help them and apply any skills that I had. For a while, I was confused about whether I was focusing too much on the association, focusing too much on its relationship to the state, and getting too close to the women in the organization. What about the women who were not apart of the Association? What about the evangelical Baianas? And the conflict between them? What about working alongside a Baiana and learning to make acarajé step by step? What about the World Cup? Why weren’t they so eager to talk about the World Cup as I was eager to know about it? Am I missing perspectives? Should I distance myself from the association? Are they expecting too much out of me? Continue reading