Post-Fieldwork Blues

The end of fieldwork evokes strange sensations of both pride and loss.

Returning to New York after two months in Rio de Janeiro (studying psychiatrist Nise da Silveira’s life and legacy), I know I accomplished a lot. But I can’t get rid of the nagging feeling that there was so much more I could have done, and so much that I left behind. Just as I was acquiring an understanding of the nature of da Silveira’s impact, just as I was beginning to map the important people and projects she influenced, just as my interviews were becoming particularly poignant — it was time to pack my bags.

At the colorful Casa das Palmeiras, pictured above, I attended a Jungian study group, founded by da Silveira to bring intellectuals together across fields.
At the colorful Casa das Palmeiras, pictured above, I attended a Jungian study group that Nise da Silveira founded to bring together intellectuals from across fields.

It’s one of the most bizarre parts of learning. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t. That idea became clearer the more I conducted my research, as da Silveira’s work spanned many fields. She collaborated not just with psychiatrists, but also with painters, philosophers, writers, astrologers, actors, and people from many other fields. Her influence is wide-reaching. And while I never expected to reach everyone, I sometimes felt inadequate knowing there were so many more interesting people I hadn’t interviewed.

I am using my time away from the field (and before the school year) to assess these past two months. I feel content in what I accomplished. Looking back to when I first considered researching Nise da Silveira, I could never have imagined I would meet her best friend, touch her personal archives, and follow a theater project inspired by her work.

So regarding the nagging thought that I could have done more, I must remember: research is never fully comprehensive. If it were, there would be no need to ask questions — and never a need for more research. My research does not tell everything, but it investigates my questions and interests. It brings its own lens. It’s a story told in my words. And, at least to me, that is something worth celebrating.

– Dylan Blau Edelstein, Humanities Correspondent