Since a year ago, my family and I moved to the countryside. We built a small house in a kampong on the outskirts of Bandung, outside of any housing complex. There is no intention to occupy the area – our main thought was simply that this was what we could afford with our remaining savings. It’s not that far (only 10-ish km to the city) but the atmosphere is completely different – the nature, the people, the temperature (it’s freezing out here!).
We learned a lot from the life of the people in the village. I, in particular, get to know farmers first-hand, observing how they work, think, talk, and negotiate, which is often different from various assumptions about farmers narrated in textbooks, mass media, and government reports. My observations, of course, do not represent the general figure of farmers in West Java – let alone in Indonesia. In fact, exploring the world of farmers made me realize that stereotypes don’t exist – everyone is different. Even so, like any qualitative social research, I seek to contribute to new ways of seeing and understanding a phenomenon. This ethnographic record is ultimately intended to provide insight into the way the academic world understands farmers and rural communities, breaking old paradigms (although sometimes affirming what is already known and theorized about ‘farmers’). In qualitative research, we do not talk about the extent to which the empirical evidence is a representative of the population (as opposed to quantitative research), but the extent to which the empirical evidence confirms or undermines existing social theory. After all, in practical terms, social phenomena can’t always be reduced to numbers – just because something isn’t representative of the entire population doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, right?
Amidst the craze of academic work, I am struggling to start writing again (even though the scribbles had been in my head for quite some time). It was my wife who pushed me to burst this all out, because some things are worth sharing with the world. So, over the next few posts, intermittently throwing up other chatters, through this weblog, I will try to share bits and pieces of ethnographic notes about what I’ve learned (or co-learned) with farmers, one step at a time. Well, let’s hope so.