Hello 2023!

I forget how energised and inspired I usually feel at this time of the year following the much-needed family time at home in the Eastern Cape during those one-and-a-half month-long December holidays. This year was very different for me. I had a 2-week long ‘winter break’ where I spent the first week trying to recuperate in bed from exhaustion in frigid Nashville. I spent the second week touring around New York – thankfully during a visit from my partner, who brought a feeling of South African comfort that I desperately needed after five months abroad. Much of my New York adventures were on foot, and so while the experience was incredible, I was exhausted when I arrived back in Nashville. Not the same relaxing family time that I would normally have had over December back home.

One of the hallmarks of being a Fulbright visiting student researcher is the opportunity to engage in invaluable cultural exchange experiences; I am grateful to do that during this time nine months that I am spending in the USA. When I’m not travelling through the USA, and instead have to knuckle down and get some work done, an average day entails a strict morning routine, block times for research throughout the day, and relaxed evenings. This vlog depicts an honest glimpse into a day in my life as a Fulbright researcher living in the USA, my apartment, my morning routine, and the stressful but exciting deadline leading up to my first international article submission.

The schedule on January 5th evolved slightly from its typical; let me explain.

Morning routine

I usually set my alarm for 05:45 in summer and 06:00 in winter and follow a strict routine until around 08:30. I always put my phone on the furthest table away from my bed because it forces me to get out of bed to switch the alarm off. I have a 10–15-minute quiet time first thing in the morning. As a former track and field athlete, I love doing a 30-minute or more home workout while listening to the radio. It’s a great way to energise, inform and prepare me for the day. I then drink my vitamins, shower, and make a straightforward breakfast of oats and coffee, which I eat while listening to a podcast episode. My current go-to is the Goop podcast. Once ready, I head to the library to start my work which is usually divided into set blocks of time. That makes my day significantly more productive.


The first slump of the day is at 12:30, so I usually go back home to eat and take a 40-minute nap. At 14:00, I wake up, drink a final cup of coffee for the day, and proceed to get through more work till 17:00. I prefer doing this work from my apartment, mostly out of habit, but also to maintain my workflow in cases where I have to continue working till later than expected.


At 17:00 I usually attend an extramural activity like choir, or a walk at the centennial park. When I’m in South Africa, these extramural activities also include pottery classes. Once I get back, I prepare a light dinner and binge on some YouTube videos, which over the last week has included the ‘day in my life’ vlogs of my fellow SAYAS bloggers. I begin winding down at 21:00 by gratitude journaling and filling out my planner for the following day, and once that is done, I head to bed.

Amongst all this structure, I have had to update my routine to make my transition to the States easier. I anticipate reshuffling and adjusting it once again upon my return to South Africa.

On academic detachment and relational research

A few months ago, I started a postdoctoral position at the University of Cape Town. Becoming part of an environment of active and supportive(!) scholarly exchange made me realise how much I had conditioned myself to work independently so far in my still rather pubescent academic life. While that is not a bad thing per se, I firmly believe that research is inherently relational. It is a form of knowledge production that requires a stimulus beyond stoically practicing data collection and writing in the ways we have learnt to be academically sound.

I have technically been working ‘from home’ for quite some years now. Doing my Masters by dissertation meant that I was only on campus for departmental seminars and irregular meetings with my thesis supervisor. This was after I had done a six-week qualitative research project on refugees in Cape Town and practices of dreaming for my Honours degree, which had given me an appetite for more in-depth research. I missed being part of academic life during my Masters but was really excited to conduct my first long-term ethnographic fieldwork. It allowed me the time and space to immerse myself in a topic for much longer – this time doing research on suburban neighbourhood surveillance groups. I would get a degree for spending my time observing, interviewing and writing – I was thrilled! And it really was a great experience at the time, even if not without ups and downs. I established my routines and enjoyed being able to do so without being impeded by class schedules and other academic obligations.

After embracing my degree certificate for my work, which, thankfully, had not felt torturously laborious for the most part, I worked for a health research organisation for three years remotely. Even though the topics I got to research interested me, my junior status and the fact that the project I was hired to work on did not materialise had me working on bits and pieces of other peoples’ projects. There was therefore no substantial, stimulating exchange with colleagues beyond brief Skype updates. When the situation did not change and funding became even more limited, I pursued my PhD on Tinder dating – another opportunity to spend A LOT of time talking to people about a topic that fascinates me.

I have always embraced a sense of independence. As a younger girl, I envisioned myself growing into a journalist when older, travelling around the world, covering all kinds of exciting topics. The anthropologist I grew to embody instead has roamed the world much less than I would have liked – mostly for funding reasons. I have, however, still managed to go out and explore the very themes I felt strongly about. It has taken a moment, but I feel like I’m getting closer to positioning myself in academia and thinking of myself as a ‘digital anthropologist’ – whatever that may actually mean. Especially through writing many an application in search for a postdoc, summarising my interests concisely over and over helped with that.

Having my first ‘proper’ (as in, fully paid) position pursuing my own research interests and now being part of a lively even if still remotely operating academic environment makes me feel the last years of academic detachment. Particularly so after the past 1.5 years of COVID-19-enforced remoteness. I am hungry for fieldwork and even more hungry for exchanging ideas with other scholars. Scholars, that is, who harbour a collaborative rather than a competitive sentiment – something that is not to be taken for granted.

I got a strong sense of what a collaborative spirit can do when attending my first hybrid workshop on UCT campus the other day. The big screen was not working and the five of us who were present in person were all still looking at our respective computer screens with our facial expressions hidden behind masks. And still, it was a very different feeling from following the same meeting from my kitchen table. The workshop went on for more than three hours, but I felt enlivened by the mere physical proximity of colleagues with whom I could exchange thoughts on our projects located within the same research cluster. It may have been the combination of the ability to share our progress and insecurities within this space, working on a similar research topic and having been deprived of unmediated support for a long time that made for this animating effect.

For me, the takeaway from these experiences is to, yes, embrace the autonomy research allows me when it comes to going to a certain field and approaching a topic in an exploratory manner – even though this autonomy in always also impeded by funding, institutional expectations and the pressures to fit moulds in academia. And the way things have panned out for me also cautions me to value not just my relations to the people I work with when conducting research but also academic environments that offer me space to develop frameworks to think with. Even if it is sometimes hard to admit, at the end of the day, none of it can be done alone.