Being an expert 馃懇馃徎馃彨when you know the least.

Diana Rodr铆guez-G贸mez

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Through the process of promotion from assistant professor to associate professor, the message that in a semiprophetic tone I have received has been: you must become an expert."馃敭 The question I have had since I started this project on the crossover between coca plantations and school is: expert in what, exactly?聽

On my first visit to Cauca, I had the opportunity of listening to a community leader describe how he had worked hand in hand with others to convert coca into an input for the legal economy. In his narrative there was not only precision in the details of growing and harvesting 馃尡but also political intention in the actions he described and in the way he presented the coca plant and its powers. 鉁婐煆 Overwhelmed by the density of the experience he shared, I wondered:

In seeking answers under the paradigm of traditional ethnography I just hit walls. The time required was too much, and the chances of concentrating on research while caring full time for a baby separated from her dad were minimal. Unsatisfied with my answers, I understood that 鈥淚 can handle everything by myself鈥濃搒tyle ethnography was a thing of the past鈥攁t least for the next few years. So I decided to work as a team. Thanks to NAEd/Spencer funding, so far there are six of us:聽

  1. A project coordinator, who knows the communities where we work, accompanies me to meetings with administrators and educators, and provides feedback on the data collection instruments.
  2. A field coordinator, who combines archival work at the Ministry of Defense and Education in Colombia with data collection in Cauca and resolves logistical issues.
  3. A research assistant doing archival work at the Library of Congress and the Wikileaks Public Library for Diplomacy in the United States.
  4. Two ethnographers, each born in one of the fieldwork sites and graduates of the school where they collect data. One holds an undergraduate degree in political science and the other is in their seventh semester of an anthropology degree.
  5. . . . and me.聽

Under the traditional format, I guess that in the r茅sum茅 my position would appear as 馃槼鈥減rincipal investigator.鈥濔煒 It is true that so far I have led the project鈥檚 design process, but in the conversations we have had about coca it is clear that the others are the experts. I can state that, so far, my expertise lies in identifying the key people who can take the research forward. Beyond this statement, this project emphasizes at every turn that the expert is not the one who knows but the one who learns.聽

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