Over the weekend, I sat at my computer. At one point mid-Saturday, I wailed to my cats who sat on the couch looking at me impassively, “This all just needs to slow down!” For historians, my naive outside perception is that the challenge is often finding one’s data. Has someone preserved a set of documents, letters, or diaries that have information about the story that I want to tell? For the ethnographer, the challenge can often be keeping up with one’s data. Queers aren’t going to sit down and shut up just because I need a day off. Queer Metropolis never sleeps.
The Chicago School produced “total ethnography,” capturing the full essence of a place. It should come as no surprise, given the title of this blog and my work, that St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton, Jr.’s classic Black Metropolis is a major influence on my work. Written in two volumes, Black Metropolis captures in incredible detail the life of residents of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. Unlike some of today’s ethnographies that theoretically follow an idea or object across multiple communities (see Multisited Ethnography, like Threads) or that follow a particular group of people (e.g, Slim’s Table), Black Metropolis covers nearly every aspect of Bronzeville, from “The Power of the Press and Pulpit” to “Lower Class: Sex and Family.”
The night before, I was making dinner when I got a text from Darrin, a mid-20s Black gay guy I had met the previous week singing Karaoke:
D: How’s the dissertation?
J: Hey! It’s going pretty well. I’m just enjoying a slow night at home tonight. More work awaits in the morning. How are you doing?
D: I’m ok, traveling from out of town. So what is your thesis? I’m really intrigued by this.
J: well I’m interested in how people meet in boystown, especially issues of race in the queer community
J: Are you going to watch drag race tomorrow?
D: Not sure yet. I’m trying to plan something with a friend I haven’t seen in a while. I’ll keep you posted.
J: Sounds good!
The next day, Darrin texted me at 7:14 (chat logs are so specific):
D: Looks like I’m stayin in. Sorry bro 😦
J: No Worries! have fun with your friends!
I use too many exclamation points in my texts.