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Researching “what you really want to” versus “what you know you need to”

I’m having an intense and really challenging week, one where I am feeling really conflicted. My weeks are usually like this, but this week I’m facing an interesting conundrum. I have a number of projects I need to finish off (not the least, changes to my book that I lost in the last round of edits, and that I need to submit before the end of October). But in the past couple of weeks I have found myself really drawn to the topic of bottled water. Specifically, to the politics of bottled water consumption in Latin America and Mexico. So I’m more drawn to starting a new project than finishing what I already have on the pipeline.

Bottled water

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this area of research is of interest to me. After all, my PhD student is doing her dissertation on water privatization in Latin America, and bottled water is one of the angles from where this topic can be approached. But interestingly enough, during commutes to and from Morelia and in other side trips I have had to take (when I travel to Leon and back to Aguascalientes) I have found myself reading scholarship on bottled water consumption for fun. And writing about it. Almost as though I am obsessed with the topic.

This is one of the challenges with the way I do research. I always have multiple projects on the go and I have a very broad spectrum of research interests, but bottled water really has gotten under my skin. I have even taken a little bit of what Jamie Linton calls “a dialectic relationship with water” even buying a 6 pack of small bottles of water to assess (through my own experience) when do I feel the need/desire to consume bottled water. I usually carry my own water bottle, so I rarely have this need. But in the spirit of research, I wanted to experience the interaction with bottles of water.

I feel even more conflicted because World Toilet Day 2013 is approaching. I’m a scholar of sanitation and wastewater governance. If there is a day that justifies my field of research, it is November 19th, World Toilet Day. I should be reading up again on what the Joint Monitoring Programme is publishing regarding sanitation statistics, and examining the latest literature. But here I find myself obsessed with bottled water consumption.

Does this ever happen to you? If so, what do you do?

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Posted in academia, research, wastewater, water governance.

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