Dali barber

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Another day, another backalley ear-lowering. Barbershops are one of my favorite social hubs, and a quick way to take the social pulse of a given context. Thus, they can prove to be an excellent first stop when one arrives in a new place and wants to “find one’s feet” in terms of forming a list of people and places to look into for one’s research subject du jour.

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I’ll usually mention one condition of working alongside me is that my research assistants are willing to sit for a haircut throughout the course of the contract. The tricky part there is convincing them I’m serious, and I usually end up having to explain the values and virtues of engaging the research site through the earnest eyes, ears, and social networks that form in/around the barber’s chair. In this particularly fruitful afternoon, both my female research assistant and I sat down for a trim (although we began with significantly different hairstyles, we both ended up looking rather the same after that – perhaps a cause for minor concern).

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Eventually, I’ll share the fruits of that day’s conversation in the form of the book I’m working on containing research findings from my Fulbright year chasing tractors and three-wheelers across China. Until then, these shots give a sense of the scene – the drying behaviors, the wear patterns, and other traces of behaviors – my assistant and I observed on that frigid afternoon in Xiaguan, Dali city, Yunnan Province.

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