Dali barber


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.


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).


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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