But I’ve found myself in a bit of a pickle. On my first day of training, I was explicitly instructed “don’t tell your Bolivian friends you’re training.” Your identity should be a secret. And this has been reinforced over and over. Even when Jason, from Chicago, came to visit on his South American backpacking journey, I was told he couldn’t stay in the arena while we marked moves before the match. “It takes away from the show,” Mercedes told me.
But the worst is the academic questions. As I’ve written before, La Paz is a small town, and my social circles are small and interconnected. Anthropologist friends and NGO friends know Boliviano friends, and random gringo friends know the Reuters journalists who show up to interview Lady Blade. So my secrecy has extended even to the few social scientists I know around here. So I’m always suggesting that the exact topic of my dissertation is constantly in flux. It is something about: empowerment, globalization, gender ideology, sport, development, the feminization of poverty, and performativity of race and gender in Bolivia. And all those things are true of course. But don’t quite give the whole story. And I wonder if I come off as a total flake because I can’t give a concise 1 sentence explanation of my project. But I can’t really risk it. At least, if one abides by the idea that my loyalty lies with the people I work with, and not the academic community. Which I do.