Although I was born in the United States, I didn’t live here until I was an adult. Tanzania was my first home where my Guyanese mother and Tanzanian-Indian father met and got married. My mother chose to give birth in the US where she had access to advanced medical facilities and the support of extended family. After two years in Tanzania, my mother’s public health work for the UN moved our family across continents. I attended international schools in Malawi, Tanzania, and Switzerland. Growing up, I considered myself a global nomad finding home anywhere and belonging nowhere. I pursued college in the US because I wanted to find out if the country of my birth was a place I could call home. Upon matriculating at Barnard College in New York City, I set the ambitious goal for myself to live in one place for a decade. Prior to NYC, the longest I had ever lived in one place was for seven years along the French-Swiss border commuting to and from school in Geneva and my home in the countryside of France.
This year I checked off a major life goal — 2022 marks a decade living in New York. During these 10 years, I’ve grown into my identity as a first generation American. Throughout college, I grappled with how my race and my new mental health diagnosis would become inextricably linked to my identity. I sought to learn everything about being a Black American that I did not apprehend while growing up abroad. I also found my own voice to articulate my lived experience about a topic that has been so taboo in the Black community. As an outsider in search of a way in, I pursued intellectual inquiries that guided me towards my current doctoral studies. Given my international experience, my focus was exclusively on the US — until now.
After accomplishing a decade of living in one place, I am finally zooming back on to a more global perspective. My current research on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has created a global multi-sited virtual field site. The transformation in the use of digital communication technologies has brought the outside world closer than ever. Gone are the days of fieldwork that require anthropologists to physically go to “the field” in a far-flung corner of the world and immerse themselves within a culture for months or years at a time. Due to the upheaval of the pandemic, the future of anthropological research may occur for shorter stints in multiple locations at once, virtually and in-person. This creates more room for creativity in connecting the dots between differing geographic locations and sociopolitical contexts, producing scholarship that has international stakes and global impact.
After grounding myself so deeply in the United States, I am intrigued that my heart and mind are opening up to the wider world again. I am even warming up to the idea that I may leave the US in the coming years in service of my family’s best interests. This is a huge shift given how traumatized I was being constantly uprooted throughout my childhood. I thought aiming to live in one place for a decade would be more feasible than finding one place to permanently call home, but my inner child certainly wants that greater level of stability. Despite my greatest wishes and my deepest fears, I’m seeing the writing on the wall and I’m heeding its message. Wars are being waged, immigration is at a stand-still, and America’s Pluto Return is ushering in the fall of an empire. That’s why I’m beginning to explore my options. I’m expanding the scope of my research to global mental health and reproduction. I’m looking into mental health care systems in other countries to make sure the care I need is accessible wherever I go next. I’m also diving into astrocartography to get a glimpse into the places in the world that might be the best fit for me and my family. We’ll see where this all takes me…
Image Description: A globe with three protruding flag pins presenting the African continent sits in the sand on a sunny beach.