A New Home with New Freedoms.
I did not have to travel far from home to research my subjects. In fact, it took just five minutes by automobile to pull onto the snow covered streets of Northfield Green. A small retirement community off Allen Avenue in Boston, MA, Northfield Green provides government subsidized housing, with a minimum age requirement for the occupant being 62 years of age. Although the majority of the senior citizens that the 200 apartment community houses are of American decent, a small sub-community of eastern European Jews call it home. The four immigrants studied differ in their nationalities and are unique in their own ways, but share many common beliefs and rituals.
Although different in many ways, the obvious being the age gap, the subjects and I are bound by language, creed, and religious faith, which in turn allowed me to understand them on a more personal level. In 1989 at six years of age, I immigrated to the United States from Ukraine under "political asylum," or at least that is what is said on my visa. Spending the next 12 years of my life in California, I was drawn to and embraced American culture, so much that I feel that it had more of a role raising me than my parents. After the initial interviews with all of the subjects, I realized it was difficult for me to understand their overall happiness living in Boston, MA due to lack of social relationships, drastically altered consumption habits, and the language barrier. During the study of the eastern European, Russian speaking Jews of the Northfield Green Community, I not only discovered why the subjects enjoyed life in Boston, MA as opposed to their countries of birth, but also on insight on my own life.
Knowing the four Russian speaking elders on a personal level before attempting to create this ethnography, I had already, mostly inadvertently, created a position on the subject. I could never imagine living a world where I only spoke with no more than a dozen people and had an extremely difficult time with the language. Because of my predominantly middle-income upbringing, I could not even begin to fathom what it would be like living in such tiny living quarters, not being able to go out and buy things that I wanted, and not being able to really have the opportunity to make more money because I was a senior citizen. My initial feelings of misunderstanding toward the four immigrants' happiness here in Boston, MA were clouded by lack of analysis and self reflection. This danger is summed up by famous anthropologist Ann Fienup-Riordan when she writes
As the whole symbolic anthropology is definitely an interpretive endeavor, and as the bulk of my work as an anthropologist ahs been directed toward this interpretation...I would like to relay in narrative fashion the experiences ... I say experiences instead of evidence because anthropologists, just like other humans, are notorious for finding what they are looking for (Riordan, 202).
And like Ms. Riordan,...