lundi, août 04, 2008

French Landlords and Fieldwork Ethics

After sleeping solidly through the afternoon and evening of Sunday, I woke up today around 8h00 with no option but to get up and move. Considering that I’ve been regularly waking up around 12h00 or later, I felt rather “productive” waking up that early. Yes, the version of me that was getting up to teach 9h30 classes on the other side of Chicago doesn’t recognize this version of me at all.

After making me some eggs (which apparently help with nerve repair…my facial control has been slowly returning!), I showered and changed as if I was going to go out, but instead I parked myself in front of my computer and got to work. Still, I felt somehow less of a shut-in by at least showering and getting dressed.

I spent a couple of hours looking at apartment listings in Paris, which made me realize that I need a LOT of paperwork if I’m going to get an apartment in Paris. French landlords are really reluctant to rent to people and demand lots of reassurances because French law makes it very hard to evict a tenant. So most landlords want one of two things: proof that your net monthly income is at least 200% of the rent; or 1-2 guarantors with substantial income. Also, they want lots of assurances from previous landlords that I’m not a jerk or a deadbeat, so then there’s that.

So I put a hold on my apartment searching (it’s too early in the month, anyway) and started emailing people for proof of income (from U of C), possible guarantor support from my mom (as much as I don’t like asking for financial backing from my parents at the age of 30) and reference letters from previous landlords.
I actually managed to find some cheap flights to Paris during the second-last week of August, so I booked them for Tuesday to Friday (that way I don’t miss the weekend in Berlin!) and started thinking about planning an apartment-hunting trip. One of the French websites dedicated to renting between individuals suggested that potential renters should prepare multiple folders of all of their financial documents to leave with landlords when they visit apartments, so that’s something I’ll hopefully be able to do in the next few days. Gawd, moving sucks sometimes.

I took a break from work to head out and buy my transit card for this month. The woman at the station didn’t quite know what to do with my credit card (I had “ask for ID” on the back instead of my signature), so I had to show her my ID and then explain in my broken German why my signature isn’t on the card itself. It took a while, but eventually I left with my transit pass in hand.

I spent the rest of the afternoon writing my Internal Review Board protocols, which are the procedures you intend to follow when working with human subjects. I need to describe everything I’m going to do in detail, and then submit it to a committee who approves it or rejects it, and possibly demands changes to the procedure. It’s depressingly pedantic, since you have to imagine every possible negative outcome of your fieldwork and then explain what you would do to mitigate it. So you spend hours thinking about how much your work can hurt the people you work with.

Also, the IRBs are designed primarily with medical / drug studies in mind, so a lot of the questions don’t make much sense for my work. Will my study have adverse health effects? Gosh, I suppose that if I’m talking to someone and I have a cold, they might possibly catch my cold. How long does the procedure last? As long as the conversation lasts, man. Primary benefits of experimental treatment? Um…a few minutes of friendly banter? Hypothesis to be proven? WTF, this is anthro-style ethnography; there is a striking and puzzling phenomenon that I want to better understand, this ain’t laboratory science.

In the end, filling out the forms isn’t impossible, just tedious and a bit awkward and lopsided. I’m certain that if I was preparing a study on a new experimental surgical procedure, my project would slot into the questions far more easily. Anyway, I eventually realized that I would have to include a copy of my proposal with the IRB protocols, so I put a pause on that and decided to get back to revising my proposal.

By then it was dinner time, so my roommate and I headed up to Paul-Linke-Ufer (the Northern side of the Landwehrkanal in Kreuzberg) and grabbed dinner at a café that was offering a series of chanterelle mushroom specials. The mushrooms were great, and the food was otherwise OK. We chatted about American politics and the intersection of race and economics, and then headed home for the night.

2 commentaires:

Kristy a dit…

Landlords that don't want to rent... perhaps they should consider another line of work? Were you being facetious about the 200% income vs. rent? Because that is absurd. I'm thrilled to hear your face is returning to normal. Now, try not to permanently damage anyone while partying this week, will you?

LMGM a dit…

I'm so not kidding about the 200% income vs. rent thing. If your income is twice that of the rent you're paying, you can get a GRL, which is a sort of insurance-against-deadbeats offered by the state that you can then give to your landlord in the place of a credit check, etc. If you're not making enough money for that, you have to get someone you know with a larger income to co-sign as a guarantor. So, yeah, kinda shitty.