Writing Torment

07/05/2012 § Leave a comment

Last night, I had that moment when writing a paper where it just seems to crawl out of me. I easily reached half the page requirement, then, when it came time to apply some hard and dirty theory, I just tapped out. My brain was done. So, I let it simmer for a while, drew some things on my white board, let it brew, but these things have deadlines (Today, 12pm).

If I didn’t care about the paper, this task would be so much easier. I could just write a bunch of fluff that didn’t matter, just to fill up space. I could manipulate margins and font sizes fractionally. I could write long, convoluted sentences worthy of translations of Derrida.

I care, though, and just as I want my relationships to be genuine, I want my work to be genuine. So, I sat and waited, wrote fractions of a sentence at a time, trying to find the place where everything would come together.

I’m not sure I ever found it, but at about 3:30 am, I realized that I had hit the page requirement and had a paper which, while perhaps not fully realized, was not fluff.

Small victories.



Irritating Questions for Scholars of Anything

21/04/2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I attended a guest lecture in the communications department. The talk, given by Pushkala Prasad, entitled “Veiled Remarks: The Discourse of the Islamic Headscarf in the Scandinavian Workplace.” Prasad’s research, which took place in Denmark and Sweden in the late 90’s and early 00’s, examined the ways in which immigrants to Sweden and Denmark, especially dark-complected immigrants, were excluded from the workplace, and the headscarf, although worn by fewer than 5% of immigrant women, was consistently given as the reason why immigrant women were rejected from the workplace. The discourses surrounding this concerned immigrant women as too passive, lacking agency, unprofessional and so on. Further, the headscarf was conflated with brownness. I thought it was pretty fab. For the record, Prasad was inspired by George Marcus’ writings on Multi-sited Ethnography, which is part of why I bothered with a talk in the Comm Department (no offense, comm people)

In any event, some of the amazingly brilliant questions after the lecture were:

“Why didn’t you do this study in Norway?”

“What do you think Turkish people would think about this?”

“Well, it’s the same as Western women wearing the miniskirt in Saudi Arabia. Why didn’t you study that?”

She handled it marvelously, but seriously guys, stop. It’s sort of like when people ask me why I don’t study, for example, Tibetan refugees. The answer is “Well, because.”


14/04/2012 § Leave a comment

It will be a strange day, when my non-fiction books surpass my fiction books in number. I might actually be a bit sad when this happens. Good thing Quin will still be reading fiction, he can keep our library rounded out. 

Currently, I have reached a peculiar number of non-fiction books where they are confoundingly difficult to organize. Perhaps I ought to sort them into different areas based on how I used them. Something like “Well, this is an ethnography, but I used it for Marxist theory, so into the theory section it goes, because I don’t care about South America ahaahaha.” (Note: I’m not actually a jerk toward South America) Perhaps this is life teaching me a lesson on categories.


More likely, they’re just awkward and difficult to sort out. 


Irritating Questions for Scholars of Religion: Does X Really Believe Y?

12/02/2012 § Leave a comment

I encounter this question fairly frequently, after “So, you’re going to be Minister?” and “What’s it like being a Buddhist?” 

I suppose I should come to expect it. After all, I’m not averse to collecting trivia myself, and people want to know things about religion. In some ways, the approach to education in the U.S. is factoid-based. We shove information at people with the hope that they will absorb some of it. We’re also encouraged to be “culturally aware”. 

My inclination would be to say “Wow, that’s a dumb question, I’m not really qualified to speculate on that, and neither is anyone, ever.” To complicate matters, generally people are looking for an answer like “Sure, all the Floombists really believe that they turn into a Lizard during the Floombastic Festival.” or “Certainly not, all Floombists really know they’re just pretending to turn into a Lizard during the Floombastic Festival.” I find both of those answers to be entirely unsatisfactory. 

Any suggestions that won’t make me come off as a jerk? 

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