Stuck in the literature until I work it all out: an account of my current rage and frustration

(A note on context: I started going off on a tangent while writing an email to my supervisor. I think it is a wiser choice to post it here than email it to her.)

I feel like even after over two months stuck in books and articles I cannot make head nor tail of publications coming out of government departments. The language is so vague that whenever I try to unpack anything I feel like I am doing so from a somewhat arbitrary perspective. There are so many people writing about how wonderful it all is and how this is a break from neoliberalism and that we just need to do it and measure it better. However, I feel like this work fails to ground itself in either in the real world or any robust social theory. I feel like I am just cutting everything down and failing to engage with the work on its own terms. Just maybe these people are trying something new that relies on certain representations.

I went to Deborah Warr’s talk last week and my notes are full of things that stop me in my tracks

– I wrote down, ‘stigma as a product of the post-industrial.’ Maybe my notes are incomplete, perhaps now it is a different type of stigma or a different connection between the stigma and the person?

– There was a point about the street in West Heidelberg called ‘Goodenough St’. Thank goodness she quickly explained how the street names in that area all have a theme. I was surprised that it referred to a general and not the anthropologist or island. She went on to say how people can identify what sort of housing you live in based on your street name. That is rather true in my experience, but I personally think it says less about ‘disadvantaged/poor areas’ and more about the downside of areas where people spend a lot of time (hard community).

– Somebody made a point in question time that they were surprised the word ‘stigma’ had come from the community because it is ‘not an everyday word’. Sure, it is probably not the first word they teach in ESL but just because people live in an area labeled as disadvantage does not mean they live in a bubble.

Her focus on the downside of academic research which focuses on ‘disadvantaged/ poor areas’ was interesting and I would have liked to hear more. She used the example of the different reactions to research found in the big newspapers compared to the little local papers. I wonder where the concerns about ethical research sit these days in relation to ‘getting it right’. What if Mitchell (2010) concluded that there was no economic benefit from the impact of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission on wellbeing? What if Wilkinson and Pickett (2009) found that societies do the best with a certain type of inequality?

I really should not be so angry and attack it in such a manic way, after all the research I am looking at was not written for me. I am just frightened that I will never work it out well enough to get out into the real world.

Mitchell, H. 2010. Economics of equality report: An investigation into the economic benefits of equality and a framework for linking the work of the Commission with its impact on the wellbeing of Victorians. Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and the Social Justice Initiative at the University of Melbourne.

Wilkinson, R. G., and K. Pickett. 2009. The spirit level : why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Allen Lane.

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One Response to “Stuck in the literature until I work it all out: an account of my current rage and frustration”

  1. You can use statistics to prove anything « Another student blog Says:

    […] you can see, while I like the politics of The Spirit Level, I find I am drawn more to understanding why this boo… (and cited in A Fairer Victoria 2010)  than using it to understand social […]

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