Just because I [think I] am right does not mean I should not strive to do a ‘good job’

When it comes to my academic work, I usually treat any attention as affirming recognition. I often trot out as a badge of honour my second favourite (or perhaps my second ‘worst’) conference question (from the one person in the audience who had read a draft months earlier but never ended up passing on the feedback), ‘So what is your point?’ The favourite is, ‘I think I can see what you’re doing, but I would not do that.’ However, I am a bit weary of adding to my catalogue of communication failures. My ideal interjection from a reader now would be, ‘I would not do what you’re doing, I would do this.’

What am I doing? Well, I am trying to put together a dissertation I can submit for examination. As part of this, I am trying to make visible a bunch of big and little claims. My thesis is people are equal. I defend it through verification (I discuss fieldwork data), I draw on the work of Rancière to authorise my analysis and I seek to make visible my reasoning.

My dissertation has a certain [failure-motivated] arrogance built in because a blunt refusal of my thesis is also its verification — an enactment of equality as the capacity for any reader to set their own project. If rejection of my work is in the from of an evaluation that was not solely captured within the order I specify, it could still be rendered in the conceptual terms I use — an introduction of a supplement that then shifts the terms of evaluations and makes visible something that I have not taken seriously.

The demand for minor or major revisions that may follow from examiners introducing a supplement that they then use to redefine what my project should be is, of course, not politics in the Rancièrian sense — they are literally the ones qualified to have an opinion.

An outright fail would mean I had failed to write a dissertation that is taken seriously by my examiners — perhaps I have not authorised and verified my work in keeping with the broader configuration of sense in which anthropology and/or the work of Jacques Rancière are read, but also within which my examiners think more generally. I could still treat an examination result of failure as verification of my claim that evaluations are always made within a broader configuration of sense.

Don’t worry! Sometimes it is fun to play the fool, but I will strive to adequately demonstrate my capacity to verify my thesis.



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