Posts Tagged ‘being a student’

Hard copies


Hard copies are sort of inconvenient. IMG_2007You cannot have them all with you at all times and, as interesting as it is to look though an index, a full text search is usually more useful. However, their materiality and lack of full-text-searchability can also be a useful ordering mechanism. I also like how recalling the physical appearance of a book can help me remember its content (or even just its author and title).

Maybe if I bring the right pile of books to rest in front of my computer this chapter will come together?


Don’t explain: Confront


‘The demand, in The Ignorant Schoolmaster, that intellect manifest itself in the confrontation between the will of the student and that of the ignorant schoolmaster posits community as a polemical encounter: in other words, what binds the schoolmaster to the student is not a common set of values, interests or sensibilities to be achieved by the student in some future, but confrontation between what is common, and over what is common. If one were to define a gaming community in this light, one might look to interactions in terms of ongoing confrontations over what a game is and is not, what it is to play and not play, what is it to be a fan and who can claim to be one, and so on — not with a view to checking their validity or the display of pre-existing social power, but in terms of confrontations or disagreements about what constitutes the community. If such confrontations are explained in terms of different levels of experience, what becomes perceptible is not disagreement but inequality: the incapacity of most community members to know as much as its porous leadership, and the good news that they are slowly catching up as a result of appropriate scaffolding. This perspective turns confrontation over what knowledge consists of, and the basis on which one can claim to have it, into temporal trajectories stretching from incapacity to capacity — a move which makes innocent the organization of community into a core and periphery, and which transforms disagreement over the object of knowledge into a call for those with more experience to enlighten those with yet-to-be-developed intellect.’ (Pelletier 2012: 109-110 )

Why post this today? Well, no ‘good’ reason. I suppose sometimes going through my notes to find a reference is more than a little inspiring.

Pelletier, C., 2012. No time or place for universal teaching: The Ignorant Schoolmaster and contemporary work on pedegogy. In J.-P. Deranty & A. Ross, eds. Jacques Rancière and the contemporary scene: The philosophy of radical equality. London & New York: Continuum International Publishing, pp. 98–115.

A partial list of resources on getting writing-work done


The past few days, I have had lots of conversations with a friend about approaches to getting writing-work done. How many bits and pieces I have stumbled across on this topic!

I am always surprised when I find an Australian-University PhD candidate who has not come across Inger Mewburn (aka The Thesis Whisperer). Her blog is great for finding new strategies and tools to try. She is a proponent of pomedoro, and  think her blog is where I first encountered Scrivener. There’s also a recent post on Mendeley*. It is a great site to visit when you want to feel less alone, whatever your student related angst of the moment happens to be.

There is a lot of formal work on this topic. Various writers have left instructions (I always find Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments particularly memorable). Biographies have also been turned towards thinking about how to keep working (e.g. Damon Young’s (2008) book, Distraction).

I think that to just remember that there is a program called ‘Write or Die‘ (some prefer Written? Kitten!) or that somebody has made a career out of PhD comics can be a good check on expectations. After all, the job of writing up a PhD is often tough. Plus, there is so much meta-commentary to get distracted by.

*My favourite tools are Mendeley and Scrivener.

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.



One of my just-for-fun side projects the other year was asking people to explain ‘affect’ to me. It is no longer so novel but, as Bateson references evoke memories of my honours anthropology cohort, there is a pleasure in experiencing the ‘bringing up of’ conversations from years ago. Perhaps I can just slowly edit this post as I stumble across new and old little references?

AE editorial intern Deniz Daser (interviewer): Is it the same with affect theory?

Hugh Raffles: I’m not quite sure what that is, to be honest, so it may be the same.

I’m a hoarder not a curator


IMG_1565When dealing with some of the fall out from my hoarding ways, I discovered a retraction should be issued for claiming to never have read a thing by Deleuze. However, statements on Deleuze and Guattari stand for now.

The discomfort of a bad writing habit [on show]


I have a bad habit that is quite literally causing me some pain at the moment. If I am working in front of the computer, while my nails get bitten a little, the skin around them really suffers. Currently my finger tips are a little sore and I am aware of this each time they touch the keys.IMG_1537

However, the pain is not enough to make me reconsider typing a word and so it probably would not bother me except I am embarrassed that everybody can see that I do it.

Why am I embarrassed? Putting my fingers in my mouth is probably not the best infection control measure, but it is not such an issue because I do not do it so much when I am in the world beyond my keyboard. I am pretty sure Freud assigned a clear developmental stage to anything oral, but he is hardly a figure I refer to in making decisions regarding what sort of person I am happy being perceived as. Maybe I should just toughen up (if I cannot quit the bad habit)? What is the harm?

Is it really that public anyway? I could start by just not writing a blog post about it. Yet, I feel, my finger tip mutilating ways are completely on show when I am in public. Hands are not treated as a particularly ‘private’ part of the body in the circles I find myself in, and so my hands are on show in a way that much of the rest of my body is not.

Of course, it is not just the parts of our bodies that are not otherwise adorned that are on show, but the coverings and modifications themselves are also part of what is visible when out and about. I know the way I dress shapes my interactions with people. Some current trends in hipster fashion along with a few years of a lack of investment in sewing and scouring op-shops have helped me look more like someone who maybe just did not quite pay enough attention to detail but is not altogether out of place at a university of in inner-city Australia (rather than a slow collector of stuff I like – which has probably always been over-influenced by my captivation with the Australian gold rush aesthetic and the ‘Little House’ books as a young child – with shifts in choices of hemlines, sleeves and fabrics reluctantly moving with my assessment of practicality given the transport modes, site of employment and climate I find myself encountering more or less frequently at the time). This is useful when strategically selecting something from my possessions to wear to a job interview or to be taken seriously by staff when visiting someone in hospital. It also spills out into other areas of my life. While such things are nearly impossible to quantify, I am quite sure I get more attentive service most places and find myself in more conversations [beyond the being asked for directions kind] with strangers. Instead of ‘Yeah man! Save the whales!’ being yelled a me out of a moving car, cycling yesterday I was told to ‘Buy a car and use it.’ (I could have misheard, so perhaps this discloses more about me than the perceptions of others. However, I completely understand what people who yell out of moving cars are communicating: I should be grateful I do not have to engage in a conversation with them and they are not to be taken seriously.)

Am I worried that my chewed on fingers will stop me being taken seriously when it matters? Do I have any right for my biting-when-writing habit to be private?

Perhaps I could invest in some dress gloves for those situations I just do not want to have my finger mutilating ways on show? How seriously would you take someone who rocked up to a meeting in cotton gloves? Then again, if I did not want to be seen as perpetuating ridiculously sexist standards of dress, I guess I would have to remove the gloves before shaking anybody’s hand and that would just draw more attention to my bad habits.

[I do not think my fingers were further damaged in the processes of writing this blog post. However, as it was a lazy bit of evening writing over a beer, this strategy is unlikely to be a productive one for achieving writing outcomes without finger damage.]

Eyes forward?


In some respects work has progressed but the sense of achievement I get from looking at words now sorted into paragraphs and ideas tentatively linked together also comes with a fear. I do not fear the inevitable rewriting of these paragraphs or becoming aware of the misfit between ideas. I fear the steps I have taken so far might be as far as I can go, and then I fear if I let myself stop and worry I really will become stuck. Perhaps this is why those scared of heights are advised ‘Don’t look down!’

Withdrawing from my life enough to undertake fieldwork had its challenges, but the constant activity and multiple demands on my attention offered its own momentum. The constant movement of ‘today’ in my Google calendar also kept me moving towards an endpoint of sorts. I struggle to write in a similar way – move on from task to task as each day progresses.

I find writing, and some of the work around writing, more or less enjoyable depending on a wide range of factors beyond the tasks in their own right. Sometimes writing feels like it is an escape from the world and sometimes it feels like other life demands or other thoughts come crashing in to destroy any threads of concentration I might seek to gather. On the other hand, I cannot complain too much. The world beyond my words on a computer screen offers the very data (inspiration) for those words.

Felting together


I feel like it is worth putting a little marker down where I am at the moment with my writing (perhaps more accurately described as my ‘not writing). I feel quite positive.

I feel positive not because I can point to a body of work which is done, not because I have some new idea, and not because I know where I am going. I have a sense of how I might be trying to go about getting somewhere… at least for the moment.

Working (very slowly) on a PhD thesis for examination is in some ways a task which suits what I like quite well. Perhaps it is easier to be positive sitting by a window on a rainy weekend morning writing this blog post instead of getting on with the thesis. I do know that this leisurely pace of life I have adopted will have to change if I want to have anything to show for the past few years.

That said, I like that I am challenged to ultimately put forward a text that plays by the rules enough for others to be able to engage with. Yes, I find it very difficult to work out what gaps can be left and what threads to spin. I do not want to find a fenced path to follow just yet, but conventions and the legacy of the decisions I make do carve out more and less traversable terrain into the future. One day this document will (hopefully) be finished. While I can see the value of having shaped a path of some use beyond that particular document and the time I spent writing it, such a consideration is not at the forefront of my reflections.

I like that, although I get to be the author, supervision and being part of a student cohort means I am never thinking only with my own reactions to things. In particular, conversations and sharing work means that this occurs in a a socially mediated way that, at its best, allows all of us to ‘talk back’ to each other and so maybe even challenge how we interpret each others words.

My sense of where I might be trying (at least for the next week or two) to go with my writing, and how I might try to get there, has been facilitated by other people. This sense did not just spring forth from some sort of realisation and it was not constructed from a careful reading of a ‘how to’ guide;

it has been felted together from ideas, realisations, experiences, advice, instructions and many stories. Other people have helped me so far in providing the pressure and agitation, but also in not letting those earlier fibres float away.

With that predictable craft metaphor out of the way, it is time to go and write another outline.

(written 17/03/13)

Being the crazy


At a conference last year I was listening to another graduate student speaking well of one of his supervisors. It is not uncommon to hear students explain that they have one supervisor who works in a relevant area and another who, although is not such a specialist, is kind and helpful. This was the kind and helpful supervisor and included in her list of talents was useful instruction when it came to ‘avoiding the crazies’.

Reflecting back on one of the two questions I asked in the conference and a couple of conversations I tried to pursue with students after their papers, I came to understand that I exhibit many of the qualities of these ‘crazies’ that are generally best avoided at conferences and seminars. I make convoluted links between topics that are of questionable relevance even to my own enquiries, and I tend to embark on efforts to share them with a little bit too much enthusiasm. Particularly in non-fieldwork situations, I find myself too keen to fill in gaps in conversations by asking unusual questions or sharing less than relevant observations.

This is not a great cause of distress for me as surely people at conferences and seminars have more than a few strategies for existing such situations if they do not want to be there and I am sure with my growing awareness I can be more considerate in my presence. However, it has lead me to wonder what else I could become more aware of. What other academic context stereotypes am I living up to?

One for the list is my tendency to test out theoretical links and standpoints that I know all too little about… in conversation. I really enjoy finding something new and discovering the insights and reactions of other people. However, this is a bit selfish and probably rather dull. Some friends have suggested that I am very ‘confident’, but the reason I like such conversations is that I really am not. The stereotype I appear to fit could be termed the ‘know all’.

I really enjoy reading and commenting on the work of other students. However, it has been pointed out to me that the attitude of problem solving with which I approach such tasks, I am placing myself in some sort of expert, all seeing position. I know that the work of others does not need any such problem solving. Furthermore, commenting on the order of words or links between ideas is something I struggle to do in my own work. I talk big, but do not manage to carry through in terms of finishing my own work.

For me, the solution is probably not going to be in never again going to conferences and seminars or never commenting on a fellow student’s work. I may always be quickly identified as one of those crazies that certain, well meaning people, advise others to avoid. However, I can see value in being a bit more aware of what is helpful in such situations and what is not.

The academics that have been most influential in my own education have always had their own quirks, like all people do. Their frustrated outbursts in classes were the source of much amusement at the time, but have often encouraged me to push myself to do better work: do not forget to consider the contribution the work made in its own time, take an intellectual risk by saying something, get it right, and it might all be interrelated but choose a position from which to pursue your analysis.

I would much rather finish a week reflecting on a challenge I took on in my writing than a missed opportunity to ask a [rather poorly thought out] question.