Sunday, May 15, 2011

Short-order theory

Now that I can shelve my job app materials for, er, a few months, I can focus on my research again.  Which is good, because in a few days I have to give a lecture to the grant foundation that gave me my postdoc.  The lecture, of course, is on What I Did During My Postdoc.  This has been surprisingly difficult for me, since I'm used to throwing together half-assed bullshit marathons composing lucid talks on relatively short notice.  I've known the date of this talk for many months, but of course, it's supposed to be on stuff that I'm still researching and learning about, stuff that I could not research or learn about until I took up the postdoc.  The upshot is that I've only had about three weeks before the talk in which I could put together something coherent. 

And coherent is starting to seem like the most I could ask for.  It's actually really hard for me to come up with a reasonable theoretical analysis of new pseudological material in this much time.  Theory is a great big beast: sometimes you need to grapple with it, other times you need to just wrangle it to do what you want.  The way pseudology is practiced nowadays, you need a pretty sophisticated apparatus in place if you want to publish, or even be taken seriously by colleagues in conversation.

I think it took me over six months before I even began to develop a coherent theoretical framework for my dissertation.  And that was when I was back in the data-free environs of DOU-Town, nowhere near my field site.  Now, I'm sitting here in Research City, poring over a spread of new data on a – literally! – new subject that has never existed before.  (Ever feel like your research is in a rut?  I recommend experiencing an earth-shattering revolution.  Does wonders for social-science data possibilities.)  I never had to theorize about any of this stuff because it just wasn't there.  Ever.  It's distantly related to some other stuff that came into existence not so very long ago, but only distantly.  It's intimidating to know that I'm going to address a room full of colleagues about this stuff, and that I have to sound smart while doing it.  I'm not a fast cook in the theory kitchen, and now I feel like a theory-laden short-order cook.

Two more days to scribble, and then the order's up.  You want grits or toast on the side, honey?


  1. Grits? Bleah! Make mine with some Deluze and Guattari and a mimosa.

    PS good luck!

  2. But you ARE going to sound smart because it didn't exist before so they couldn't know as much about it as you do. Yay!

  3. This is so how I feel theory-wise--only I have to do the dissertation, not the talk. Why is it so hard? Why does everything not fit? However, I'm sure your talk will be awesome since you definitely know more about it than anyone else.