Thursday, August 25, 2011

Frustration or Inspiration?

I study a fairly popular topic, with a fairly popular theoretical framework, but in a context that is not usually addressed in the literature. Needless to say, when the research/theory I'm reading mentions my context, I get pretty excited. Then there are moments like today, when a prominent researcher, whose work I really generally enjoy reading and find helpful, mentions my context in two different ways. The first time, she lost all nuance, and made an offensive generalization when comparing my topic (and worse, a particular identity category of mine)to the one more traditionally studied in this particular theoretical framework. Then she turned to my context, and cited research on a topic of much obsession with little substance about which she clearly had no knowledge. Grumbling into the book, I immediately demoted her from favorite researcher to failed theoretician. Why doesn't anyone give my context the attention it deserves! Why do they ignore it/say unnuanced things about it! It's important to this framework too and you need to see that!

Then I remembered that I am writing my dissertation on this topic for exactly this reason. :-) I should be inspired, not frustrated!


  1. Sounds like when everybody tries to apply the concept of "postmodernism" acritically to Latin American countries. The notion in itself is fuzzy and can mean anything. Don't you have people working theory in the context that you are studying that can take into consideration the context? Habermas more than once said that what he writes about applies to Europe more than anything.

  2. Sort of--the problem is that people who work with theories related to mine (which being "poststructural" are also frustratingly vague) in the geographic location I study are not usually interested in the particular context I study either (and there's really no reason why they would be). Now that I have (I think) got a hold on the theory I'm using in the contexts it's usually applied to, and am aware of it's origins in literary theory and social theory, I am going to do a broader search for theory in the geographic locations in these areas. Hopefully I will find something critical, and hopefully I will be able to get ahold of the text!

  3. That anecdote itself is worth a footnote at least in the dissertation.