Month: June 2014

In response to Toll

The last week has all been about reading and writing a brand-new conference paper which outlines my proposed approach to my research – more on that as I go.

But for today, Mathew Toll, fellow PhD candidate, and a truedude™ who keeps me on my toes, responded to the previous post I made on this blog with style and grace.

ImageHe takes note of my aimed approach and argues that my sociological starting-point “sounds a little too vanguardist, as if you should prioritize political ideals over the pursuit of an unclouded understanding.”

Good call. I feel like it definitely has to be a balance between the two – political aims and social goals, however it needs to be built on a foundation of empirical evidence and critical thinking. One without the other would render the whole work somewhat impotent to me.

Toll also gets real (i.e. academic), adding:

“The normative idea of a good sociologist I hold is someone who is motivated by a desire to understand the social and cultural formations and unravel the infinity of threads that inform our current situation. I’m not naïve enough to imagine that social scientists maintain a perfectly disinterested search for truth and aren’t, at least sub-consciously, guided by extra-scientific and normative considerations… I believe that objectivity and progression within an intellectual discipline is not achieved by individual participants crafting a view from nowhere, but a relative objectivity is achieved through mutual criticism and a desire to kick the ball forward and put together a better understanding of an object of study.”

He’s right here. Through mutual criticism/peer review, the continued push for greater social analysis, and perhaps even more importantly, the process of creating ‘public sociology’ – whereby those outside of academia can use the theories and outcomes of our research to improve their understanding of the world and their lives more generally – Toll brings out that great quest of sociology: the quest to understand the present social fabric, or “an attempt to understand the time [you] live in” (Camus, 2000, vii) ultimately for its improvement to take place.

Thanks to Mat for being as bigger nerd as I. Check out Mat’s writing at http://dostoevskiansmiles.blogspot.com.au/ and see how a real blog is done.

Keep breathing / stay well / listen to the new Fucked Up, Goodtime Boys and some Nina Simone & Rollins Band (check out Blues Jam, flip a desk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1YvPf1yRGQM)

Alex Page – June 13, 2014.

Camus, A. (2000 [1951]) The Rebel. Penguin Books: London, UK.

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Sociology as Embodiment/What I Am Currently Doing With My Hours

Over the last month it has become pretty clear that when I first set out to learn sociology I wanted to do it with the hope of making positive social change happen. I figured I would aim to become a ‘professional activist’, even in the early years of my degree. Although, I admit that when asked “why would you even do sociology?” [i.e. what are the financial prospects? If there’s no economic incentive, why bother?] being a ‘professional activist’ is what would fly out of my mouth as a defensive mechanism without me thinking too much about it. But that’s the truth. ‘Professional’, as in you have to have some specialised knowledge gained through education of some sort; ‘activist’ as in seeking to create that social change in the aim of fulfilling social justice principles of which much of the literature pointed to in response to inequity.

So, with this idea in mind, I figure there are two ways in which I am currently attempting to fulfill that role that I used as a defence-mechanism from way back in the early months of uni. The first is at my desk(s), which look like this:

Home desk/batcave of sadness/”nerdkingdom”.

Home desk/batcave of sadness/”nerdkingdom”.

Uni desk/realm of the fluro lightbulb, white paint, and the cubicle.

Uni desk/realm of the fluro lightbulb, white paint, and the cubicle.

 

These little spaces both at home and on campus is where the majority of work is happening at this point – it’s chaotic, paperwork overload, and totally cubicle-based. This, I figure, is the academic side of it whereby I put my head straight into the literature and write a bunch about my topic from secondary sources. This is where the writing happens at this point (or the drafting, re-drafting and re-re-drafting of writing happens). This is also where feelings of pointlessness and disconnect from the outside world come in.

However, while I’m in the early stages of my PhD, it doesn’t mean that the ‘desk work’ is the only work I feel like I should be doing. The second way I’m trying to fulfill the role of professional activist in the realm of sociology, is by attempting to do just that – by doing activism in any shape or form:

Riot cops: not as friendly as you might think.

Pen and I with the riot cops: they’re not as friendly as you might think.

I think this is just as vital as the first method of fulfilling that role – participation and collaboration on a street level will keep my work grounded and remind me of the bigger picture, as the reason for spending countless hours in the spaces of infinite white paint, concrete, and florescent light bulb. There have already been a few times where I question what it is I am doing, and why. By participating and becoming a political agent with my knowledge of social theory on board I want to make positive change occur, rather than just describing why or why not it is or isn’t happening. Any attempts to get out there and do something I’m counting as a success.

If the personal is truly political, and your work is your total passion, then I figure you should be attempting to make yourself into the embodiment of what your work is trying to achieve. That to me is what makes/should make a good sociologist.

Alex Page, June 6, 2014

p.s. Check out one of my rad supervisors Dr. Theresa Petray, and her rad new vid for ABCOpen where she discusses both optimism and activism in academia! http://vimeo.com/96026041