Young antipolitical identities, or crafting figureheads for stormy seas

One reason I would like to keep this blog going is to experiment with ideas that turn up in my uni work but that would be more fun without all the citations and wide interrogation that come with doing academic papers.

The big idea in my head right now is youthful antipolitics (from Rys Farthing, 2010) which you could say is a criticism of depicting young people’s political engagement vs. disengagement as a binary. Is young politics so simple, that some kids vote and are good citizens, and some are basically Beavis and Butthead, and don’t give a damn? Or, is there something in sitting at the computer, for example, that doesn’t fit the paradigm of engaged politics but is still useful to young people and the societies they live in?

heh-heh heh-heh-heh

“I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words” – Hesiod of Greece, 8th Century

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Dear student. Why?

I’m between two conferences at the moment and thinking (at the last minute) about why I have bothered to do the work, to go all over the place with posters and presentations and – most of all – about what bell hooks wrote: “it is not just important what we speak about, but how and why we speak”. I like this in principle but what will people say to me if – a student and a caterpillar – I turn up with my own half-baked ideas?

I inhabite thy baſe, wherein ſedulouſlye I am killinge thy D00des

in my head this is what they say

More specifically, my PhD project is designed around an idea of young people as either engaged or disengaged that I’m sure you’re familiar with. The typical way to present this is to say: young people don’t vote. So does that mean they don’t care about politics and have nothing to do with the people and institutions in the world around them? Or do they engage in different ways? Doing my pilot study and thinking about young people in this way, I felt like a government expert trying to figure out what the reason for young people not voting is. I felt like I was doing the what, as bell hooks puts it, and ignoring my instinctive gravitation towards the how and why: if there is someone who needs help, can I try and provide it somehow?

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A new paper – presentation cycle?

For essays I used to write, submit, forget. This week the BRLSI invited me in to present my MA dissertation on how newspapers presented England’s young rioters and a good time (I hope!) was had by all. But it’s got me thinking – how does it affect my writing process to know that decent work might, later on, get me a gig?

write kid write write write write

An essay is written. Not shown: much much much tea

Maybe this is an epiphenomenon (I learned that word today) of my halfbreed course – MRes, neither a taught student who can just turn in the paper and get the grade back, nor a research student free to set his own focus – or of my own eagerness to be a full PhD student, not to work the minimum but add a little here and there, and get up to speed. Because this is what I imagine a PhD course is all about, doing work and building on it, gradually. Writing a paper, finishing it. Thinking it’s utter arse. Showing it to folk, speaking about it. The next one will be a little better for it. Right?


Well! Here are two draft flashcards. Before I get stuck into writing about them, I have to cook dinner & paste a few more together – but for your interest:

>>>> edit: I should mention current bias on subjects due to random sample and unintentional, I do have lots of cars and soldiers too

who's that on the left, though

not shown: the funkadelic mothership returning to rethumpatize our unfunky system

not shown - a million billion torn-up drafts with the turbines done all wonky

only achieved unwonky turbines on this, the thousandth attempt. sorry trees

Eat my shorts, quantitative methods! 🙂

From the books to real life

This month I am running my first three focus groups – one with a team, and two alone for my PhD project – and it feels different to the way I expected it would. I am very nervous! To my imagination this step would be a peak of certainty, my head full of answers provided by scholars in their firmament and brilliant journals and this theory executed on willing volunteers with more answers to give, if only I pose the questions correctly.

Positivistic framework is positivistic

Positivistic framework is positivistic

Oy vey. Every suggestion in a journal leads to six more questions each of which point to this or that idea and – ack! more like a Looney Tunes character who runs off a cliff and legs spinning, is stuck in mid-air until he looks down to realize the ground has gone (and whhhhheeeeeeeooooo…. splat!) enthusiasm, and lurching at deadlines, has gathered me so many well informed uncertainties that the original truths show up diaphanous.

At the moment with the radio on sketching a blog post it seems clear. I hosted a pub quiz for postgraduates on Monday, up on a dais both thrilled by the game of it and embarrassed and wanting to disappear as I guess everyone feels on a microphone before a crowd. Afterwards with a(nother!) beer a PhD student recommended to me a yearly talk by “Hugh somebody, he’s  Australian” and told me this Hugh’s message was: I hardly ever meet a student who doesn’t have the capacity for it, maybe one in twenty, but the secret is that all of you especially the other nineteen will feel deep down like you’re too stupid to be a PhD student (all agreed: I hope that’s true!).

Well. So: the words are clear, that lacking confidence is fine. Deeper down, I wonder if our agreement on Hugh says, maybe, it’s OK to have little failures. It may be enough to keep hold of the questions, and not chase pure answers. In that case my reading isn’t in order to build, and complete, a great research method. It’s to improve my questions and stumble, hopefully, on something useful. I would like that. Because, according to Hugh Somebody, I will never know if I have a great research method because all students feel like idiots. I like that too.