Apologies for the prolonged absence — I’ve been terrifically busy moving all my base to Singapore in preparation for a year of fieldwork, and apart from just about managing to squeeze out 140 characters a day for the past week or so, I have been unconscionably remiss in web duties. The current whether forecast (that is to say, whether I post or not) suggests great uncertainty for at least the next fortnight.
Just briefly, something I’ve been wondering about recently: as a graduate student, is there a tension between sharing too much about your research, and sharing too little? Cambridge very much has a culture of sharing among fellow students: we’re encouraged to network widely and meet people working in related fields or spheres of interest for coffee, and to widen our own narrow perspectives by partaking of another’s findings and viewpoints. Some of my most fruitful and stimulating ideas, and the most startling connections, have arisen out of conversation with grads who work almost entirely outside my field. On the other hand, especially when research topics have grated a little close, I’ve scented competition, protectiveness over one’s research topic and a chilly reluctance to be forthcoming with ideas, a jealous barricading of one’s little graduate niche — all this, while discoursing politely over coffee with a taut smile. How does one conduct oneself then, say, at conferences, where the two dispositions must collide somewhat: to share one’s research while simultaneously marking it decisively as one’s own? Surely the whole idea of academia is the vigorous exchange of ideas rather than jealously smuggling them into publication — a republic rather than an emporium (or a black market) of letters? or am I just being naive?
at any rate, I wish to leave you with the following exchange, which has no doubt made its gleeful rounds about the internet, though perhaps not with its masterful graphic accompaniment. Au revoir, and please don’t elect this woman.
COURIC: Well, explain to me why [Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia] enhances your foreign-policy credentials.
PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…
COURIC: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?
PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.