Habits, Neuroses, Talents - Danica 1/15/19

• Do you have more trouble articulating your frame (social theoretical questions) or object?

Definitely have more trouble articulating my frame

• Do you tend to project-hop or to stick to a project, and what explains this?

I have a tendency toward what could be considered project hopping, but less because of the “shiny red truck” phenomenon and more due to having a hard time drawing boundaries, i.e. seeing how one thing is connected to another thing and following that and then, in seeing where I ended up, wondering if my project is about X thing instead of Y thing I thought it was about (see more in the figure vs. ground question).

Do you tend to be more interested in internal dynamics, or external determinations? In the terms laid out by Keller, do you tend to focus so intently on the object of your concern that context falls away (i.e. are you obsessive compulsive, rather than paranoid)? Is your desire is to name, specify and control your object? Is your desire is for figure, its ground your annoyance? Or are you paranoid, context being your focus and obsession? All is signal. Only begrudgingly will you admit that something is noise, outside the scope of your project? Figure is hard to come by. Its ground has captured your attention.

GROUND all the way. I think a major contributor to my paralysis when working on research related tasks that are aimed at producing some THING--such as grant application, set of interview questions, orals document--is that I am trying to fit all the context I see into a form that doesn’t allow for that (certainly not in a way that would make writing clear, easy to understand, and succinct). The figure seems to be constantly shifting based on which aspect of context/ground I am holding at any given moment or based on who I am talking to, i.e. because I see so much ground, if someone I’m talking to sees part of it and says “X must be the figure,” in that moment I’ll feel that pull but then feel unable to settle on it because when reminded of the other context, it could be a number of other figures.

• What do you do with unusual or counter examples? Are you drawn to “the deviant,” or rather repulsed by it?

With my current project, unusual/counter examples have been a positive source of demonstrating to others that the topic at hand isn’t immediately what they think it is (i.e. challenging assumptions people have about rural places, conservative people, etc.). Aspects of public lands debates or of rural America that others have observed or written about are not false or wrong, but counter examples demonstrate how conceptual categories or subject positions that others may have used to write about public lands conflict or about rural America obscure or erase important variations. At the same time my tendency to want to “account for” such deviance/deviation contributes to having difficulty writing succinctly/presenting a neat and tidy research design. When it comes to presenting my project for evaluation such as in application for grant funding, I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place in that I feel I need to highlight counter examples to demonstrate how I’m not perpetuating settler colonial logics or how I’m doing something different from previous work, but then am muddled by the way that taking into account such complexity makes my presentation of ideas complicated, wordy, etc.

• Do you tend to over-impose logics on the world, or to resist the construction of coherent narratives?

Hmm...this is a tough one. On the one hand, attention to ALL the context (i.e. even that which may be “noise”) I think can contribute to a resistance of constructing coherent narratives. On the other hand, I see narratives everywhere and think of a lot of interlocutor discourse specifically in terms of narrative (perhaps a result of my particular undergrad anthro training and also perhaps because I come from a family of storytellers) which I think can contribute toward my own narrative-weaving/logic-imposing. I think one way to get a better gauge of my tendency on this spectrum would be to have others exmamne some of the materials/data I am looking at and see what kinds of conclusions they come to--this is part of my interest in participating more / getting some of my data up on PECE.

• Do you tend to over-generalize, or to hold back from overarching argument?

I’ve known myself to do both. Right now I watch myself hold back from asserting any overarching arguments, despite the fact that I know quite a lot about what is going on in my research settings. Because I haven’t done my “formal” fieldwork, I find myself resisting doing any sort of the “fixing” that is necessary for crafting an argument. However, when I’m in a different phase, for instance when explicitly working on a final product such as with my undergrad thesis, I think it can be quite easy to slip into some over-generalization because of the way that I may notice a certain thing in a couple of places in my data and then because of the act/experience of noticing, start to see that pattern more without necessarily being attuned to noticing other things that didn’t “catch” me.

• Do you like to read interpretations different than your own, or do you tend to feel scooped or intimidated by them?

I feel somewhat intimidated by other people’s interpretations or assessments of other scholarly works, specifically regarding theoretical contributions or interventions, if that makes any sense. But I appreciate and enjoy reading multiple interpretations of data, because I when others see something different than I do, there is often something productive in considering an aspect they picked up on or in examining the differences between our interpretations.

Do you tend to change an argument as you flesh it out, or do you tend to make the argument work, no matter what?

I tend to change an argument as I flesh it out--or, as I like to put it, form an argument by fleshing it out. Writing has long been a conduit for thinking for me, so I find that it is often through beginning with just the inkling of an argument that I write to discover what the argument is more specifically or whether it holds up--and if not, what the argument actually is. I think this works for me because I was taught to think very explicitly about argumentation in writing, so it is an avenue for me to see what evidence actually supports, or is cause for revision to, an argument.

• Do you tend to think in terms of “this is kind of like” (metaphorically)? Do you hold to examples that “say it all,” leveraging metonymic thinking?

I tend more toward metaphoric thinking than metonymic thinking, possibly to a fault. One check I’ve learned to use when I find myself pulled toward a particular metaphor to think of or represent a phenomena is to, in addition to asking/describing “how is X like Y?”, ask “how is X NOT like Y?” or, in other words, forcing myself to consciously consider the ways in which a phenomena is unlike the thing it feels like. For instance, I was drawn to a metaphor of sedimentation in terms of telling the story of the natural-cultural history of southern Utah (I mean, when you’re living among such sandstone/limestone formations, who isn’t?), but this metaphor runs into major problems if one is to account for Native relations to land in the present. However, through asking about both the “like” and “unlike” aspects of people’s histories with this place I was able to discern how a metaphor or model of sedimentation is prevalent in some stakeholder narrations of the place’s history and that such a metaphor is in fact part of what obscures Native presence in the present/relegates them to the past.

Do you like gaming understanding in this way? Does it frustrate you that your answers often don’t fit easily on either side of the binaries set up by the questions? (Jakobson suggests that over attachment to a simple binary scheme is a “continuity disorder.”)
Yes, I find this an interesting process because in identifying where I sit with each “this or that” question I’m able to see how my tendencies may create blindspots when conducting research/analyzing data (thus stimulating thought about how to check/balance some tendencies) and I also begin to understand how/why certain aspects of the research design and execution process (very broadly speaking, so including things like applying for funding, advancing to candidacy through orals, etc.) often feel so difficult--especially with the figure vs. ground questions, my occasional paralysis starts to make sense. Although it’s obvious that things aren’t just X or Y, I find this kind of exercise and it’s attention to binaries quite productive, because instead of trying to articulate how I think/analyze/work on my own, the binaries offer a starting point (indeed with most I could identify a tendency toward one or the other) while spurring on more thought about how it’s actually more complicated than “this or that.”

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