onward and.. onward
i met with my advisors last week about my new topic and figuring out some logistics. it turns out that they are going to *both* be chairs of my committee, at least for the time being, and we can see how that goes. i'm happy with it. the one who has been my advisor for the last few years is great, but very hands-off, which i've appreciated most of the time, but if i'm ever going to finish, i think some tough love is in order. i'm hoping that will be provided by the new co-advisor, the one who reminds me a bit of mum.
they gave me some incredibly useful feedback. i've been a bit stumped about a couple of things though... first, they were very adamant that i shouldn't look for examples of memory and mourning in craft work... that i should be asking *why people engage in hand work/craft/fiber work (have to refine that still, i think)* rather than presupposing my answer. that makes a lot of sense. it's always better to have questions and let the answers open up. so that's good, *except* that to me, memory and mourning was a way of narrowing such a massive topic. i suppose it could be something of a working hypothesis that helps me choose where to look, but doesn't direct any investigation once i begin. which kind of leads me to the next bit...
they suggested picking three communities for case studies - communities built around a certain technique and/or material. another friend said this too, and i like it. a huge advantage is that it will provide the structure of the whole diss. three chapters, and then some kind of meta argument/introduction. plus, specifics are always more interesting (and easier to write on) than huge generalities. i should choose each community based on how rich they seem, and they should all be different, drawing on different literatures and theories. each section will position the community historically and culturally, but focus on their contemporary work. so far i am pretty clear that there should be one on spinning, and one on quilting, but the third one hasn't crystallized yet... it's gonna sound strange, but i'm thinking about taxidermy as something that would add a whole 'nother dimension. there is something else in the back of my mind working out an organising principle, but i can't put my finger on it just yet..
also, and this is because we are a weird interdisciplinary program, each case study should lend itself to a different journal, field, and employment trajectory. not hugely and widely different fields really, but all the same ones that i am kind of swirling around in... american studies, gender studies, even material culture are just vast. so they suggested memory studies, visual anthropology, and maybe animal studies. that's all good advice, but kind of hard to plan here on the front end. it sounds so weird to read this, that i don't even really have a field... but academia *is* weird, it just is.
some great discoveries that came out of this meeting... they are fine with me not choosing specific geographic boundaries. just have three good case studies. i think it would be best and easiest to defend if they were all American, but they are leaving that open for me to figure out. also, no need for a new prospectus. they freed me up to quit talking about what i am going to do and get started doing it. it'll all get figured out in the writing itself.. i think this will help immensely.
so here i am, trying to get going, and committed to sharing a rough chapter draft with the memory studies reading group on march 25. i'm starting with spinning, and trying to figure out parameters for a spinning "community." there are a number of groups of spinners i've come in contact with online, and then there's also a local guild. at least it is a fairly small world compared to other types of fiber work. i've considered narrowing it to the people who are spinning pet hair - that's a very interesting phenomenon, but it might almost be too small of a world. it is actually helping me to try to share this here and organise my thoughts enough to articulate them... so i hope you're not bored to death out there.
the last problem for now, which is really only short-term, is that i can't start interviewing real people until i get through the IRB process, so until that's finished i have to focus on stuff that's already in print.. y'all can still give me suggestions in the meantime!