Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Absence matters.

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Finally! My submission to cultural geographies has passed all reviews and is available “OnlineFirst”. The article is the opener for a special issue with the title Absence. Embodiment, materiality, resistance which is edited by Lars Meier, Erika Sigvardsdotter, and me. It seems as though we’ll have to wait until at least the end of 2013 for the special issue to appear in actual print, since there are a few other issues already in the pipeline before ours.

In any case, the production of this article has both been more rewarding and more challinging than many others. The first draft did not really go into much depth regarding the critiques of phenomenology that are being challenged in this article. I opted instead for a more “hermeneutic” constructions, where a problem is posited, developed in conjunction with a few descriptive episodes and then discussed in detail in the main part of the article. But the world of English-style publishing convention has of course caught up with me (again), and necessitated major changes. I was urged to begin with the deconstructivist critique of phenomenology as being obsessed with presence and oblivious of absence, since this is the basis for John Wylie’s widely cited critique of phenomenology in the name of absence. So I had to delve into the depths of Derrida’s critique of Husserl, necessitating more Husserl reading in turn and some venturing into Lévinas. This took a lot of time and even more effort and changed the tone of the article into a much more theoretical piece, but so be it.

The good thing is that I now feel quite confident about the epistemological basis of phenomenology and its perception in other schools of thinking, granting me a much better foothold than before. This also taught me – once again, actually – that a very clear introduction, which completely focuses on placing your research in relation to other publications (in the same channel), is of crucial importance in the english-writing world of academic publishing. No amount of problem-centric argumentation will help around this. I can understand where this comes from and also see the benefits of this procedure, but it doesn’t really fit my style of thinking, as I do not like to start an argument by telling people who is think was right and who was wrong and how my argument will be better than theirs. I much prefer to home in on a problem and then present arguments considering this issue.
In any case, what was nice indeed was to see how helpful journal editors can be in communicating the often conflicting feedback given in peer review. This is a very difficult job that calls for a difficult combination of sensitivity and clear judgement at the same time. Not easy to achieve.

Here is the link to the article:

As usual for publications managed by Sage, the article will be available exclusively through their site for one year, after which I am allowed to host the last manuscript form on my own website. (Until then: send me an e-mail if you don’t have access and would like to take a look at the article.)

Sociosophy with a beating heart.

Monday, February 6th, 2012

I have ogled Michel Serres’ The Five Senses for a long time already. (I must say I am shocked to see that it has been translated into English only in 2008, 23 years after its original publication and 15 years after the German translation.) The title always seemed neat to me, the German subtitle Eine Philosophie der Gemenge und Gemische did so too, and who does not want to demonstrate academic sovereignty with even more Suhrkamp Verlag publications on his or her bookshelf? But it took a reviewer to finally push my nose into the pages of this book – I am writing about fog in an article on absence, and Serres dedicates one of the subchapters of his book to fog…

So today, after reading all the Derrida that this and another reviewer also condemned me to, I finally opened my Five Senses and started to read, my eyes still blurry from staring their way through contorted Derridean sentences. Even before turning pages for the second time, I suddenly realized that my heart was beating loudly. Not just beat, hammer in excitement and anxiety about the next sentence. This is philosophy? I say! Or rather, my heart says: it might be much more than that.

Usually, I might furrow my brows, sometimes sigh or smirk my way through a book on theory or philosophy. Sometimes I might even smile or find that expression of realization or, even better, of wonder on my face. But a thrilled, beating heart? This definitely is a new experience. If only for that: I must recommend reading this book. I have only finished the first subchapter and started on the second one, but if you might be interested in an example of extraordinary writing in academica, then go out and get this book. And don’t wait too long until you start to read it!


Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Zum Monatswechsel ist meine Zeit an der Universität Hamburg abgelaufen. Zeitverträge sind besser als gar keine Verträge, aber sie bieten keinerlei Sicherheit, keinen Halt in Zeiten unsicherer Zukunftsaussichten am akademischen Arbeitsmarkt. Wenn einem der Arbeitsmarkt keinen Halt bietet und das Leben deshalb auch keinen festen Ort findet, ist es um so wichtiger, auf andere Weise den sonst bald arg gebeugten Rücken gestärkt zu bekommen. Sonst wird man irgendwann so krumm, dass man sich gar nicht mehr aufrichten und anderen in die Augen blicken kann.

Glücklicherweise hat sich diesen Monat bei zwei Gelegenheiten gezeigt, dass das Wagnis meiner Dissertation bzw. der dazugehörigen Buchveröffentlichung sich gelohnt hat. Sowohl auf der 3. Tagung des Atmosphärennetzwerks in München als auch auf der Konferenz Materialitäten in Mainz bin ich jeweils von mehreren Leuten angesprochen worden, die mein Buch gelesen haben und denen es sehr gut gefallen hat. Das ist ein fantastisches Erlebnis und gibt einem Mut. Ich interpretiere diese Rückmeldung so, dass es sich lohnt, offen zu sein, Risiken beim Schreiben einzugehen und sich nicht vorschnell vermeintlichen Standards des wissenschaftlichen Arbeitens und Schreibens unterzuordnen, sondern in jedem Fall auf’s Neue zu entscheiden, was man wie ausdrücken kann und will – und auch mögliche Schwächen des eigenen Arbeitens einzuräumen. Das mag einem nicht unbedingt sofort Anerkennung und einen Job verschaffen, beim Peer Review habe ich damit auch noch keine guten Erfahrungen gemacht, aber es ist besser, richtiger und vermutlich auch wahrer.

In gewisser Weise habe ich die Arbeit von Anfang an aus meiner Perspektive bzw. aus Perspektive meiner Generation geschrieben – nämlich aus einer deutlich spürbaren Unzufriedenheit mit der wenig selbstkritischen und sich dabei um so wissenschaftlicher gerierenden etablierten Sozialforschung in Deutschland. Ich hatte dabei wichtige Mitstreiter im Graduiertenkolleg und einen für Experimente offenen Doktorvater, ohne die ich den Mut für die Arbeit, wie sie jetzt steht, nicht aufgebracht hätte. Das hilft aber alles wenig, wenn die Arbeit erst einmal vom Tisch, der Titel verteidigt und die Postdocstelle ausgelaufen ist.

Dann wird es um so wichtiger, wenn einem Andere mit ihrem Lob den Rücken stärken. Das waren zuerst die anderen Jungen und das sind auch immer noch und vor allem: Doktorandinnen, Masterstudenten, frischgebackene Doktorinnen. Für sie und mich habe ich diese Arbeit geschrieben. Ihre positive Rückmeldung ist mir am wichtigsten. Allerdings kann ich nicht verhehlen, dass es in einer derart prekären Lage auch wichtig wird, die frohe Kunde darüber hinaus von Leuten mit grauen Schläfen und eigenen Büros zu hören – das ist auf den vergangenen beiden Tagungen eigentlich das erste Mal passiert und das gibt mir Hoffnung, dass sich die Arbeit an den Wurzeln auch langsam in den mehr oder weniger welken alten Ästen und Baumkronen bemerkbar macht.

Mal schauen, wie es weiter geht. Bis dahin möchte ich mich in voller Ernsthaftigkeit bei allen bedanken, die mir Lob ausgesprochen und mir so Mut gemacht haben – ohne das würde ich nicht so weitermachen können. Danke.

Dissertation take-off!

Sunday, February 27th, 2005

I am still dazzled, nervous, and adrenalin-hyped. I just finished the outline for my dissertation. This outline (done with the incredibly useful and well-designed OmniOutliner Professional) contains not only headlines for chapters, it also contains the respective chapters’ basic structure, and ideas, and hints regarding what I will actually write. This would be enough to generate a surge of adrenalin, however, this outline also contains page numbers, giving the best estimate possible at this point in time on how many pages each section of the text will have. Currently, the total is at 186 pages. I guess it is more likely to become longer than shorter. This is not all yet. One more piece of information has been entered by yours truly into this outline: the dates on which the respective sections have to be finished.
Whew. I am still stunned. After some tweaking, I have set the final page to be completed on the 26th of March 2006, leaving me with three weeks to do layout and corrections before my scholarship will end in the middle of April. The time table acknowledges things like trips, holidays, upcoming conferences, seminars etc. as far as it is possible to do this now. I have to write about 3 to 7 pages per week of writing. I would like to finish one or two weeks earlier though. The best chance of overtaking this time table – thereby making the final phase of writing my dissertation less stressful – is to be more productive in the next two or three months, so hold your thumbs for me.

*takes a deep breath*