All posts tagged: Graduate School

Accompaniment

I know that Easter and fathers and pre-exam jitters and saudade layer atop each other. I know that grief sneaks up on you when you are trying to pack ‘the canon’ into your head (and I know enough about feminist inquiry to question what counts as the canon, to know it has earned the quotes around it). I know how to tell grief apart by its taste. This is not the cutting, surprise grief, the kind that has made you nauseous before. It is the sweet, quiet accompaniment.

Reconstructing the everyday

Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Greek, I spend a lot of my time thinking about debt. The debt in question at the moment is a narrative one. Is there a shelf life to the stories we haven’t told, but wish we had? Is it best to consider them told, wipe the slate clean, and start the new story right where we are? I have also been thinking about our capacity to write. As I have learned this year, I can produce words, hundreds of words, thousands of them, almost on command (and caffeine). But I can only produce one type of thousands of words at a time. When my capacity to write is entirely consumed by footnotes, the more reflective, personal words do not flow. And thus this space has been gathering cobwebs, as I have been caught between hesitancies: I am hesitant to write the this-is-what-I-had-for-lunch posts, orthe my-life-is-sparklier-than-yours posts. In many senses, this has been a time of constants: I am still relearning how to walk. I am still recovering, still grieving.  I am …

Self-reflection and failure in academia

On Friday, Nicholas Kristof published a column titled “Professors, we need you!,” in which he argued for the need to make research more accessible and relevant to the general public. While his point on relatable, open research is well-taken, Kristof drew heat from a rank of academics who have been attempting to make their fields more accessible than they have been for decades. One of the more salient critiques, titled “Dear Nicholas Kristof: We are right here!” is at the Washington Post, while others are available at Duck of Minerva and the incredibly titled Mischiefs of Faction. The response that most resonated with me is by Erica Chenoweth at Political Violence at a Glance. I agree with the critics who have pointed out that Kristof has not acknowledged some of the steps social/political science have taken to relay their research and findings to the general public, but I still think there is room for self-reflection on academic conversations in slightly different terms than the ones in which Kristof casts the issue. On the same day as Kristof …

Questions on representing atrocities

This is a series of thoughts that are emerging from weeks of processing both the testimonies I collected during my recent field work and secondary reading on atrocities, trauma, narrative responsibility, and collective memory. Many of these thoughts are half-baked, as I essentially type from the middle of a conversation between me and the texts. Waiting for perfection is my least favorite form of silence — so here we go, from the middle of the story, knee-deep in footnotes and question marks.   James Dawes writes in the preface of Evil Men:  “How can we look at violently invasive and traumatic events with respect and care rather than sensational curiosity? How do profoundly private injuries fit into our mercilessly public spaces? At the center of the answers to these questions is a single, structuring paradox: the paradox of trauma. We are morally obligated to represent trauma, but we are also morally obligated not to.“ In response, I wonder (partially affected by my legal reading on naturalism vs. positivism): What does moral obligation consist of in …

Our other selves: From the field to graduate school

When the deep breaths came more easily: Day 3 in Massachusetts after returning from Bogotá. Returning home is a process of memory and activating the muscle of remembering to be here in Boston is more strenuous than I had recalled. I used to have dreams about Boston fall. In the years that I lived in deserts or straddled the Equator, cherishing the eternal warmth and sunshine, I missed the crispness of a September morning. This September, with my feet planted on top of crunching leaves, I struggle to feel anchored in place; almost ironically, I am having trouble feeling my feet on the ground. Leading a life of perpetual transitions allows one to develop a strange set of expertise, of the kind that cannot quite be called a skill or a desirable trait. Pack a carry-on bag in under five minutes. Emerge on the other side of the world and find your bearings sooner than one would expect. Learn to love from a distance, and love well. ‘Being good at distance’ is not a title …

Field notes from Colombia: The solitude of research

I cherish the solitude of field research. I have come to love the long silences of bus rides and solitary meals alike, even though I realize that to the Colombians who surround me, the sight of a girl choosing to eat her ajiaco alone is a peculiar one — so peculiar, in fact, that seven of them (!) decided to join me after pointing and whispering for a few minutes last week. I cherish the spontaneity of how interactions form when you are completely alone, when you can say ‘yes’ to the prospect of any conversation because you are not shielded by another human, a book, or the appearance of busy-ness. And yet, field research can also be lonely. The processes I am directing this summer remain fascinating to me. I get unreasonably excited about designing qualitative research, spending hours devising effective and sensitive interview questions, and slowly watching patterns emerge from the stories. From ‘the data’, as they say — as I should say, but stories are more than data to me. I enjoy …

Notes from the Women in International Security Conference in Canada

In early June, I had the pleasure of presenting my research and work on the topic of wartime sexual violence at the Women in International Security (WIIS) Canada conference, which took place at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto [see here for the original call for papers]. Telling the story of the experience is challenging because it was, in itself, the convergence of the stories of scholars, policymakers, and Canadian military representatives. Therein lies the first refreshing lesson: In my experience of conferences and seminars so far, it is truly refreshing to have individuals from different realms and agencies with different mandates, resources, and sources of expertise in the same room. I wish it happened more frequently, and I wish the conversational cross-pollination were the norm. The agenda was organized around issues related to women and security, ranging from women as agents of violence to women as peacemakers, and most presenters took into account broader questions of gender, including the role of men as victims and the importance of understanding wartime iterations of masculinity. This …

Summer Reading List 2013

Some of my most cherished memories have unfolded on the balcony of the home in which I grew up in Greece. I associate that balcony with memorizing high school biology and learning SAT words, with stretching my legs in the sun while reading my first Joan Didion book and writing graduate school essays. Much of my summer nostalgia centers on the balcony as a site of memory and on the pages I have turned while sitting on it. This summer is balcony-less, but full of pages regardless — as well as full of airplanes and transition and field notes and other makers of (new) memories. Here are the books that are accompanying these adventures, gathered through endless browsing of my favorite independent bookstore in Boston. Much like this digital space, the books are disparate and reflective of different interests, ranging from international law and enforced disappearance to qualitative research to essays to memoir to fiction.   I have already read some of the books below, while others are still on my to-read shelf. None of …

Resurfacing: Lessons of a graduate school spring

Postcard from a Boston spring: Blossoms and post-Marathon love I wish there were a way to pick up digital conversations where one left off, as though the internet were a best friend who lives on a different coast. I wish I felt no responsibility to connect the dots of narratives, to tell the story of what happened between then and now. The relevant ‘then’ is the Boston bombing, which was the last time I was able to write anything that did not require a footnote. The bombing took all my words away and grief filled the spaces in between. Spring came. Everything bloomed the day after the bombing suspects were apprehended. It felt like the universe winked at Boston, like it decided that the city had had enough pain and had earned its blossoms. I have always had trouble with sudden transitions that require shifting from agony to jubilation, so I stumbled my way from the manhunt to the dancing, the snowmelt to the flowers. This was the spring that I fell in love with …

For all the tables we have danced on

“It is always important to dance.” This phrase recurs in my friend Jonathon’s book, as a life philosophy that merits reiteration. I had never thought of dancing as something that invites the adjective “important” until I moved to Guatemala, where Jonathon and my friendship was born. My Guatemala was steeped in importance and imperatives, in trauma and injustice. It was an outsized kind of importance, the kind that shows you the limits of your knowledge and highlights the boundaries of what you can do to understand mass atrocities and serve their survivors. At no point did I feel qualified for the tasks required of me in Guatemala; and even if in some universe, I were qualified to perform the tasks themselves, no part of me was prepared for the emotional weight, vicarious trauma, and ceaseless heartbreak. It seems curious, then, that Guatemala was where we danced. We danced with vigor and with no shame, with no reservation and with gusto—every single time, with gusto. We danced on beaches and atop volcanoes, in living rooms and on coffee …