Diss Writing

I am writing up my chapter on Street Machining. I have found a pretty good work rhythm for my writing. More importantly I think I have found a good rhythm for the writing itself, but it feels so slow!! Plus I never really appreciated how many words it takes to explain things properly. I have a tendency to write my thoughts rather than think my writing and with this historical stuff I can’t do that. I am picking up on historical threads that need to be properly explained and contextualised. It just feels so boring. 

The magazine database I made of about 25 years of magazines is becoming increasingly useful. It allows me to isolate those particular magazines that relate to a given issue or theme that I have isolated in my history. To think I have done all of that work in less than 6 months. Crazy.


Although, I have discovered I am really bad at the disciplinary work of literally fitting my research into disciplines. It hurts my brain having to think about things along disciplinary lines, and I think it makes me a bad scholar. Worse is when I have to pick up certain theory batons and run with them, such as ‘technology’, ‘gender’ or ‘subculture’. It is so frustratingly boring, especially when you have to act as if there is some great problem, like ‘Technology is problematic’ or ‘Gender is problematic’ so I can then prove — ‘demonstrate’ — there is a gap which my research shall fill. Nonsense. There is no gap, and this mode of scholarly writing assumes an implicitly totalising engagement and correlative possibility of a totality. There is nothing but discontinuities between differentially repeated series.

Anyway, the way I am writing is with massive 25,000 word chunks. Each ‘chunk’ is roughly structured as an intro, and then three substantial sections. Each section is currently organised around an empirical (or historical, in this chapter) problem. My problem is that it is largely arbitrary how I align empirical and theoretical problems. This alignment, it appears to me, is primarily based on discipline. Coming from the intersection of Foucaultian-Deleuzian-type work means my research doesn’t fit into normal disciplines. For example, in my Street Machining chapter the empirical problems are all related to the history of the Street Machining cultural formation. The problems are aligned by my writing out of the history, not by the history itself. In other words, I am unpacking the history in certain ways depending on what aspect of the history I am interested in. The history itself is determined by what was at stake at the time, what has largely been erased from popular accounts of the era, so I am not simply imposing my interests on history as it were. For example, I argue there was a reconfiguration of the enthusiasm that moved away from representational organisations determined by labour towards those determined by the spectacular image and the media. So much theory it hurts, but the problems (of enthusiasm and the media) are empirical. By ’empirical’ I mean that the decline of representational strucutures is clearly observable and the increase in other forms of organising enthusiast populations is also clearly evident. So, straightforward, yeah?

But this is not the same thing as beginning with the assumption that I shall focus on ‘technology’, ‘media’ or ‘gender’, like as if it is one of the two or three most important things in the world and all I ever talk about is media, technology, etc. Sure, that would be easy!! (Is this why it is done?!?) Read all the relevant ‘technology’ books, several hundred of them, and then point out problems with ‘technology’. Or, the classic one I have found, read all the books about ‘subculture’, and demonstrate what is wrong with conceptions of ‘subculture’. Disiciplinarity, how I imagine it, works along these lines. It is stupid.

I think this is what ‘doing theory’ is in the US. You ‘do theory’ when you take theory itself to be a problem (or problematic). You then illustrate what is wrong with this ‘theory’ by using empirical examples. The complete bloody opposite of what I am doing!!! lol! Is this an effect of the north-american style grad-school? That it is programmatic?


With this chapter done I will have done half of my dissertation (in draft form). I am currently writing about 2,000 words a day.

3 replies on “Diss Writing”

  1. I thinkone of the issues is that perhaps you are trying to do too much, or expecting too much of the thesis. hence the frustration at the expectations you try to fulfill, but perhaps are putting on yourself. As for the disciplinary concerns i don’t think it will be a problem as long as you are clear from the outset about the necessity to slip across them. Framing your thesis according to what generated enthusiasm and speed for you, and thus was interesting, is completely valid I would think. You seem to be unpacking ‘how’ things have been moving rather than engaging in a trivial pursuit of showing a theory has a problem and trying to demolish or debunk it. I would have thought that true scholarship finds what is interesting, tackles how it came to be an interesting event, and has the guts to follow through with where that might take us.

  2. thanks clif. i think you are right about me having too great an expectation regarding my thesis. i guess i have been interested in the enthusiasm itself. An enthuiasm enthusiast. lol

  3. I’ve had the same sort of thought myself, about the stupid jargon you have to frame your work in to be accepted. IMHO, the important part of work like ours is done in changing the way people look at the world – in seminars and publications (not that anybody bothers with these unless they already have an opinion on the topic) and in teaching (not that the kids ever listen). All the other stuff is pretence put in place to make sure everybody achieves an economically rational standard of mediocrity and accepted because everyone wants the bit of paper and the funny hat they get if they play along.


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