on the go

Anyway. Report to myself on my progress. Or a ranted-up sliver of self-reflection. Or ‘Mental cob-web clearing going on, watch for falling tools.’ Or ‘No high-concept fireworks to see here, people. Move along. Move along.’

1) Thesis is coming along. I am continually struck be the immensity of the task I have set myself. I realise that I am doing something half-right when my research object seems so utterly complex that any work of research that makes any kind of totalising claim without being a multi-volume work will undoubtedly fail. I am only doing something half-right because I need to come up with the other side of the equation; that is, placing limits on myself and on my research.

I have been trying to think of ways to deal with this, to move on beyond the paralysing fear that whatever limits I select will be insufficient. Taking Lawrence Grossberg’s idea of ‘mattering maps’ and running with it, I have been working towards a calculus of mattering. I understand my research to be performatively conditioned; to be a act of intellectual (immaterial) labour that is expressed through academic tradition. My problem is deciphering the question of what matters to which audience.

Why this has taken me so long to figure out and why I have turned to a notion like a caculus of mattering is that I am caught between what can be considered the normative claims of what matters within cultural studies and an expression of what matters to me as a one-time member of the culture which I am researching. So far I have refused to assume the calculus of mattering that pertains (in an admittedly unrealistic ideal or categorical way) to cultural studies. My first introductory chapter was originally going to be called “This is not cultural studies”. As a sidenote, this is not an anxiety about what sort or ‘type’ of research this is. It is undoubtedly cultural research working from within the paradigm of cultural studies. It is simply a matter of realising that the sort of questions that I ask of my research and the sorts of questions that I ask in my research will be determined by what matters.

Therefore, my rationale so far has been to keep on working away in an attempt to find a mattering that is organic to my research object. My problem is that I did not come at this research project with a ‘problem’. I have certainly discovered a number of ‘problems’, that is, event-based structurations that can be rendered problematic and explored, however, I don’t feel like these are sufficient in themselves to sustain what is meant to be a piece of high-quality research suitable for a PhD.

Anyway, part of my problem has been my infatuation with Deleuzian thought. It is so utterly useless if you want to ‘keep it real’. Instead it is perfect if you want to interrogate the real. I actually have an unfinished blog post, derived from my rereading of What is Philosophy?, where I outline a case for the utter uselessness of Deleuze (and his work with Guattari) for ‘Cultural Studies’. The situation either needs some serious modification of their work to ‘make it fit’ or without some hard core engineering project whereby the world is rendered Deleuzian. At the moment I am unwilling and probably incapable of doing either, especially for my thesis, and especially in the time I have left. The basic Deleuzian method (although it should never be called this if you want to be a ‘real’ Deleuzian, but, yeah, who really gives a fuck?) is to grasp the actual state of affairs as an expression of a virtual machinic structuration. The problem that most people have failed to realise is that you are not meant to see ‘rhizomes’ or ‘war machines’ everywhere, you are meant to create your own concepts. Or, rather, the concepts, that is, incorporeal events, that belong to a state of affairs. Of course, certain states of affairs will be repeated and then task is to therefore isolate the difference that is repeated in such a state of affairs, which can then be traced back to being another differential repetition of a singular virtual machine.

I have been debating, and it really is not a debate, because I am so far down this track I don’t really have any choice, whether or not I should take this on board and deploy (actualise) the Deleuzian-machine in the specific state of affairs that is my research. The Deleuzian-machine is a virtual machine that pertains to the state of affairs that we might commonly call Deleuzian thought. The’second book’ of the two books that Buchanan discusses in his book on Deleuze. I would be surprised if more has not been written about this.

2) I have been thinking many thoughts about what I should say for the impending postgrad seminar presentation at USyd on the 22 July. I am now leaning towards some of the massive issues I have been dealing with and written about here about conceptions of success, measures of success, and what actually draws people to this sort of research (and lifestyle!!) in the first place. It certainly is not about being ‘successful’ in any normative sense, or if people do think it is about that then they are in the wrong bloody field!! Success is not abandoned, don’t get me wrong, I want to do this as well as I possibly can (hence the above rant), but part of what I find attractive about this type of humanities research is the fact it does not fit into any easily reconciled pidgeon hole. I don’t mean the actual research itself (it is cultural studies), but the act of doing the research itself as a job. For example, my short stint working for a private market research company taught me about the difference between deploying my skills in a conditioned labour environment where I sell my skills like any other worker and the kind of freedom I enjoy as a postgrad. Anyway, there is much to say about this…

3) Lastly, I have two projects simmering on the back burner. One is a paper on ‘post-romance’ derived from a couple of semi-recent films. The other is a script for a movie: “The Hoon”. 1) It is about the son of a tow-truck driver who wants to open up his own speed shop; 2) set in Australia in the early 1980s against the backdrop of the cultural upheavals of the late-1970s and the early-1980s (ie death of Fordist economy and labour/market reforms); and 3) the hoon/son may or may not fall in love with a bourgie arts student. Conflict is organised around the bourgie arts student love thing and some low level organised crime that the hoon’s father may or may not be involved in. It is based on one of my ultimate back-burner projects (I am not sure if I have mentioned this before?): a novel I have been writing and which I started about 5 years ago. I return to it once or twice a month and write another couple of pages. Anyway. The flick: I want to give the conservatives exactly what they fear the most while still being a ‘popular text’.