and reform ain’t one.
I’ve had a few (just a few) requests for a copy of my senior thesis, and I’ve been delaying putting it online. I spent a good quarter of my waking hours for a year working on or thinking about this project. It caused serious damage to my social life, turned me into an incoherent and inattentive mess with my friends, and generally took over my life. After all that, I had the anti-climactic defense and got the same honors I would have received with a whole lot less work. And inexplicably, I’d do it all over again. I got four classes worth of credit for reading the books I wanted to read and writing about them. Faced with writing a hundred-page paper, I wrote one, and that’s an exciting feeling by itself.
One of the lessons I learned from this process was how to better navigate academic bureaucracy. I never ended up writing an abstract. The paper itself is largely about the dangers of representative abstraction, and to write an abstract that said that felt silly. After being told that “Well, even if it seems silly, you’ll have to write an abstract,” I didn’t. And no one noticed. Partly this is because undergraduate papers are seen as an unfortunate externality from the production of graduates, but it’s also because people have their own stuff going on and there’s a lot of room to do your own thing. It seems like a lot of things in academia are done not because people have to, but because it’s traditional practice. But if there’s any applicable conclusion to my thesis it’s that the way students have been before isn’t the way they have to be, that other arrangements are possible.
Like I said, the paper is long. Months after finishing it, there are whole sections of it that I think I wouldn’t write, and parts I now think are just wrong. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it, but I think there are sections that deserve my continued academic attention. Although I won’t write what would be a comically absurd formal abstract, most people don’t like to read things blind. The thesis, which is titled, “A War of Juxtaposition: Abstraction, Narrative and The Common,” is about the construction of abstract narratives and a critical analysis of representative politics. I tried to keep it engaging, so I write about internet dating, a bank ad, a few novels, and voting squirrels. But for the more theoretically minded of you, there’s plenty of Hegel, Marx, and Wittgenstein. So if that sounds like something you want to read, you can get a .pdf here. I’ve also posted it under the readings section, to which I’m constantly adding content.