I opened my big mouth again

Me to my supervisor: I should have most of a full draft to give to you by the end of March.

Me to myself 5 minutes after sending the email: Eeeeaaaagghh!!

But there’s two weeks!  That’s not so bad, right?  I would have killed for two weeks when I was writing my proposal.  I’m sure I have more finished than I think.  I’ve been keeping my writing in separate files because I’m incapable of seeing my thesis all at once, for fear that the hideous sight will turn me to stone.

Well, nothing for it but to do it.  See you all in April.

Today’s paragraph

It is important not to succumb to the “giddy presentism” inherent in many studies of globalization, but instead keep in mind that what can be called “globalization” has occurred in other historical moments (Graeber, 2002). However, one must also note that the expansion of global connection in the modern era often coincides with the expansion of imperial domination by new and already-existing empires. The last period of heightened global interconnection, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when massive numbers of people and goods crossed borders, was also the period of “high imperialism”, when the great powers such as England and France seized new colonies and when new powers such as Japan and Italy entered the race for colonies (Go, 2003, p. 17).

Go, J. (2003). Introduction: Global Perspectives on the U.S. Colonial State in the Philippines. In J. Go & A. L. Foster (Eds.), The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives (pp. 1-42). Durham NC: Duke University Press.

Graeber, D. (2002). The Anthropology of Globalization (with Notes on Neomedievalism, and the End of the Chinese Model of the Nation-State). American Anthropologist, 104(4), 1222-1227.

I just need to write 2000 more of these and I’ll be done.

Jamais vu

As in, the opposite of deja vu, it’s the feeling that something has never happened before.  I was just reading Stuart Hall’s introduction to Questions of Cultural Identity when I got the feeling.  The introductory chapter is actually rather central to my thesis because it’s here that Hall outlines his thinking on identification versus identity and I use his definition quite a lot.  It’s been a few months since I’ve actually had to read the essay.  I’ve just now read it again and I got the distinct feeling that I’d never read it before.  There were entire parts that I didn’t remember at all.  In fact, I may actually understand it better now.  I must say, the critical distance afforded by time is helpful in getting the most out of a meaty essay, especially when the first time around I had to read that meaty essay on the quick because my proposal was due the next week.  This is just like when I re-read Elizabeth Povinelli’s “Radical Worlds: The Anthropology of Incommensurability and Inconceivability” and could actually appreciate what it was saying.

Anyway, that is all.  Please return to your regular lives.

Gone fishing

Actually, I’ve never gone fishing in my life.  Ever.  But I have been absent from this blog lately.

The biggest reason for my absence is that I’m actually writing up a storm right now on my thesis.   Well, perhaps a line a day isn’t really a tempest of writing, but compared to what I was doing before it’s a deluge.  Some days I write entire paragraphs, and on occasion whole pages.  I’m so close to finishing my first chapter I can almost taste it.  I even emailed what I had to my supervisor.  Mind you, this is the first actual piece of research-related writing I’ve ever given her.  Sure, she’s seen drafts, but now she’s gotten a glimpse of the real deal.  I can actually now imagine a finished thesis as a concrete object instead of some fantastic vision, an El Dorado never to be reached.  Frankly, it’s rather deflating to realize that the thing that intimidated me so much wasn’t so big in the first place.  I’ll have to revise my schedule for the holidays, but my work from now on is reduced to nothing more than bare numbers: a couple of hours a day, so many days a week, the time accumulating until the work is done.  No more existential crises from here on out.

Before, I could not imagine a time when I’d be done; now, such a thing seems more than possible: it seems a foregone conclusion.  Because of my writing, I won’t be posting as much.  I can only write so much in a day, after all.  But I’ll still be coming back.

I ain’t not dead no more

Actually, it’s hard to tell right now if I’m alive or not. I’ve been working practically round-the-clock on this one funding proposal and I’ve managed to destroy my sleeping habits. It’s too bad, when daylight savings time ended I actually started getting up at 9 in the morning again. Spring forward, fall back, after all.

And you know what? This is the most work I’ve done in weeks. In fact, the amound of work I did for this proposal might even be more than I did for all of October. I’ve finally realized why my writing has stalled — quite simply, I’m sick of my thesis. Okay, maybe that’s too strong, but I’m definitely getting bored with it. But the project that I’m pitching to get funding for my PhD next year is pretty different from what I’m doing right now, and the books I’ve been reading for the proposal are stuff that I’m way interested in. To be honest, my project on Filipino bloggers right now was pretty much a fallback position since the idea I came in with was too big for a one year Master’s. I was going to do fieldwork in Southeast Asia (definitely Malaysia and maybe Singapore and Brunei) on Filipino migrant workers there. So it was going to be about migration from South to South and not South to North like most migration literature focuses on. And I’d found an article about citizenship in Malaysia, where the Malaysian government is quite aware of the presence of undocumented migrants but looks the other way anyway, extending de facto citizenship to these tax-paying and voting residents (Sadiq 2005). That’s exactly the kind of crap I’ve always liked. Just look at the abstract:

Why would a state encourage illegal immigration over the opposition of its citizens? According to the theories of immigration and citizenship, we should expect exactly the opposite: that states will monitor, control, and restrict illegal immigrants’ access to citizenship on behalf of its citizens, as has been the experience of most countries. I use my research on Filipino immigration to Sabah, Malaysia to show how Malaysia utilizes census practices and documentation to incorporate an illegal immigrant population from the Philippines. Illegal immigrants play an electoral role in Sabah because of the loosely institutionalized nature of citizenship, a
feature common to many other developing countries. Our examination of Malaysia reveals several elements of illegal immigration and citizenship that are common to migratory flows in other developing countries. I conclude by showing how this case is generalizable and what it tells us about illegal immigrant participation in the international system.

That’s some good stuff there and a nice jumping-off point for more research on related issues. Off the top of my head, there’s the gendered aspect of migration — which sorts of migrants are valued by the Malaysian state, and does that include female domestic workers being abused by their employers? Or what about how Malaysia is apparently decoupling the nation from the state? And maybe something about the types of citizens this kind of governmentality produces? Yep, this thing was rich in possibilities. But alas, ’twas not to be. The project was too big and I had to change my topic entirely. Not that I hate my project right now, but I’ve always been interested in power and the state and even now I keep trying to stick the political into my work.

But now that I’m trying to get into PhD programs, I get to design my dream project. All political anthropology all the time. Just look at the books I’ve got piled up beside my desk: The Foucault Effect by Graham Burchell (ed.), States of Injury by Wendy Brown, Neoliberalism as Exception by Aihwa Ong, The Anti-Politics Machine by James Ferguson, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays by Louis Althusser, Anthropology in the Margins of the State by Veena Das and Deborah Poole (eds.), and The Coming Community by Giorgio Agamben. No, I didn’t actually use all of them in my proposal, but I absolutely loved reading through them just for the fact that they weren’t saying something that I’d been reading over and over for the last 6 months. And I still haven’t read Manuel Castell’s The Rise of the Network Society despite having had it on my bookshelf since last February.

So perhaps I should take an intellectual break every now and then just to remind me of why I thought a life of reading books 24/7 was a good thing to get into. I’m hoping I can keep up this rate of work with my regular writing because there’s really nothing more I’d like right now than to have this thesis done.

Oh, and Anthroblogs’ owner hasn’t gotten back to me yet. The constant hammering of spam comments is getting quite tiresome, but I figure that’s no reason to make a hasty decision on which blog host to go with, so I’ll give all my options the consideration due to them.


Sadiq, Kamal. 2005. “When states prefer non-citizens over citizens: conflict over illegal migration into Malaysia.” International Studies Quarterly 49, 101–122.

3 down, 117 to go

Just for the heck of it, I’m sharing the outline of my thesis.  I welcome comments from any masochists who read it.  I’m too lazy to type in the changes I’ve written in the margins of the printed version, so this will have to do.  I’m still undecided on the title, the two I have are still just provisional.  If you want the abstract, I posted it before.

On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog

Well, I just conducted my first interview through instant messaging (IM) over the weekend (if you’re reading this thanks again CK!). I was going to blog about how different it was from traditional interviews when I realized that I actually have little experience with doing traditional interviews. Not the Platonic ideal of traditional interviews, anyway. The first set of interviews I ever conducted were in Spanish, a language I’m not that great in. I got the meanings of the words but I didn’t have the level of fluency necessary for the true back and forth rapport that the best interviewers are supposed to get. I only interviewed two people for my second set of interviews, one of them over the phone (I was doing their life histories). And now for my third research project and third set of interviews, I’m interviewing people for this blogging thing. I was going to do some face to face interviews, but now that’s gone and it’s all phone interviews and VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol, also known as Internet phone). Anyway, I thought I’d compare the different kinds of interviews I’ve done.

Face to face interviews. With this one you get the most and the richest information. When you’re interviewing someone, you’re supposed to take notes not just on their answers but on the interview itself: your impressions of the other person, awkward pauses in the conversation, the tone in which things were said, and so on. You get the most of this kind of nonverbal information from face to face interviews. A lot of times you feel like you’re being deluged with a constant flow of information that you have to get down. And with face to face interviews, you can keep the whole thing going for a relatively long time (I think the longest I ever did was two hours).

Phone and VOIP interviews. Obviously, with this you don’t get as much nonverbal information. You can still tell a lot from voice, though. How is the participant feeling? Are they sick? How strongly do they feel about what they’re talking about? The thing is, you can’t keep this kind of interview going for very long. As a general rule, most people start getting restless if they talk on the phone longer than 30 minutes, unless it’s about a subject they’re interested in or they have a personal connection to the person they’re speaking to. So you have to keep phone interviews short and sweet. But they’re a lot more convenient for both the researcher and the participant.

Instant Messaging and Chat. Ok, so I’ve only done one so far. Still, here are my impressions:

  1. First, there’s a lot less information you can get that isn’t explicitly told to you by your participant. You can guess at how they’re feeling by their responses but it’s not a foolproof method (though it’s not foolproof in person anyway).
  2. It’s also hard to tell when someone is actually paying attention to you. The other person could be watching tv and you wouldn’t know it. It’s not so bad when they answer immediately, but when there’s a longer than normal pause, it’s impossible to tell if the participant is considering their response or have shifted their attention somewhere else. This is particularly bad because interviewers aren’t supposed to pester their participants and pressure them for answers, otherwise the person may just whip out a half-formed thought solely to satisfy the researcher.
  3. The nature of IM makes it easy for numerous conversational threads to form. The participant can type something interesting, then you think, “Aha! Better follow that up,” but then they go on to say something else entirely that’s also as interesting. Interviewers are supposed to give their participants enough leeway to explore interesting tangents, but then you have to keep in mind the interesting thing that was said several dozen lines back. And it’s even harder when there are multiple items of interest that come up.
  4. Connected to the previous point, it’s very easy to interrupt the other person when they’re in the middle of typing. When I’m using IM normally, I often interject when the other person is in the middle of typing, which adds to the number of conversational threads that come up. Often, it’ll be like two conversations are going on as I ask a question, then I ask another, and then the other person answers the first question and I respond to that while they answer the second question. It gets confusing until one thread ends. That is a definite no-no in interviewing, since you’re supposed to give your participants time to respond, and the constant appearance of more questions will make participants feel like they have to type faster to keep up. So what happened during the interview was that I kept starting to type and then deleting what I had when I saw that my participant still had something to say. I just had to keep watching out not to fall into my normal IM habits.
  5. Finally, you can keep IM and chat interviews going for a relatively long time, longer than phone interviews. This probably has to do with the fact that most people spend more time sitting around typing on computers than they do talking on the phone. And being on the computer means you can multitask, so you can keep an eye on the kettle you set to boil or play solitaire or something.

Anyway, that’s what my experience has been with interviews. Your mileage may vary.

I’ll go a little later

Wow, getting up early really does change your view of the world. It’s only 2:40 PM and yet it feels like I’ve already had a full and productive day of work. I’ve been running interviews all week and will continue to do them next week. I know that I said I haven’t been blogging much about my research itself. This is partly because I don’t want to influence any of the people I’m going to interview. When I recruit participants, I invite them to check out Sarapen for themselves as part of the proof that I’m a legitimate researcher and in hopes of starting a dialogue. But I can’t discuss my findings just yet or else my participants might start answering differently according to how other people have responded.

Also, thanks to the fact that interviews have become my top priority, I’ve been reading the books that I really should have finished reading by now but kept setting aside. So the reading I procrastinated on before I’m doing now because I want to procrastinate on something else. I’m reading lots of good stuff that I really could have used earlier. But remember, the early bird may get the worm, but the lazy worm will live another day. Of course, in my case it’s the lazy worm that gets eaten. Maybe the bird is also lazy?

I see you seeing me

Well, after speaking to my supervisor I managed to convince her that interviews would be nice to have. She was right that I already had a lot of data and doing too many interviews would get in the way of the December deadline I’m shooting for, so I’ve taken out the face to face interviews and am planning on just doing them over the phone. I’m also planning on doing probably less than ten.

Now, I’ve just found out that I’ve gained a couple more readers. Yay me. However, I feel compelled to state a few things up front.

First, this research blog is not meant to be a long-term project. It’s a part of my research, and when the research ends, so will this blog. In my proposal, I state that I plan on keeping the blog alive for at least a year after my research is done, so expect Sarapen to still be up by December 2007. However, just because the blog will be up doesn’t mean I’ll still be posting. Maybe, maybe not, it depends on when I lose interest and when I start not having enough time to update.

Second, the audience for Sarapen was originally supposed to be the Filipino bloggers that I was reading. Since I’m going to start contacting those bloggers now, it seems that they will once again be my target audience. My new readers are anthropology people, I’m guessing, since they were led her either by the antropologi post on me or by the anthropology posts I’ve left at various LiveJournal communities. So if it seems that I’m going light on theory, it’s because I am. I’m trying to write in a way that will make my project accessible to the non-anthros that I want to speak to. That’s also why I keep linking theory to personal anecdotes.

Third, another reason that I set up Sarapen was to gain some insights into the minds of my participants. I’m keeping a reflexive diary so that I can keep track of my reactions. For example, discovering that I have readers has prompted me to start posting more often. I’ve never posted more than twice in one week, but now here I am doing exactly that. I also keep the reflexive diary so I won’t have trouble finding out exactly what actions I, the researcher, have done that have affected the subject that I’m researching. I think I’ll come back to that in a later post.

I’ve been discovered

There I was, blogging away in quiet obscurity, confident that my blog was only being read by me and whichever of my friends ever bothered to look. We’ve all got our own research to do and I see them all the time anyway, so I’m not suprised that my comments = 0. Happily engaged in online intellectual wankery, I suddenly find out that I’ve been outed by Lorenz, an anthroblogger I read occassionally on antropologi.info. You can find the other blogs I read in the My Bookmarks link on the right, though lately I haven’t been reading those blogs very regularly. I only found the post about me because I Googled “sarapen” on a lark. Surprisingly, this blog was the first result, my Sarapen blog on Blogger was number three, and the antropologi post was number five.

It’s also funny to relate how Sarapen was discovered, I actually posted something about an anthropologist working with Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan over in LiveJournal’s Anthropologist Community. That turned out to also be something Lorenz blogged about, then he (or she? they?) mentioned that the issue had also been discussed in LJ. Then I suppose they followed the link to my LiveJournal page, and from there followed the link to here, the real blog.

Anyway, I’m kind of embarrassed to be discovered since I don’t like how long and rambling my previous posts have been. My first couple of posts were edited, but I decided that practice didn’t fit entirely into blogging’s spirit of spontaneity. Lately I’ve just sat down with a definite subject in mind but let my mind and fingers roam as they will. I haven’t been liking the excessive verbiage that’s been resulting. I think that any essays that I write from now on will have to go through some rethinking before being posted online. I was already thinking of doing that in the first place.

I set up Sarapen partly hoping to use it to communicate with the bloggers I’ve been reading. I’ve only contacted a few so far, but I planned for things to intensify once I started interviews, so I thought it would be nice if there was already something for the bloggers to look at. I’ve been blogging with this future audience in mind. However, I’ve just met with my supervisor and she was pleased at how much data I’d gathered while she was in New Zealand. She told me that I might not even need to do interviews, since I’ve already got so much and I’m supposed to be finished writing by December anyway. So now I’m wondering who my target audience will be.