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.