Within the discussion of performance and performativity, geographers have an unusual task of combining social processes with spatial contexts. The paper by Nicky Gregson and Gillian Rose (check out her blog on visual culture!) (2000) tackle this in their research activities as well as in their action of writing the paper. The authors argue that spaces are also performative and bring space into the discussion of performance and performativity through their experiences conducting two separate research projects (Gregson and Rose, 2000). Performance as a process of identity is an interesting perspective that permeates this discussion.
Although very different in nature, the two research experiences of Gregson and Rose are interestingly relatable and insightful. The audience and the performer have different positions in the two settings. In the first, the participants of community art programs were the performers but the process was considered by the participants themselves to be more important than the audience. The participants were discovering and performing new parts of themselves through the process, and they did not see the end product as the most important part of the program. In the second, both participants in the car-boot sales were performing and both were the audience as well. The setting calls for a certain type of performance by the salespeople and the customers, some being more elaborate and others being simpler.
Perhaps one of the most important points of the article is that Gregson and Rose are quite self aware of their performance as part of academia. In the “Reflections” section of the paper, they discuss the somewhat ironic feeling that resulted from coming full circle from the fieldwork through to the writing of this paper. The authors found themselves changed by the process of performing academically. They recognize that the writing and publishing of papers is another type of power play in itself, and that the performance of the research itself was not fully complete until they came together to write this article.
Having started in a new school and campus several times, I could say that I have experienced changes or differences in the performance of myself in different spaces based on what I wish to present to classmates and friends (the audience). This could be an example of “self-cultivation” and “self-deployment,” where one can engage in cultivating identity “through multiple modalities of self” (Blackstock, 1997). This performativity of identity leads to diverse spatial performance. Even in a stable life with no new environments or audiences, I am performing different parts of myself in different contexts and spaces.
Perhaps the stereotyped thinking that people can travel the world to “find” themselves is just the releasing the pressure of needing to perform to a regular audience. When traveling, the traveler is constantly meeting new people and experiencing new environments that their performance can change accordingly. There is no historical evidence of a certain performance that ties you down to the expectations of the audience. This in itself can be freeing, where you can choose to deploy and depict the self you wish to.
BLACKSTOCK, C. G. 1997. Anne Bradstreet and Performativity: Self-Cultivation, Self-Deployment. Early American Literature, 32, 222-248.
GREGSON, N. & ROSE, G. 2000. Taking Butler elsewhere: performativities, spatialities and subjectivities. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 18, 433-452.
As an aspiring scholar, it is imperative to open your mind to concepts and ideas from a range of sources. However, academic dependency may be an undermining force that influences academic creativity and should be of interest to anyone of any discipline. Although Syed Farid Alatas discusses this in a specific context in his paper “Academic Dependency and the Global Division of Labor in the Social Sciences”, the situation is generally applicable and is quite similar in other disciplines such as the natural sciences. A particularly interesting angle is how academic dependency may frame and shape ideas, how that impacts research, and overall the trajectory of a discipline over time.
Alatas (2003) describes the dimensions of academic dependency as the dependence on ideas, media of ideas, technology of education, aid and investment, and dependence in the West for skills. The author brings up Project CAMELOT as an example that overtly implies both political and academic imperialism. Although it was quickly recognized as a mistake, government research agendas could be more open with their intentions, whether imperialistic or not. At present, the US government continues to fund research internationally which in some cases might be construed as somewhat imperialist, but proposal wording is thoroughly vetted to maintain political correctness (e.g. agriculture and food security, economic growth and trade, etc. (USAID 2013)). In the case of openness, the countries on the receiving end would at least be aware of the intentions and the implications.
Whether government research agendas of Western countries are displaying dominance overtly or not, the establishment of Yale-NUS and Duke-NUS in Singapore is proof that the West still dominates in many aspects of academics. This obvious and deliberate partnership between NUS and universities from a Western power country can be attributed at least in part to academic dependency if not majorly. Another example is how New York University (NYU) has also independently set up fully functional satellite campuses in several countries around the world, but the reverse does not seem to be happening. In addition to sharing research agendas, sharing authorship between researchers from developed and developing countries is now common practice. Dunkin found that authorship dynamics varied by discipline and between solo and multiple authorship just within University of Sydney (Dunkin 1992). It would be interesting to survey how the addition of Yale-NUS and Duke-NUS will change authorship dynamics among researchers in Singapore.
Alatas asks us to consider academic dependency a crippling handicap for the scientists in developing countries. It seems that one way to overcome this would be for those countries to look inward instead of Westward. However, it may be quite difficult to deviate from the current trajectory pushed by the West (and often pulled by non-West) because academic dependence is already so integrated and accepted and has been for quite some time. Research by the academically dependent on this topic would be greatly insightful for furthering understanding and would increase the awareness and reflection on this issue by all groups.
Alatas, S. F. (2003). “Academic Dependency and the Global Division of Labour in the Social Sciences.” Current Sociology 51(6): 599-613.
Dunkin, M. (1992). “Some Dynamics of Authorship.” Australian Universities’ Review 35(1): 43-48.
USAID. (2013). “What We Do.” Retrieved 19 Feb, 2013, from http://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do.
The extrovert ideal. If you live in the USA, you know what this is. This means speaking up in class, volunteering to be the leader, always being talkative, avoiding “awkward silence,” and generally showing people that you are outgoing. Susan Cain discusses in her book “Quiet” how “extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” These are all viewed as positive character traits, and are overwhelmingly more highly valued in the US over more introverted character traits like taking time to think before speaking, needing time alone to recover from highly social environments, and generally not being as vocal. This does not mean that an introvert can’t be outgoing at times, or that introverts don’t enjoy talking, it just drains more of their energy rather than energizes them as it might for some extroverts.
The author, Susan Cain, also gave a TED talk about this topic if you want the short version. The main idea is that even though a large proportion of people feel that they are introverts, there is still the cultural expectation to hid or minimize that part of yourself. A book that I read earlier last year, “Covering” by Kenji Yoshiro, talks a lot about social expectations and trying to “cover” some aspect of yourself that may be socially less desirable or acceptable in order to fit in or meet expectations. This is another example where people may feel the need to cover, to give off the impression of extroversion, in order to be normal socially.
As an introvert, I can enjoy attention, but that depends on the situation and I often feel embarrassed easily or awkward when responding to others. I can enjoy talking, but usually I don’t feel comfortable doing so unless I feel confident in what I want to say. I really enjoyed reading this book as a confirmation that my personality is not lacking just because I am more on the introverted side of the spectrum. I can be more outgoing, just usually with groups of people where I know at least some or most of the people.
There is also pressure to be more “assertive” to promote yourself and your own work, at least in the science and research world. It seems that this might not really change, but it helps to know that there are ways for introverts to handle it and hopefully maintain a balance of comfort level. In some cases, Cain describes how successful academics have “carved out restorative niches” for recovering after giving a big talk or going to a big conference.
Interestingly, many chapters of this book focus on advice that would be relevant to teachers and parents who are unsure of how to encourage and support a young introvert. The author talks about situations like what happens when an extroverted parent has an introverted child, and how can teachers create introvert-friendly environments in their classrooms and to buck the trend to idolize and reward extroverts.
This book has helped me greatly with coming to terms with a personal matter, a breakup that happened a few years ago. He realized he did not love me for who I was and was wishing me to be something that I am not: more extroverted. He could not understand why I didn’t feel the need to talk all the time when alone together, was disappointed by my lack of outgoingness at medium-ish size parties of people whom I knew none, and didn’t really get that I needed time to unwind and, more importantly, recover after a day at work. I may have also become more reclusive as the weather was getting colder (perhaps SAD related?), but for whatever reasons, it did not work out and I did not figure out until reading this book that it wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough in some way, but just that we were incompatible on this introvert-extrovert spectrum. It is ok and perfectly acceptable to be my introverted self, and someone will love me for it. In the end, no amount of trying to be more extroverted would have helped that relationship, and I should not have to.
I think there are some mixed reviews of this book, but I think it is a very well written book that every self-proclaimed introvert should read. Extroverts could use to read it too to better understand the perspective of the other side.
Richard Feynman has a quirky voice, adeptly captured by this book. I hope that someday I’ll have a quarter as many good stories as he seems to have. One thing that I truly admire about him is that he is completely open and is always up for a new experience or adventure. My favorite is the one where he wants to volunteer when they tell the student body that a hypnotist will be coming to the university. There are quite a few that are really funny, but this one cracks me up when I imagine it happening.
His approach to life is something that I aspire to. Although I’m not very physics-minded, it was cool to read about the work he’s done and get a glimpse into how his mind works. He always thought of things in practical terms, and especially when thinking about physics problems he would ask for a real life example to work through in his head. He is one of those people who just needs to know how things work, how they actually work. What about the things he has done for the military? He does talk about his time at Los Alamos, but mostly doesn’t go into the details of the physics or the gravity of what the work was.
One of the major concepts I like from him is that of cargo cult science and waiting for something to come that will never land. He explains it by going back to when tribes on desolate islands would be visited by cargo planes full of supplies and things they needed. The people would then become taken by the idea that some cargo plane will again come and give them what they need. So they wait around, build landing strips, for a plane that is not coming.
Deciding not to decide anymore
There is a part of the book that talks about when he was trying to decide between staying at Cornell or going to Caltech. The snow in Ithaca made him want to go to Caltech, and then there were some air pollution issues that made him think about going back to Cornell. Then he was stopped by some colleagues on campus who told him about their newest discoveries. He realized he wanted that type of environment where he could walk around and hear about all the different cool discoveries in other fields, and he decided would just stop deciding and stay at Caltech.
Reading this was great because I’m currently feeling a bit sheepish for going back on my plan to not do a PhD program. I’m deciding not to decide anymore about whether I want to do a PhD or not. It isn’t the years of hard work that I’m wary of, because anything I do I would want to work hard at it. It is the academic situation that I’m wary of (and lack of jobs on the traditional path following PhDs, but maybe I’m just not on a traditional path anymore anyway). What I will do is follow paths that feel right to me, and that lead to more interesting things. So, PhD programs in USA don’t feel right to me, at least not now. But, this other new opportunity does feel right to me. I would get to do interesting work, learn new skills, and do some living and traveling abroad. And no need to feel any anxiety, I don’t have to feel like I’m signing myself up for a life in academia, because only those who really want them get academic jobs and there are options outside of academia. I’m putting to rest these thoughts and just going to focus on what lies ahead.
In any case, Feynman definitely has had an interesting life and has inspired me to go out and do the things that I’ve been thinking about doing (like living abroad, and throwing myself into learning new skills)! I’ll go where curiosity takes me, and if this PhD position makes that possible, then so be it!
We keep hearing more and more cases where ‘bad science’ gets uncovered. Here is a really cool infographic by the folks at Clinical Psychology.
It goes along with some things I mentioned in a post about the role of ignorance in science. All of the incentives seem to be setting the system up for biased work, and the pressure to produce papers endlessly isn’t helping.
Sometimes, females will sneak off and copulate with males who might have better genes, while their normal mate is a better father (in terms of effort, territory and resources). The theory is that the females do this as a way to potentially increase the quality of her offspring (if some happen to be fathered by the extra male), but retaining the highest quality father. These events are called extra-pair copulations. This has been well studied in bird species.
It has been shown to happen in animals, but what about in humans? There are women who do this, commonly known as cheating, and sometimes even while their normal partner is aware of the extraneous activity. The latter type of case might be super rare, but maybe it is not so rare as we think. Maybe instead of thinking of the extra lover as having better genes, we should think of it as the female being inexplicably attracted to another male but not willing to give up her usual mate. Without getting too deep into the issue of cheating, this post will talk more about the ecological implications for such behavior.
I should also mention that this is bigger picture stuff. In the case of birds, each female bird may not make the decision with an understanding of the potential consequences. But, in the bigger picture her actions may affect her overall fitness and the fitness of her offspring. Fitness is a concept that is often misconstrued in general media. Being more fit does not necessarily mean you are faster or smarter that others in your population. Fitness is literally how many genetic copies of yourself you put out there in the next generation (aka your kids). Traits like speed or smarts can help you survive better to produce more offspring, and that is where they play into fitness. “Survival of the fittest” should be “survival of the genes of the fittest,” but that isn’t quite as catchy.
You might think to yourself that humans don’t think about passing down their genes, but how many people choose to adopt children (who very much need homes) over having their own child who looks like them (if they are able to)? I’m guessing not very many people (and according to Facebook, many of my friends have already birthed mini-versions of themselves) and there is nothing wrong about that. Most evidence of altruism is based on genetic ties, or personal gains in some way, so it would make sense that it wouldn’t be common for someone to adopt a child totally unrelated to themselves. (But thankfully, some people do adopt! Go adoption!)
I don’t want to overemphasize genetics, but it is an important underlying concept. There are definitely cases where women cheat with no genetic benefit at all. In the movie The Other Man (which my friend Chad told me about), the woman had no reason to cheat, and no intention to have more children with her lover. But she does it anyway. There may not be a reason, and perhaps there doesn’t need to be. She chose to do it and she was aware of what she was doing.
But going back to scientific ideas, some questions for further investigation might be:
- how common is this in human populations?
- and what are the benefits to fitness strategy (if any)?
- is it a valid strategy? (i.e. do the offspring end up getting better genes?)
Where do you think this fits into our biology?