Selina Lai-Henderson opens one of the chapters of her wonderful Mark Twain in China with this great quote from Chesterton: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land”.
If you haven’t worked substantially with archives, nowadays it can be difficult to get a sense of the materiality of sources. It is all about PDFs and JPGs. Until one day you read about this.
All day stuck trying to structure what will probably be chapter 4. Got the argument, got the corpus, but the flow in the sstructure does not work. Moving sections from here to there. I try to refocus by having a panoramic view of the project. Halfway of my visit, main ideas refined, very rough first draft on its way. I should be happy.
Reading: Fabio Lanza, The End of Concern: Maoist China, Activism, and Asian Studies (Duke UP, 2017).
Nature‘s editorial this week: “How institutions can help lab groups to be productive, supportive and rigorous is an essential but often-overlooked topic.” Oh, yes. This is even more essential and overlooked in the humanities, where it is often not even considered a topic. The final recommendations (resources for administrative tasks; support for mentoring and managing lab members; more use of measures of scientific productivity beyond counts of high-profile papers) would be more than welcome outside labs as well.
Well… Read this by David Graeber yesterday and I’m still in introspection. How can we confront all this? I mean, not only as a collective but, perhaps more importantly, each of us, every day?
Working on Blasco Ibáñez and the China part of his travel around the world. Here Blasco posing as himself…
Reading: Nick Admussen, Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry (U of Hawai’i P, 2016).
Going over old issues of the CHE. Very interesting piece here by Jeffrey J. Williamson on the state of academic labor. The comparison with medicine and health care is insightful. But even if we end up having to buy the metaphor, we still need decent conditions for all the different types of scholars involved in this stratified process.
Reading: Aarthi Vadde, Chimeras of Form: Modernist Internationalism Beyond Europe, 1914-2016 (Columbia UP, 2016).
Working on several close readings. Quite tedious–but the only way of taking the project beyond the prospective status…
Reading: Mark McGurl, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing (Harvard UP, 2009).
Reading Chen Jitong’s works written from Paris. At first sight, a clear example of bicultural agent or cross-cultural mediator. But a closer look at his writings reveals a strong auto-ethnographic drive. He works with binarisms and polarities all the time. No actual mediation underneath the surface.
Reading: Thomas Mullaney, The Chinese Typewriter: A History (The MIT Press, 2017).
I will be visiting Cornell University for a few months to work on my project on Western representations of China. Looking forward to camping at Olin Library, shaping the book and drafting the chapters.
Reading: Basile Zimmermann, Waves and Forms: Electronic Devices and Computer Encodings in China (The MIT Press, 2015).
Her letter was an apology. She was sorry for not having been in touch for a while and for the delays in her project. She was suffering a depression. It all had started with a strange feeling, a kind of weight, a kind of fog. It was now a diagnosed depression. She had lost much more than her self-esteem as a young researcher—she had lost her life’s breath. The letter was part of the first steps to assume and go over the situation.
It took me a while to write her back. I wanted to make her comfortable: do not worry, try to get well, take it easy. I wanted to teller her that she is talented and that her project is fascinating. But then I thought these are the polite things that people probably tell you all the time when you are down in the well. So I decided to share some experiences with her. I told her that I often lost confidence in my projects and in the profession as well. I told her that swimming regularly and writing down my frustrations in a notebook had worked well for me.
She wrote me back. She thought that more experienced researchers did not have these kinds of problems. She thought that it was all about sitting down and starting to write and enjoy. She told me that she was feeling better. She had started visiting the swimming pool and the notebook was a good idea.
This was a few months ago. Since then I keep on asking myself whether the training we offer to our graduate students and young researchers is adequate enough.