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For a long time, I’ve been certain in which style and voice I wanted to write my thesis. I did not want it to be too academic this time, but rather write in a more prose-like style, trying to convey the feeling and experience of “being there” through a more personal style, and with a slightly stronger personal presence in the texts. Instead of arguing left and right with every thinkable theory and ethnography – in the text proper and/or in hundreds of footnotes – like I tried to excel in my previous thesis, this time I rather wanted my argument to mainly rely on my own ethnographic descriptions.
There were at least two reasons why I thought like that: My previous thesis became too dense and instead of having a good narrative flow I find it rather academically cumbersome and awkward. The second reason is related to the change of perspective that step by step occurred to me as necessary during my time in the field. First, after experiencing major riots and massive demonstrations and a very complex French social and political reality, I realised that an equal comparison between France and Britain (based on philosophies of social integration and postcoloniality) would not be feasible in one single PhD project. Instead, I relegated the comparison from starting point to the backdrop of the study, thus also to only one single, last chapter. To carry such a philosophical and political comparison through throughout a whole thesis would, I presume, have demanded a very different style of writing than how I could express myself in a monograph on a single society.
The second change of perspective imposed itself when I entered deeper and deeper into the Parisian slam poetry universe. People started to comment that I was present everywhere and that my archive of videos and information must be huge and that I should definitely do something about it. I started feeling that getting such a privileged access into what seemed to be a very interesting phenomenon in itself, demanded a reformulation of my focus of study. The slam needed at least as much emphasis as the postcolonial and politico-sociological part. I started toying with the idea of writing an accessible book on the slam poetry within French society parallel to an academic thesis, but quickly realised that such a double task was way beyond my capacity, particularly since doing a PhD also demands a lot of teaching and other kinds of work. (And to write such a book after handing in the thesis several years after finishing a field study on such a current phenomenon was not an option). My next thought was to write an accessible thesis focusing (almost) equally on the slam and the society.
But now, I’m about to change my mind again. Maybe such a thesis will be neither fish nor bird (as the Norwegian proverb goes). Probably it will be too academic for people interested in French slam poetry, but not as distinguished within anthropology as I would have wished it to be. Apparently, many anthropologists and their like prefer hardcore and stringent theoretical and disciplinary discussions, and not page up and down of impressionistic prose, however theoretically but tacitly informed. Maybe I should write the prose as well as I can, but also try my best to excel in the theory bit? And then afterwards try to get a Post.doc. and rewrite it as an accessible book on French society seen through the prism of the slam poetry scene…?
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