05 November 2009

A Scholarly Rite of Passage

It has been a long time since I've posted regularly to my blog (barring today's earlier post). I have been writing, analyzing, scrutinizing, and banging my head against the keyboard in general. But now it is done.

Writing, the last stage of the doctoral journey, is probably the loneliest part. At least while I was doing field research I was surrounded by people and outdoors. Writing up my results put me indoors day after day after day, tied to a computer screen. Ugh! Actually double ugh, since writing about Mozambique made me long to be there AND I have an awful time sitting still for extended periods.

The short of it, is that on Monday at 12:30ish, my committee congratulated me on becoming a doctor in the philosophy of anthropology. But there is a bit of back story, there is always a story.

I gave the public part of my defense on Thursday, 29 October. At 9am that morning I received an email from a committee member letting me know he was really ill and asking to see if we could set up a speaker phone. UGA has rules, of course, about attendance of committee members at doctoral defenses. They've been a little relaxed this Fall term because of swine flu. We did get the speaker phone set up but there was an hour or so of panic.

My friends from the department showed up - a lot of them - as well as a number of professors that aren't even on my committee. I was soooo nervous to present. Not hyperventilating nervous, but I swallowed a jar of butterflies and crawly beetles nervous. It is way easier to present someone else's work (teaching class) or to a group of strangers or teens.

The presentation went off without a hitch. I calmed down as the presentation wore on. People asked interesting questions at the end. I got to talk about rain ceremonies, fire, historic ethnography, etc. One of the professors, a good friend, suggested that elephants be enlisted to put out wildfires since the folks in Madjadjane and Gala lack a fire department. He got to laughing and it was really difficult for me to keep a straight face as I answered other questions.

My committee and the listening public

Then it was over. The committee members in physical attendance seemed happy. But I still had the dreaded "closed door" defense. This was postponed until Monday, 2 November. UGA had a furlough day on Friday, so yes, I had to wait an entire weekend to know the final outcome. To be fair, the folks in my department and my major adviser are not the type of people who would let me defend without a good chance that I would pass. But there is always that off chance.

On Monday, my entire committee promptly began the final interrogation at 11am. I was asked to leave briefly at the beginning so that they could discuss procedures with the newest faculty member (this was his first defense as a faculty member). Then I was brought in for the grilling. It wasn't bad. Basically we discussed my dissertation - the theoretical bits and some other loose nuts and bolts that needed tightening. Everyone was really helpful. However, I was so anxious that my mind went completely blank. I recognized they were speaking English and I understood each word individually, but I could not comprehend what they were asking. It was like when I meet someone I know and I don't remember their name. My mind is dark and foggy. Same in this instance but worse. I must have said something acceptable.

At the end, they asked me to leave for about 15 minutes. When I entered, they congratulated me and then we discussed in detail the revisions I need to make before the final submission of my dissertation to the graduate school.

I'm still stunned and kind of out of it. I'm not really sure what to do next. I mean I am applying for jobs and postdocs, but in the great grand scheme of things... now what?

More adventures.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations, Dr with Revisions! And it's so good to see your blog popping up in my feed reader again!