“April 12th! Oh my God! I’m just going to crawl into a hole and sleep.”
Welcome to part 8 of THESISCRAZY 2016, the series where we interview seniors who are losing their shit because their theses are due TODAY at 4PM (GASP). You already know the drill, but read parts one through seven of this year’s installment here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. And THESISCRAZY archives are here.
OKAY GO GO GO.
Working title: “Join the Club: Interest Groups at Play in Modern Day US Primaries and Politics.”
On his topic: “So, I’m exploring polarization and the role that primaries, and ideology driven primaries in particular, are playing in polarization and why US politics has become more extreme over the past decade or so. And so two of the primary questions that I explore in my thesis are first, ‘under what circumstances would you expect to see an ideologically driven primary to occur?’ And second, ‘under what circumstances would you except to see outside interest groups to engage in these primary challenges?’ Because over the past 15 years or so you’ve seen the development of these groups such as club for growth on the right and the progressive change campaign committee on the left, sort of develop and start to get involved in primaries by challenging incumbents in safe states and districts who they view as insufficiently partisan. It’s fun.”
On how he came up with his topic: “I’ve always been interested in US politics. I used to be a Gov/CSS Double major and I used to be concentrating in American politics, and that’s something I’ve been interested in from my freshman year. I transferred to Wesleyan from Boston College and before that I took a class with this man named Marc Landy, and he taught an American government course, which I thought was incredibly interesting. It sparked my interest in American politics, and then I transferred to Wesleyan and I took a class last year, my junior year, with Professor Dancey on campaigns and elections which was really cool. We talked a lot about polarization which is sort of how I started gearing towards this topic. Then I started working with my advisor in the fall and we honed in on primaries cause I found sort of this increasing emphasis by the media on primaries on the political Right. I found that interesting, sort of looking at what role primaries have played in the Republican party’s sharp turn to the right over the past decade.”
On his progress: “It’s good. So at this point in the game I’m done with the writing. I have about 115 pages written so I’m just revising, revising, revising. I’ve made pretty solid progress; my advisor wants me to send him my final draft of my thesis to look for like any glaring errors that I’ve missed, which hopefully should be like none at this point. I’m feeling pretty confident about what I’ve done.”
Mental state in one word: [Laughs] “Messy.”
Most traumatic thesis experience: “So, for one of my chapters I’m looking at interest groups and my advisor and I decided that I was going to try contacting interest groups to interview them to see sort of their perspective on their involvement in primaries and try to get information out of them. That whole process essentially fell flat. I was only able to get into contact with one group, which wasn’t even technically an interest group, it was a union. That was an interesting story in it of itself, but it was very frustrating because the entirety of February and the first week or so of March I was just reaching out, reaching out and like nothing turned up.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Oh, goodness. That’s a really hard question. I would say…I don’t know. I do tend to get distracted a lot. I live in my own little world…I’ll play Mario Kart. I have Mario Kart in my room, and one thing I did over break was I took it home and left it at my house because I just get way too distracted if I’m in my room doing nothing.”
Favorite part of thesis experience: “It’s been really great working with my advisor, Professor Sam Rosenfeld; he’s a visiting professor in the government department. He’s technically a political historian; he’s not a political scientist. He sort of looks at political developments from a historical perspective over the past few centuries, but he’s very invested and very interested in what he’s doing and what I’m doing. So we’ve had great conversations. I get very excited when I talk to people about my thesis, so working with him has been an amazing experience.”
If his thesis was a TV show: “I feel like it would be a TV drama, a very dramatic telenovella.”
April 12th plans: “April 12th! Oh my God! I’m just going to crawl into a hole and sleep.”
Gabe Rosenberg ‘16, AMST, carrel #314
Working title: “Currently it is ‘A Conscious Citizen: Sam Cooke, Racial Performativity, and the Crisis of Crossover Music’ – That’s currently it. I don’t think it will change.”
On his topic: “So the musician Sam Cooke from the 50’s and 60’s was one of the first soul musicians to really hit the mainstream [and] to crossover to get a bunch of pop hits. I’m sort of looking at this field, this theory of racial performativity, which is like gender performativity but applied to race and looking at how racial boundaries are constructed and reiterated and reinforced and how race is sort of defined by this constant crisis. The boundaries are so fluid in reality that constantly it’s being challenged and constantly it’s unstable and constantly the authority figures and people have to continue to perform race in specific ways to reconstruct those boundaries. So I’m looking at how crossover music works in that way to challenge the boundaries of music and genre, and how genres, especially R&B and soul music, have been constructed historically along racialized lines. So you have race music, what you first called blues and stuff, it was all race music, and then rhythm and blues and then soul music and then black music and then back to R&B. So I’m looking at how crossover, rather than sort of being like ‘oh you’re just sort of like appealing to the boring mainstream, you’re just selling out how it’s actually transgressive,’ or has the potential to be transgressive, and how like artists like Sam Cooke, and Nina Simone, and James Brown are bringing in specific performances of blackness in both their music and their business practices and challenging those racial boundaries and genre boundaries and the construction of the music industry.”
On how he came up with his topic: “Honestly, I’ve been playing around with it for a few years. I had a research paper in my APUSH class my junior year of high school and I ended up writing about Sam Cooke and his move from gospel into pop music and the story of how he started his own music label, which I thought was fascinating because he was one of the first people to do that and I dug that. And then I got to Wesleyan and basically did American Studies so I could continue looking at music and race issues and then I did various versions of these ideas in various classes, and when I started studying racial performativity last year in my Junior Colloquium, I was like, ‘Ah ha, thats how I’m gonna look at soul music! That’s what I’m gonna use!’”
On his progress: “I have a full draft done. I am currently going through line by line to do edits with a red pen. My girlfriend has a draft and she’s going through it and being really mean to me, which is great because my advisor’s too nice, and I want her to be meaner, so I had my girlfriend do that. So I’m taking her edits, I’m doing my edits, I have another friend who is editing for me, and you know, I still have my acknowledgments to write, I still have to finish my bibliography, but progressing well.”
On his current mental state: “Fine. I am more anxious than my advisor is. My advisor is chill, which makes me more anxious because I’m always like, getting to that perfectionist mind of needing to look over everything. But otherwise I have a really nice group of people like my housemates and a bunch of other people and we’re all doing our theses together, just holding up. It’s very supportive, so having that space and other people going through the same thing is actually like really nice.”
On his most traumatic thesis experience: “So my most traumatic thesis moment was sometime in the early path before second semester, before spring break. I had finished my first chapter draft, I had goofed off all of winter break and then I got back to campus and started writing my second chapter, got halfway through, and realized that I didn’t know where I was going, and I had to totally reorganize not only the chapter, but the entire rest of my thesis. So I spent a week backtracking. I had a five-chapter-plus intro, conclusion, and outline and realized it was too fucking much to write about in a year. So I had to spend a lot of time figuring out what to cut out and reorganizing and refocusing on what actually I wanted to say and then went back and copied and pasted my second chapter into a new order and then went from there. But that was like, a week or two weeks of sort of backtracking because I realized that I had totally hit a wall and it was because of my organization. But as a result of that, my second chapter was pretty well edited and stuff, so I felt pretty good, cause also in that week I went back and wrote my intro before finishing my second chapter. At the very least, it helped it so I didn’t have any panic attacks later. But yeah, that was two weeks of stress.”
On his favorite part of the process: “Honestly, listening to the music cause my thesis is very music-heavy, ad it’s very interdisciplinary, so there are entire days where I just get to listen really in-depth to music, which is my favorite thing. And just absorb it and find new music. And like, I get to reference everything from really old blues songs to OutKast, and it’s great. So the music definitely.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “Well for three quarters of the year it was job applications, but then I got a job, so now I don’t have to worry about that anymore. So it’s Gilmore Girls. I am binging. It’s been great, I was floundering for a week when I was working on my conclusion; I spent a lot of time watching Beyonce videos because my conclusion is like half Beyonce. But now it’s Gilmore Girls and it’s a great thing.
If his thesis had a theme song: “Because I quote it in my epigraph, “Formation” by Beyonce. My epigraph is two things, it’s a Ta-Nehisi Coates quote and it’s the last lines of “Formation”: “You know you that bitch when you cause all that conversation/Always stay gracious/Best revenge is your paper” and that’s pretty much like the anthem of this thesis. Pretty excited when I thought of the idea to include that as my epigraph. I think it will start on a good note.
Advice for future thesis writers: “Find a group of people who are going through the same thing, who work well in groups together, and like get together and be productive. Like, have study sessions. Since spring break, I have had this roster of people and we hole up in PAC and Allbritton and Downey and just like all worked together, and nothing has been better for my productivity. Over spring break, I wrote like 30 pages with this group of people. It was insane how productive I was. You stretch and you eat together and it’s very comforting to see other people going through it and be able to help and ask questions and stuff. There’s been nothing better.”
Plans for April 12th: “The plan on Tuesday is the people in my friends and fellow thesis groups are gonna get together and submit our theses in the morning hopefully…we shouldn’t be working up to the deadline. And then go out to brunch; I really want to go to O’Rourke’s. So, go out to a celebratory O’Rourke’s, make sure we have our bottles of champagne for the steps, and then, I don’t know, cause I’m in one class, my housemate is in one class, and my two other housemates are partially enrolled, so we have very [few] responsibilities after that, so we can just watch movies and go crazy and play video games. Yeah, it’s gonna be good.”
Michele Ko ’16, ANTH, carrel #442
Working title: “’Beyond Hand-Holding: Abortion Doulas and a Reproductive Justice Politics of Love.’ We’re still working on before the colon though, because before the colon is honestly the hardest part. I want it to be fun and engaging but also informative, so I’m still kind of playing around with it.”
On her topic: “My thesis is about abortion doulas, who are non-medical people that provide emotional, physical and information support to people terminating their pregnancies. So I’m contextualizing the practice in feminist activism, abortion politics, and prefigurative politics under neoliberalism. I’m really exploring the both reactive and creative political potentials of abortion doulas. What’s been really exciting about doing this process is that there’s been very little written about abortion doulas. There’s like one scientific study and then blog posts, so many blog posts, all over the internet, but there’s really not a lot of academic work, and part of it is because it’s a practice and a movement that’s emerged only in the past decade. So a lot of the practice is really just through word of mouth, through volunteer organizations. So it’s been really cool to try and write an academic and scholarly piece on this. And then I’m an abortion doula, and so it’s really using my own experience, which has been really awesome, because I think there’s something really powerful about being able to write about your own experiences, your own interactions, for me with patients and doctors and other doulas, and that’s made it personal and helped me be really invested in it in a different way.”
On her progress: “I feel really good. I’ve had a full draft for a while, probably two weeks or so, and that I owe completely to my advisor. It’s because throughout this whole semester I’ve had very strict guidelines. So right now it’s just tweaking things. Bibliography is the worst. And also a big thing I’m working on this week is refining my vignettes and really making sure they’re saying what I want them to say.”
On her current mental state:“I think, you know, I feel great about my relationship to this project. I feel like it’s really been a labor of love, I honestly–I can say this because my project is about reproductive life–I honestly feel pregnant. Like I feel like I’m about to give birth and it’s very emotional, and very powerful. But what I will say is that I think this week and last week, there’s this kind of pervading affect of overstressing and staying in the carrels until 4AM and tracking each other’s progress and taking snapchats in Olin at 2AM… and I’m totally in solidarity with that, but I do think that that can kind of perpetuate an unnecessary stress.”
On her most traumatic thesis experience: “You know, I’ve had a lot of thesis dreams, which I think are really funny. Two nights ago, I literally had this dream where I was trying to print my thesis and it was just blank pages, just hundreds and hundreds of blank pages. I was literally swimming in blank pages and it was terrifying. Oh, and I don’t think this is necessarily upsetting, but it might be relevant to future thesis writers: I definitely had moments where I thought it was gonna be an essay. But then it was really diving in to the project more and more, and realizing I have things to say that can’t be said in an essay. I think those moments were upsetting in that, it’s really like a marathon, and sometimes you think you can’t do it. But it’s nice to be almost at the end of the marathon.”
On her favorite part of her thesis: “For the process, my favorite thing is that hands down it’s made me a better doula and a better activist, that’s been really transformative. And then favorite part of my written thesis? I think there are some vignettes that have really resonated with other people who have read it, and I think are really important to me. So a lot of vignettes are about interactions I’ve had with patients, so I built my narrative around composite characters, so none of the vignettes represent one individual but represent a number of interactions that I’ve had. I tried to make them really speak to the wide range of emotion that comes through the abortion experience, and I think having done that and having gone through the exercise of trying to create a complex narrative, when it’s often so one-sided, is probably my favorite part of it.”
Favorite form of procrastination: “I’ve been watching a ton of cooking shows, so much Top Chef recently. One thing I love to do in my carrel is watch old Broad City episodes, and just like play clips of Elana and Abbi and it just psychs me up and it’s like, ‘I’m procrastinating but I’m also getting pumped up again!’ I love the Jimmy Fallon part of the internet. I really like working with other thesis writers, and we’ll procrastinate together, just by like, talking about our thesis or watching a funny video or just talking about random things. I think there’s a really good solidarity in that.”
Advice for future thesis writers: “You know, I think a really big thing is finding the right advisor for you, and being really purposeful and intentional about who you choose to be your advisor. Because I really think your advisor is gonna make or break your experience, and has a huge impact on your final product, and also your whole process. Someone you just connect with, who will understand you as a person, a writer, a researcher, and your whole process. It really is a collaborative effort, between you and your advisor, like… we’re still undergrads, we’re not like in grad school, there’s still a lot to be said about the help that your advisor gives you. Also, someone said this at an anthropology panel, and he said, if you wanna do academic work, you really need to think about how much you love the process and not as much the final product, and I think that was important to me and some really good advice to future thesis writers, to get into it for the process, and to be less concerned about that one sentence or that one theory or that one paragraph.”
On her theses feces: Oh my god, this is such a funny question. You know, someone wrote ‘theses feces’ on their carrel and I was like, ‘Why wasn’t that me? Why didn’t I do that?’ Um. I don’t poop a lot, and I don’t really plan on doing academic work a lot, so I think it’s kind of like a one time thing.
kitab: I hope that’s not the case, for your sake!
MK: Or maybe a few times kinda thing… It’s something, like I’ll really commit to it and I’ll do it as well as I can, but it’s not gonna happen too frequently. But I’m okay with that!
Plans for April 12th: Well, Alexis and I already bought our champagne, we have that. I honestly want to lie down outside for a long, long time. Because one thing that’s been hard is just being inside, being in Olin, and there are NO windows on the fourth floor. And then. Maybe not that day but definitely that week, I’m really looking forward to catching up with people, on campus and off. And I’m gonna give her advisor her gift.
Interviews by Dasha, Sammy, and kitab.