Mihi Cura Futuri?

Tiny fridge overflowing

We had our first qualitative methods seminar today, and I am of a mixed opinion about it. 28 people in a lecture hall does not make for a very effective seminar format. Likewise, the discussion was unfocused and struck me more as messily attempting to identify the relevant issues, rather than dealing with them directly. With only two weeks to cover foreign policy analysis, perhaps it is inevitable that the coverage will not be comprehensive.

Part of the problem, I think, has to do with the limitations of the whole broad discipline of ‘international relations.’ We are in the business of quick and dirty answers. That’s fine, really, since we’re rarely interested in capital T truth. All international relations is done for a purpose – whether explicitly normative or not – and most of it relates to questions of a kind where a rigorous conception of truth simply doesn’t apply. Either our conclusions are so vague as to be untestable or our answer is only one of many potentially valid ones. For me, most of these apparent problems evaporate once you adopt an explicitly normative agenda. It doesn’t matter where the boundary between foreign policy analysis and international relations lies (if it even exists). Rather, we can pick and choose whatever tools are helpful for advancing an agenda. This strikes me as fundamentally more honest, and obviously less frustrating.

During the lecture, I also found myself thinking worriedly about exactly what I am going to do with all of this. The lack of a summer job and housing for next year is uncertainty enough for me, but that’s just peanuts compared to the big question of “What next?” Once I become Milan Ilnyckyj, M.Phil (Oxford), what am I going to do with myself? Going straight into a PhD seems unwise. It would be better to see a bit more of the world before making such a commitment. Working at something relevant and interesting, while writing, has a lot of appeal, but I really have no idea of how to bring it about.

Hilary Term Outline

15 Jan 06: Term begins
20 Jan 06: ORS application due
24 Jan 06: First paper for Andrew Hurrell due
31 Jan 06: First core seminar paper due
07 Feb 06: First qualitative methods take home exam
28 Feb 06: Second core seminar paper due
01 Mar 06: Two more scholarship applications due
07 Mar 06: Second qualitative methods take home examIndeterminate dates: 3-4 other papers for Andrew Hurrell
List subject to later additions

I paid another tranche of my Oxford fees today. I am now paid up for Hilary term: as far as battels, college fees, and university fees go. I will keep paying for all my groceries and as many other expenses as possible on my Canadian credit card, but it will definitely be necessary to make another expensive and time consuming bank transfer in order to pay next term’s fees. Then, I will be halfway done paying for the whole Oxford experience.

I think that Emily and others are right in thinking that the best job for me that is within reach has to do with either writing or editing. That said, I know nothing about the industry. I suppose I had better learn, if I don’t want to end up working in a computer shop or a pub this summer…

  • Apologies to those who read the Atom feed, but I had to switch it from full syndication to just snippets. The reason for this is that other pages keep grabbing my content and then using it to drive their own advertising. If I am going to pay for this URL and hosting this content, without even enabling advertising on this site, I definitely don’t want other people profiting off of it.
  • Many kudos to Google for not turning over their search records to the DOJ. If you’re serious about the commitment to “not be evil,” this is just the sort of thing you need to do. Not to mention, if you want to maintain the trust of thousands of people storing huge amounts of email with you (including most members of the Oxford M.Phil in IR program).
  • Here’s a question for my wise and tactful readers: my supervisor hasn’t been explicitly told about my blog. While the simplest of Google searches yields it immediately, the fact remains that he has been mentioned in it a number of times without necessarily knowing about it. Nothing personal, of course, but it’s still there. The question, therefore, is whether I should tell him directly. The relationship is an entirely professional and academic one, that hasn’t taken on any kind of extensive personal dimension. Otherwise, I would have probably told him long ago. No appropriate chance has arisen. Who can advise may speak.

14 thoughts on “Mihi Cura Futuri?”

  1. “What next?” Once I become Milan Ilnyckyj, M.Phil (Oxford), what am I going to do with myself?

    I don’t doubt that you will figure something out. I’ve suggested journalism before and, while I know it won’t pay off the student debt, it’s something you seen to have potential for.

  2. Milan,
    What do you mean – take-home exam for qualitative methods? Do you know something more than what’s on the syllabus? Please explain!

  3. Sheena,

    Andrew Hurrell mentioned that there would be two take home exams at the beginning of today’s seminar, did he not?

  4. As I recall (and wrote down), they will be distributed in the Thursday class (4th and 8th week) and be due at nine the following Monday to Marga Lyall.

    Did anyone else hear the same thing?

  5. “Who can advise may speak.”

    When he asks about your winter break, just say that there are lots of cool photos on your website. If he’s interested, he will follow it up.

  6. Since, as you say, your relationship with your supervisor is academic and professional, he does not need to know anything about your personal life. While it’s true, a google search would turn up your blog, if he takes that step, he will be the one to have crossed the personal/professional line, and thus he’ll be one with some explaining to do.
    In the same way that students cannot be expected to inform their professors if they, say, comment on them at “rate my professor” or in a letter to a friend or family member, you have no obligation to tell him anything about your personal weblog.
    I personally would avoid mentioning it to him, because if you do so, he may feel obliged to look and subsequently feel uncomfortable at having the personal/prfessional line blurred by finding himself in your personal webspace.
    All of that said, this is all why I aviod mentioning people by name in my blog, or at least ensure I only say positive things when I do so. If you had made disparaging comments about him that he might stumble across, my advice would be substantially different.

    ettiquette can be sticky stuff…

  7. Sasha,

    Thanks for the input.

    Not mentioning my supervisor by name would be a bit of a farce on a blog meant to document the Oxford experience. As I haven’t said anything inappropriate for a public forum, I don’t think he would be annoyed to find it by chance or by direction.

    The point about public and private space is a good one. I remain undecided, with regards to how I should act.

  8. milan, if you need more room in your fridge I suggest removing the tomatoes and garlic. Neither need refridgeration (and may in fact be better without it). Just keep them somewhere relatively cool and out of direct light.

  9. Done. The tomatoes are eaten and the garlic is in my potato drawer. (Not that keeping spuds in there seems to prevent them from sprouting for more than three or four days.)

  10. I havn’t been interested in “capital “T” truth” in a while, although I may be rekindling such an interest. However, lacking an interest in high truth, in my experience, does not throw one into the realm of “quick and dirty” answers. In fact, it seems like there is more of an ethical imperitive to be right when one’s work is going to be used for something human than when it is pure research (i.e. science vs. engineering – science doesn’t make you take an oath when you graduate).

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