After lectures this morning, I spent much of the day working on the Connolly and Barkawi books. The Connolly book is interesting, but includes a lot of fairly general language and not a lot of direct examples. General points about theory are more memorable, comprehensible, and valid when they can be affirmed through at least one concrete demonstration. You can talk about symbol construction all you want, but one good case study on the construction of ‘Palestine’ as a symbol in contemporary Middle Eastern politics strikes me as quite a bit more worthwhile and useful than a lot of generalization. It’s an anti-parsimonious ideal that may set me outside the ‘discipline’ of International Relations: out amongst the historians, journalists, and policy makers.
Dinner with Alex, Claire, and Iason tonight was an affirmation – once again – of how fun people in my program are. I was meant to meet Emily afterwards, but things once again didn’t manage to work out. It’s interesting to observe the sociology of the M.Phil group: who spends time with whom, what kind of inside jokes develop, and how people conceive of themselves in the program. Personally and intellectually, I feel like I am undergoing a second adolescence here. I am very actively defining my beliefs and personality in a way I can never recall doing before. I think it’s the combination of a new place and having finally reached a level of self-affirmation where I can brush off most criticism. It’s an empowering mix.
Hopefully, it will empower me to get a decent draft of my paper for Dr. Hurrell done tonight – after a brief foray to the King’s Arms with Alex, Claire, and some of Claire’s St. Cross friends. I could write much more, but I really should get some reading done now if I am going out again later.
PS. Tristan has a new batch of photos online, including a really odd one of Meaghan Beattie and I. Tristan frequently seems to post more photos of people in a day than I do in several months. Partly, that’s because there have been problems in the past with posting photos of people on the blog. Even so, I will try to show a less de-populated Oxford during the next while.