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My Friday panels

One of the disadvantages of getting noticed is that, with the solidification of blogging as a Topic™, I found myself duplicating the experiences of other CCCC bloggers. In other words, I went to the Wednesday night session (A.15: Public, Private, Political: Social Theories and Blogging Practices) that Mike has summarized in far more detail than I could provide. And I went to the first half of B.26: Evaluating Academic Weblogs, mainly to see Derek present before I left to work on my presentation. And Mike and Clancy both have blogged that session. Since my own session was largely a haze (more on it soon), I thought I'd offer some quick thoughts on the two sessions I hit on Friday--I haven't looked around too much, but I don't think anyone's blogged them yet.

Thanks to the miracle of the Kensington wake-up system (the phone in the bathroom rings very loudly and the one by my bed was somehow not able to switch to the line where the wake-up calls came from), I was able to scrape out of bed early, and head to the Moscone for an 8am session. Despite my utter exhaustion, I didn't oversleep once.

Anyhow, I went to G.23: Rapping Down the Gate: Black Women and Hip-Hop. Two of my colleagues from Syracuse were part of the panel, and I'd met the third member of the panel last spring. Gwen Pough led off by talking about how third-wave black feminists might work to reconcile their own beliefs and attitudes with those found in the broader cultural movement of hip-hop, a movement that includes its own varieties of feminisms. My notes are sketchy, but one of the things that I remember most clearly about Gwen's talk was her insistence that we not fall into simple binaries, assuming that we can just pick and choose from a cultural movement the "good" things and critique the "bad." Elisa Norris focused more exclusively on pedagogy, and specifically attempts to draw on the resources of hip-hop in a writing classroom. One of the core moments of her presentation was an explication of a "unit" of paired readings, where through judicious footnoting, the editors clearly attempted to simplify hip-hop into good/bad and failed to question the entrenched racism of some of their so-called "explanations" of hip-hop terminology. Elisa also, I think, spoke to the rich complexity of hip-hop as a culture, a culture with a history, with varied forms of expression, and with contradictions (as there are in any culture). Elaine Richardson closed the panel by looking closely at what she called "lived experience as semantic domains." I didn't jot down the name of the novel, but she read to us a passage from a novel that highlighted the material dimensions of hip-hop as they penetrate into the everyday--hair, nails, clothes, shoes, et al. And in some ways, Elaine's paper functioned almost as an allegory for the panel itself in the sense that all three speakers brought together the often separated worlds of academia and hip-hop. In all, it was a really good panel, one that raised questions that can't really be answered in a conference session (if at all), and yet, at the same time, it felt like each speaker gave us some of the perspectives and conceptual tools to think about those questions.

And as a reward for waking up while it was still dark, I went to the MOMA. Nice.

Went back to the Moscone, and caught a 2:00 session, K.25: Researching Rhetorically: Conceptualizing and Teaching Research. I must admit, though, that the title was a little misleading. I'm the last person to push for "Monday morning" panels, but what the title didn't reveal was that the panelists were reporting on the data they'd collected about how research methodologies are taught in our field. The first and third speakers (both Carole Papper, as Becky Rickly couldn't be there) were basically Power Point driven--the data presentation in the first case, and executive summary in the third. Sandwiched between them was Clay Spinuzzi's talk, on viewing research methods as networks rather than nested category systems (paradigm -> methodology -> method -> technique). Clay argued for a much more non-hierarchical approach to crafting research, one that paid attention to rhetorical rigor rather than adhering closely to "methodological rigor." I won't repeat all of Carol's recommendations here (although I actually have pretty good notes for it--one of the benefits of PP), but I do have a couple of meta sorts of observations. Overall, I agreed with what she had to say--I still believe that we are not very good at teaching method in our field. And yet, much of the evidence that this survey seems to have marshalled doesn't actually ground the claims that they made. And the problem is that the relative absence of methodology courses isn't itself evidence for more. The shoddy quality of research in our field, on the other hand, is. But that requires us to call each other out--and I don't know who wants to do that. A few years back, I gave a paper on how problematic it was to use data gleaned from the CCCC program to make claims about the field--not that I expect anyone to have heard it, and yet, the paucity of panels in the Research Area Cluster was taken as evidence of our field's neglect of the topic. I'm probably sounding more snarky here than I mean to. But the proof of research methodology comes not from surveys, anecdotes, attitudes, or curricula. It comes in the actual research we do and the scholarship we publish it in. For all I know, that's a step that this group will take. And for all I know, they'll hold me up as someone who's not very good at research. All I know is that the difference will be found in our scholarship, and ultimately that's where the evidence for these claims has to come from.

And again, I say that as someone who agrees wholeheartedly with the claims this panel made--heck, I made some of them myself here a ways back. The one thing I disagreed with was the underlying scorn behind the claim that we were still "clinging" to methods inherited from literary study. I'd still like to see textual analysis recognized for the rigorous and at times difficult method that it can be. And it wouldn't hurt my feelings at all if, one day, some course on methodology used D&G's What is Philosophy?

Went to the Bloggers SIG Friday night, and left at 5 am Saturday morning. But those were the other sessions I went to on Friday...


Since I missed Friday pm sessions to hop a plane,
I'm really grateful for your description of this panel. As a newbie to the field, I have a nascent impression that one of the reasons methods and methodology aren't addressed more directly is that attention to method isn't easy to reconcile with the critique of "objective" as a category. If you can't be objective in research, how can you do good research? I understand that individuals have come to terms with the paradox in a variety of different ways, but I don't see those private solutions translating into a clear and coherent explanation of ways (plural, as in a methodological toolkit) of doing and evaluating research.