I just met with my honours supervisor. Here’s what I took from the meeting.
My thesis is on track but for me to do well – first class honours – I need to write with a wider audience in mind. At the moment my thesis reads as though I’m writing to myself which is precisely the case. I’m learning new theories and concepts and writing about them for the first time so my writing is a bit tentative. By writing to myself I avoid a conversation that might expose my theoretical soft underbelly and make me look silly or incompetent. I write the “how” quite well (the how I’m going to create an argument) but I don’t write the “what” strongly enough. By staking a claim or argument I expose myself to critique that I think I fear. Maybe I’m just being arrogant and not speaking my mind. I’ll be more mindful about the “what”.
Connected with the “what”, my super wants me to explain much more clearly the connection between Foucault’s theories and Heather Armstrong’s blog. At the moment the theoretical part of my thesis works well but it sounds like a Foucault love-in. I’m writing the theory, then picking a piece of Armstrong’s blog and saying “see, Foucault was right”; and I could do that with almost any blog. I now need to be much clearer about why I’ve chosen Armstrong’s blog and state what Foucault’s theories (those I’ve included in the thesis) help me to say about Armstrong’s blog.
I’ll need to pare some of both the chapters back to make room for the intro and the conclusion. Once I start the analysis of the blog itself I’ll get a better picture of which parts of the theory I can remove/edit. I’ll need to write up to 12 000 – 13 000 words in the body leaving 3000 – 4000 for the intro and conclusion. Will need at least 1500 words in the intro to make it work properly.
The introduction and conclusion will be the keys to ensuring the thesis isn’t a note-to-self. One way to achieve this is to introduce Armstrong’s blog as having significance through the fact of her dismissal. Although her dismissal raises a variety of questions about fairness, ethics, and human rights, the answers to these questions are already and always confined to that which is available from within the discursive containers in which the questions are first posed. The rights and wrongs of unfair dismissal cases continue to be debated within legal and commercial frameworks and, therefore, to analyse Armstrong’s dismissal from within these discourses would be simply to add something minor and incremental to the debate. What distinguishes Armstrong’s dismissal from many others is that she was fired as a result of the contents of her blog. Her blog became the catalyst for her dismissal.
Based on the theories of Michel Foucault, my thesis, then, will be an attempt to develop an insight into the workings of power and subjectivity through which Armstrong’s blog became pivotal to her dismissal.
The debate and commentary about Armstrong’s dismissal is largely premised on an uncritical assumption of Armstrong as a rational, thinking individual, subject to power that acts on her by way of rules and behavioural proscriptions. From this premise her blog becomes an object that is separate and external to Armstrong’s self. Through the critical application of Foucault’s theories, then, I will propose an alternative view that posits Armstrong as simultaneously inhabiting a variety of flexible, fluid, and negotiable subject positions, some of which she performed in a very public in, on, and as her blog. I will further propose that these subject positions provided Armstrong with a variety of subject forms with which to articulate an intelligible and coherent self and as a means for resistance to a more generalised regime of individualising and normalising power. Viewed in this manner, the dismissal of Heather Armstrong through her blogging, poses questions about how, especially in capitalist societies, power works productively both to create and shape individuals as subjects.