Quick News about Me
I don’t expect this to be of great interest to anyone, but still, this is really major news for me. In the last year or so I’ve grown increasingly depressed about my academic environment. This depression was mainly caused by my being an alien in a department where most of my fellow PhD researchers were translating forgotten texts from Avestan or researching some obscure ritual of a minor sect of Tibetan Buddhists or studying the diffusion of Brazilian pentecostalism in Nigeria — all topics of interest, but extremely far from my current concerns. SOAS is a wonderful institution for a large number of disciplines (and a place with loads of social events and interesting people to meet — and, of course, politically active), but definitely not the place for someone whose main interest lies broadly in the philosophy of science, because of its heavy commitments to ‘empirical, data gathering area-study’ research framework. I’ve lost the count of how many times other PhD students in SOAS, enquiring about my thesis, asked me: ‘oh, that’s interesting…but where are you going for your fieldwork?’ (and indeed people outside of SOAS asking me ‘oh, that’s interesting…but so why are you in SOAS?’). Theoretical approaches are frowned upon — or plainly misunderstood — in such an environment. I’ve commented before on how SOAS could have enormous potential to become the European pole (joining the University of Hawaii in the US) for comparative philosophy…but until no philosophy department exists that will hardly happen (and the current economic-academic climate doesn’t seem to suggest such a department will exist any time soon…). My supervisor has always been wonderfully supportive with me, but could not single-handedly offer me an entire environment or enter into fields with me that were not his speciality.
Intellectual isolation has had a positive and a negative effect: the negative one is that I have increasingly felt lagging behind in respect to other researchers in philosophy departments of other universities (since I effectively spent my first two years in SOAS working on either Buddhist metaphysics or the study of religions — not that I regret that, but it did take precious time) and hence feeling the constant pressure to ‘catch-up’. The positive one is that it has pushed me into the blogosphere, which (for better or for worse) in the last couple of years has rekindled my engagement with contemporary philosophy. At risk of sounding excessively saccharine, thanks to all of you out there for somehow giving me the occasion to expand my interests outside of my immediate circle.
So, after having gone through a dangerously close ‘I’m going to quit my PhD’ phase I decided to try and move away towards more stimulating shores. I cannot thank enough Chris Norris at Cardiff for responding positively to my ‘I-seek-help-would-you-take-me-as-your-student’ email (after discarding an ‘external supervisor’ hypothesis), hence starting the process that finally led me –a couple of days ago– to enrol in the Philosophy Department in Cardiff as his student. Norris is quite the perfect discussion partner for me as he is one of the few people out there equally interested (and competent) in debating Derrida or Badiou and Van Fraassen or Ladyman and his utterly unpretentious and laid back attitude has helped me a great deal to feel welcome in the new department (where I have also found an extremely nice bunch of PhD/MA students).
So well, good luck to me for my final 20 months or so before submission.