Dissertation – an anthropologists dream or nightmare?

I may be alone in actually choosing to do a degree for the sole purpose of being able to do a dissertation – our curriculum and what one should study has been set out for years and here is the chance to study and research whatever the hell I want. Passion drives motivation, and motivation leads to success so it is a recipe for genuinely interesting research and a toe dip into the ‘real’ academic world. That’s what I thought, and for the past two years I have dreamed about the time when I can let my own interests and passion (ok, starting to hate this word), drive my study.

Little did I know choosing a topic would be the most infuriating academic process I have ever gone through (let alone choosing a title), much worse than my worse exam ever (past or future). It MUST be easier for other subjects, already slightly defined in their discipline, but what about anthropology? It’s asset is its multi-disciplinary approach, but to have to chose something to narrow down to is near impossible. This is a compliment to the subject but how any anthropologist finds their niche is beyond me, and I would love to be enlightened by how you, reader, found your niche or key interest.

The frustration is not caused by not having any idea what I want to focus on. No, it is because the amount of things I could focus on could be listed down a whole loo roll and I’d still run out of room. From cultural identity, to the new social hierarchy, to altruism, to vitamin D deficiencies, to thrifty genotypes, to cumulative culture, to social depression the topics I would love to research are endless. On top of this, I want to make the most of being in the midst of exceptionally talented tutors and resources in the Durham University Anthropology Department, so if you add their fields of expertise into the mix, there is an explosion of anthropological chaos waiting to happen.

To say I am daunted would be an underestimate.

p.s. I think I’m going to have to stop apologising for my lack of posts, as no matter how I hard I try they are not going to be as regular as I’d like, so I hope that you are content with irregular, now and then musings!

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3 thoughts on “Dissertation – an anthropologists dream or nightmare?

  1. I’d love to be able to tell you how I decided on what to focus on…but I am in a similar situation to you, loads of areas I would love to explore. Maybe the best idea is to put them all on a piece of paper, take a bag, dump them in….and may the lucky one win!

  2. Joe Ling says:

    You’re right, there’s too much to focus on. And what’s more, anthropology is so broad that you feel as if you have to have a good grounding in everything anyway. So I just let experience guide my choice, and went with the opportunities that presented themselves to me, namely education and development. But who is writing this? I have the feeling we’re in the same year in Durham (although i’m away on an erasmus year at the moment)

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