Soundtrack to a PhD

I have often been asked to describe what doing a PhD is like or what it has been like for me. Because anthropology can be far removed from other subject areas in terms of scope and methodology and because ethnographic research is an intensely personal endeavor, I find it difficult to generalize about expectations, achievements or market values. Nevertheless, now finally edging towards my still unconfirmed submission date (next month!), I am able to reflect on my doctoral experience in a much clearer light. So, for those who want to know, it starts like this:

And ends like this:

I would not wish deny anyone the experience of doing a PhD, but I believe that it is important to disclose all available information to potential victims of 3 to 10 years (depending on the country, institution and field) of purposeful obsession, little sunlight, and enduring poverty. You will think about nothing else. It will haunt your dreams and come between you and everything else you once valued beyond word counts. The effects are physical as well as mental.

To illustrate, here is a timeline of PhD research as correlated with excitement and self-worth:

The timeline ends with submission. I guess that leaves the defense as the final descent into the molten pit of fire that is the future. I'm looking forward to it.

So, knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Of course. Anyone who chooses to do a PhD does it not for the awe-inspiring glory of becoming a junior colleague in an increasingly cash-strapped, over-bureaucratized career nursing a lifetime of student loan debt, but for the unwavering imperative to seek out knowledge, to explore and share in new and wondrous (theoretical and actual) worlds, and to boldly go where no pathetic schmuck has gone before.

A more serious update on the progress of my PhD will follow shortly.


Post a Comment

If you got this far, you should probably leave a comment, no?