I’m not sure if anything really prepares you for the sheer relentlessness that a taught Master’s programme brings. There is always something to be read or written or thought about or made. It’s never-ending.
It’s May which means it’s the long stretch of Summer Term: dissertation time. This time of year for our cohort is when we are also finishing up internships and we’re also having our second meeting with our supervisors.
This is when the seriousness of the dissertation hits home and the doubts creep in.
The doubts are temporary yet intense. And in hindsight, somewhat helpful. But nevertheless, there’s a week in the postgraduate calendar which I’m sure has an unspoken understanding of being ‘self-loathing week’. There are lots of questions, lots of doubts, supervisors sometimes (helpfully) play devil’s advocate to ensure you’re really thinking critically about your project.
It inevitably comes around to the point that you’ve just not read enough. The more you read, the more you understand the theory and the methodology surrounding your chosen topic. And even though it’s the last thing you want to do, it’s the best thing you could do (and it’s actually quite enjoyable).
So here’s what’s on my reading list:
A lot of the books and articles are ethnography based: they either are ethnographies or they’re instructional on how to do ethnography.
In terms of articles, I’ve been reading a lot of Eric Laurier from the University of Edinburgh. He has done many cafe ethnographies in Britain over the past 15 years. His literature reviews do a good job of explaining some of the sociological views of cafes from Latour, Habermas and Goffman.
In addition to reading Laurier’s articles, I’ve been making my through Kitchens, an ethnography of restaurant kitchen staff by Gary Allen Fine. So far, I’ve gained some insights into how you could view each cafes or restaurant as an individual habitus (or community, for the non-sociologists).
The bulk of the books on the stack are the how-to books. They will be read in the coming weeks, but they will be immeasurably helpful in planning fieldwork and deciding the finer points of methodology.
It’s all (slowly) coming together.