19 juni: Personal Interest vs. Scientific Rigor

Av Chris Thompson
Publicerad:2015-06-19 10:59

Christopher Thompson is a PhD student at the Department of History at Uppsala University. In his thesis, with the working title “Primitive Blasts: Norwegian Black Metal and the Use of History”, he focuses on the use of history in Norwegian black metal and reflections of identity.

Photo from Chris Thompsons Instagram profile

Today is the final day of my blog week and I will take this as an opportunity to wrap up some of my thoughts from the previous entries. Over the course of the week I have touched on a few different concepts, but there are two main themes that I have tried to maintain throughout. In case they have not been overtly apparent, these included balancing the personal with the professional, and the importance of effective communication. So, with this last entry I will turn to these two themes to bring some degree of closure to what has been something of a cathartic experience for me.

Balancing my personal and professional life has always been difficult. I could never understand how people were able to neatly divide their work and home lives. While working for the before mentioned popcorn company, I found it difficult to not keep my personal interests, such as music and guitars, completely out of my mind during working hours. The work I was doing was, quite honestly, dull, and I consistently found myself thinking about different bands and guitar rig setups. Yet, my co-workers seemed to have little trouble in separating their lives. From my perspective, they were living two different realities and I could not comprehend how that was possible. However, I understood that perhaps my co-workers were simply content with this duality in a way that I could never be. At some point it dawned on me that instead of struggling and constantly feeling understimulated, it should be possible to make a living doing something I actually enjoy. It’s not exactly a novel concept, but I think it is one that gets overlooked and is taken for granted.

With this in mind, turning my personal interests into a profession was almost an inevitability. It is a big reason why I wanted to continue studying history and an even bigger reason as to why I wanted to focus on black metal. Quite honestly, I could not imagine myself doing anything else. However, I don’t want to make it sound like working with a personal interest is easy. On the contrary, it can be quite difficult. There are a myriad of expectations, both internal and external, that are constantly gnawing and only become satiated when I force myself to confront them. Nearly one hundred percent of these expectations are derived from what often feels like a lack of productivity. This is, of course, a type of constraint that must be overcome. Luckily, I can often muster up the will and drive to finish tasks on time, but I also realize that for many others it can be difficult. Inspiration comes in waves and rarely comes with any sort of consistency. When combined with the scientific standards for quality and the publishing frequency that is required of modern academics, motivation and determination can easily turn into stagnation.

I believe productivity in the humanities often comes at a slower pace than what can be found in other academic fields. It is difficult to achieve both quantity and quality and the lack of one or the other may significantly inhibit one’s ability to effectively communicate one’s ideas. Writing is our lifeblood and if we cannot produce at the levels demanded by the neo-liberal framework of academia, then the humanities as a whole will suffer. It is through the humanities, and the perspectives they bring, that we can interpret the social, cultural and political world around us.

In concluding my blog week, I would like to take to the opportunity to thank Humanistportalen for giving me the chance to share insights into who I am and into my research. At times it has felt like I have been up on a soapbox preaching my expectations of others researching black metal and pushing the humanities as a means to better sensitize our perspective of the world. However, I have only done so in an effort to raise at least some awareness of the possibilities that can be found in the humanities.