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Unplanned Expenses

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Things to remind blogger Nadya Karimasari and other PhD candidates to be aware of unplanned research expenses lurking behind every moment of carelessness.

Unbelievable! When I was about to take a picture of my beautiful and fast-growing garden to show to my husband and son back home, the camera shutter failed to click. What’s wrong? Apparently there’s no battery inside my camera. How come? I remember that I’ve charged the battery just before I flew to the Netherlands. i have the charger is with me, so the battery should be inside my camera, but where did it disappear?

Of course, a battery would not disappear just like that. I lost it due to my own carelessness and less-than-enough obsessive checking of all my equipment. Damn! My family back home couldn’t find the battery. A new battery, another unplanned research expense. May I remind myself that this is not the first time?

During my preliminary fieldwork, I fully trusted the driver. Three different maps were kept nicely inside my backpack. Don’t expect any GPS, there’s no internet signal in this remote area – I’m looking at you my tech-savvy friends. He had brought me to the destination before. I should be able to sit back and relax because he would be much more knowledgeable about the route than me or my co-promotor, right? Wrong. I should’ve been obsessively aware and checking our map and asking people question along the way. That midnight, we should’ve reached our destination on the mountain six hours before. Instead, we were lost along the coast, where the road was broken and full of cracks from the water. And I had to pay the driver and the rented car for an extra day. I thought my co-promotor was almost crying! But at least I could use this information for the methods section in my proposal: the area was not chosen due to the damaged road and difficulty of access!

Last but not least, I lost my phone! This happened just before I returned to Holland after my brother’s wedding in Indonesia. It’s a cheap brick phone, but I love it, and it works best in my fieldwork location. I assume my elderly mother-in-law brought it back to her hometown, because we have exactly the same phone. You might know that a brick phone is synonymous with phones for seniors (I am not a senior – yet, but I also don’t use a smartphone; at least I don’t use a banana phone). I called her, but she said this or that grandchild was taking care of her phone and she had no idea. Things got complicated and I had to accept that I might not find my dear brick phone. Which means I lost most of my research contacts that I painstakingly collected during preliminary fieldwork. I double-save my contact numbers on my sim card and phone, but I should’ve made additional back-ups. There was a little bit of fear that if I backed it up and the police or the intelligence agency found it somehow, they would know the phone numbers of ‘rebellious’ farmers, so hey, let’s just memorize it the old-fashioned way. Anyway, I also lost the number of the VIP head of district and the person from which I was about to rent a family house for my fieldwork. Oh, man! Shit happens!

This story is for all of you who feel undeserving as a PhD because you don’t feel good enough. If you thought that a PhD candidate is somehow an exceptional human being who always got their shit together, think again. To err is human, to forgive is divine – so let’s do it all over again.

As seen in Resource

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Move?

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Should I blog-move? (I mean, making a new blog or moving to a new address). I am a bit hesitant to continue blogging and uploading post here in wordpress.com because mine is almost full (97%). It shouldn’t be so surprising. I have been blogging here since the very first time wordpress.com was available for free, more than a decade ago. Of course, eventually it will be full.

Hfffttt, I’m supposed to upgrade it to a premium account but it will cost 99 dollar/year. I am really really unwilling to pay that much, although my salary from blogging at Resource will cover that pretty quickly. Having a paid blog makes me want to up my blogging game because … well, it’s not free anymore so it has to be at least not embarrassing! Other option would be moving to wordpress.org with a self-hosting domain and pay less – I don’t know how much? – and get unlimited storage. But, just thinking about self-hosting gives me headache. Last but not least, I am tempted to move to a new blogging service: squarespace.com for two reasons: 1. the templates look beautiful, and 2. as a Wageningen PhD candidate I will get 50% discount for the first year (discount, should I say more). But, I am a bit worried because I am not familiar with the squarespace system, and I don’t know if the slow internet connection in remote Indonesia (when I would be fildworking) would be good enough for squarespace. Also, I don’t know how worthy is my blog here in this address as I’ve been blogging here forever and I heard that the older your blog, the bigger chance it appears on the google search (like I care! but dude, I really know nothing about this, is it true?)

Blogging is the only thing that I’ve been consistently doing since the very first time blogging exists in this universe (that means since I’m in highschool, before wordpress even existed! I remember the good ol’ times of blogging with diaryland and I had to write all the html codes manually, what a learning curve!). If you count the times before blogging existed, I’ve been journaling or writing diary since childhood. Considering that, I imagine “not blogging” would not be an option for me. And, this blog also has landed me the best job in the world as a blogger at Resource online. But … it seems like my time is up for free blogging. Either way I have to pay. Hmmm, what should I do? Any suggestions on the pro and cons of (upgraded) wordpress.com, self-hosted wordpress.org, or squarespace? Thanks in advance!

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Back

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Blogger Nadya Karimasari has just come back to the Netherlands after some intense physical and mental travel.

It’s good to be back in the Netherlands. My landlords are still as lovely, my 125-year-old home is still as charming and cosy, the cat is still fat, the sheep are still smelly, the birds are still chirping cheerfully and the rooster is still crowing. The plants in my small patch of garden started growing. I took a deep breath of the clean air of this idyllic Dutch countryside. Ahh, it’s so good to be back.

I have been ‘all over the place’ lately, not only in terms of location, but also in terms of experience. Earlier this year, I did my preliminary fieldwork in Indonesia. My admirable long-time friend whom I used to stay with when I was in Jakarta visited Leiden from Harvard. We shared an uninterrupted day walking and talking. In Spring, I was a teaching assistant for Rob Fletcher’s Research Methodology course. I have a fond memory of the experience and the students. Then, a sudden death. The next day, with trembling knees, I went to Toronto for a Summer School with Nancy Peluso, Peter Vandergeest and Libby Lunstrum. The North American graduate education system was completely different than in the Netherlands. Afterwards, I organised a panel at the international conference of the Center for Space, Place, and Society at the Wageningsche Berg and gave a (chaotic) presentation, met my co-supervisor from Melbourne and other new and old friends. I also gave another (chaotic) presentation for my proposal at the office. Last but not least, I went to my brother’s wedding in Indonesia where I met most of my extended families. And back I am.

For many of us, doing a PhD is a cultural experience too, with a lot of moments of ‘taking up challenge’ and first-times that may or may not be directly linked with our research and may or may not be having an immediate ‘productive’ effect for our writing process. On the other hand, life goes on beyond our research, and a lot of times, it’s hard not be taken over by momentary shock. As a PhD student, it’s equally hard to ignore your research that is poking you and saying hello from the back of your mind from time to time. The result is a mess. But, it’s okay. We’re gone, and back, and we’re always where we’re supposed to be.

as seen in Resource online

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Academic Celebrities

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Many academic celebrities in the social sciences visited Wageningen University and Research in the past year. Blogger Nadya Karimasari shares her latest encounter with one of them.

I’ve lost count of how many academic celebrities I’ve met at Wageningen University and Research. I couldn’t imagine a better timing to do a PhD. Earlier this month, James Ferguson, a well-known anthropologist from Stanford University, USA, gave a public lecture at Orion about share, presence, and social obligation. A couple of days after, other famous names participated in the two-days Hauntology seminar on psychoanalysis and political economy. Don’t ask me about the seminar, I swear I have no idea.

While having my daily dose of sunbathing on the outdoor bench in Leeuwenborch, a participant of the hauntology seminar casually sat down next to me. My half-closed eyes were transfixed by his beautiful shoes. They must be expensive, I guess. He opened the lid of his cigarette box and asked me what I thought of the seminar. I looked up and my jaw dropped in disbelief. It was Erik Swyngedouw, a world-leading political economist from Manchester University.

Keeping my cool, I answered him in shameless honesty, ‘I didn’t understand a single word.’ Why pretend, not everyone is familiar with Lacan. A slight smile curved up in Erik’s face, ‘I still remember what that’s like.’ And that’s the beginning of our jovial conversation.

‘When I was teaching at Oxford, I was a regular participant at the monthly seminar of Amnesty International. I was a supporter. I always attended their seminar in order to purchase the ticket so they would get money’, he said. ‘In 1998, Slavoj Zizek was one of the speakers. I came out of the seminar, thinking: what a bloody circus!’ he told me.

‘I owned two books by Zizek because everybody said he was so good, but I just read the back covers and put them right back on the shelf. That day, after the seminar – I remember it vividly, it was May – I went straight to a very beautiful bookstore …’ I cut him off, shortly, ‘Blackwell, was it?’, ‘Yes, Blackwell’, he continued, ‘I bought more than ten books by Zizek and paid around 400 pounds.’

‘Later, during the summer holiday, I spent three months reading all his books at a house by the sea. I read from morning to evening, just having a break for lunch, and I still didn’t understand most of it. Only around ten years later, in 2007, did I start to understand half of it. And now, once I got it, I can do whatever I want with it’, he said animatedly with his hands flipping up and down.

‘Learning is slow’, his words sounded like music to my ears. ‘Sometimes, students would think I’ve got it all easy. They only see me now. But I was also a student like them once. Nothing is easy. It was also difficult for me. I also took a long time to learn to finally get to where I am now’, he confessed.

‘The most important thing is to not give up on our enjoyment, and not give in to fear’, he added passionately. ‘I remember when I studied Marx when I was a student like you. Everybody said it was an academic suicide. But, I am still here’, he smiled victoriously.

‘I followed my enjoyment, and not gave in to the fear.’

as seen in Resource online

PS: picture of James Ferguson during his lecture, not Eric Swyngedouw – ‘coz I didn’t take pics of him

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Don’t Panic

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Don’t panic when things don’t seem to fit. It might be your contribution to science! – Self-talk

Today as I finished my proposal I’m freaking out and shedding tears – woman, the joy was very brief, shit, okay back to – … tears because I am looking at my two different set of papers, one is my proposal and one is my reality notes from preliminary fieldwork, in which both seem to be world apart and not relating to each other at all (underlined, bold, highlighted, italicized: at all).

What the hell am I going to do with this piece of concepts that I’ve just written, what the hell am I going to do in my long fieldwork. Why was I painstakingly writing theoretical concepts if it didn’t seem to resonate with reality or it might be tentative or it might still be very vague or it might not be directing and narrowing my focus in any way during fieldwork. Maybe I’m still confused about what the hell is a proposition and why do I have to think about proposition at all, and the proposition might collapse in the field and right now I can’t be relaxed about that very inevitable thing going to happen.

But, as I am writing this, I ask myself, why am I worried, why? … This is why I’m worried: this proposal doesn’t fit and I will be left with nothing (conceptual lens) to comprehend what’s going on during fieldwork. In other words I might be lost and return to a blank page without a clue of how to make sense of what happened during fieldwork. And also just the horror of having to cramp up a new write up on the theorization in two weeks (because that’s just how I did it). I have done it twice so why am I wasting energy. That was what I thought ….

Then just while writing this post status I see a silver lining. I am writing the conceptual framework to learn new things – well at least it’s new for me. It’s not about applying that conceptualization to reality. No. It’s about understanding that the concepts – as they are presented right now in the academic literature – is still very full of holes and unclear and contradictory etc. My job is to try to understand how and why the academic understand it that way – and differently, where’s the difference and why, etc, and then use my preliminary understanding as a tentative shadow that still needs to be furnished more and more through dialogue-ing it with fieldwork.

And in the field, when I am trying to comprehend stuffs, as people do stuffs or say stuffs, this universalized concepts in my mind are being refurnished and refurnished again and constantly to make it contextual and incorporating the lively mind and action of the people that I will be interacting with on fieldwork. Hence the people’s knowledge would gain a little bit more of a level-playing field in relation to the dominant academic way of thinking. It would enrich our understanding and trim the paralyzing conceptualisation and perhaps poke the power relations that keep the misunderstanding and misrepresentation persist over time.

So, I really do need to understand the abstract spirit of concepts, to let it enter my intuition and hence provide a lens that will make me notice stuffs that might not immediately seem to relate, also to have a dialogue to say why it doesn’t relate, what’s missing. So, anyway this is the reason why I had to write and learn that damn theoretical concepts, keep learning and might be rewriting it all over again from scratch or whatever. Destructing, constructing, it’s never a waste of energy, and I thought the process would be like laying one brick over another, but no, it’s not.

This piece of mind is also tentative though. Now, drinks. Thanks mom for loving me unconditionally.

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March for Science

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Did you join the March for Science last weekend? Blogger Nadya Karimasari shares her thought on this first-time event.

Some of my friends in Wageningen, like Suzy Brandon, Lea and Tabi, went to Amsterdam last weekend to join the March for Science. This event was a protest against Trump’s administration in the US that routinely shows a blatant disregard for science.

Looking back, I would like to scrutinise what kind of science I would wholeheartedly march for. Will I march for science? It depends. Just using the word ‘science’ is not specific enough for me, because there are awful, unethical and dangerous forms of science – and I do not mean the subversive type of dangerous, but the lethal type of dangerous. I will share my personal experience on this matter.

When I finished my master’s degree, I was asked to assist in research on the social-economic recovery of disaster victims in my hometown, where a mountain had just erupted. I was shocked when during my first meeting, the scientists of this research team – mostly economists – complained mercilessly about how stupid and lazy the disaster victims were. ‘They have a beggar mentality! They are too dumb to understand our intention to help them!’ said these economists.

According to them, this was the reason why their business plan to recover the economy was rejected by the community. My blood was boiling when I heard them loudly scorning, condescending and blaming the disaster victims. I wanted to pour lava into their filthy mouths and minds. And they said they were scientists.

In disbelief, I wonder what kind of science allows them to behave as such. How their label as scientists could let them get away with such an attitude that does not hold the slightest spark of empathy. What kind of science buries them in such ignorance of their own scientific flaws and limitations. What kind of science makes them perceive themselves as know-it-alls in their narrow-mindedness. What kind of science restricts them from comprehending that actually, the problem was their faulty business plan, and the community was too smart to let their economy be wrecked by another, not any less destructive disaster.

I wouldn’t want to march for such science.

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Boekenmarkt

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During the Easter holiday, blogger Nadya Karimasari spent her day at the second-hand book bazaar in Wageningen Centrum.

Looking back, it seems weird that I’ve been anticipating the boekenmarkt since the very first time I had heard about it. What did I expect? I knew most books would be in Dutch, a language in which I have no vocabulary other than ‘ik begrijpt u niet’. I also knew that I wouldn’t be buying any, because the books would be most likely collectible antiques or English fiction paperback, which I would not read for the time being – I am staring at you, my beloved piles of research related books and articles.

It’s just the incomprehensible impulse to meet and be surrounded by books, no matter how foreign the written words are.

I marked the date on my calendar, set my alarm very early in the morning, quickly ate a bowl of blueberry yoghurt and granola – which I wouldn’t consider a proper breakfast on any normal occasion. I even skipped my regular ‘Skype Saturday’ morning with my husband in Indonesia so I wouldn’t miss this rare event in Wageningen. I usually have to travel to far-off Amsterdam just to find English second-hand books!

On that cloudy day, I felt a moment of bliss from looking at rows of second-hand book stalls. Where have they all been before? To my surprise, the first stall that I visited was remarkably suitable for my studies – and my wallet. It was a very small collection of an ecology student at Wageningen University, but it comprised the must-have anthropology textbooks. Every single book had to go through a long and thorough examination by me, as I had a difficult time to decide which one not to buy.

With such a high degree of book compatibility between me and the seller, I wondered for a split second what it would be like to see each other more often and having endless conversation about … books? Would it be like what people often said about the comfortable feeling of ‘meeting an old friend’ in a new person?

Like a snap, I was immediately brought back to reality by the sight of a beautiful sound story book that I eventually bought for my son.

more pics: here