February 28th, 2017

kiri win

A Good End to a Stressful Day

Please remind me to never organise a workshop or a conference ever again. It is questionable whether the amount of stress that organising this legal theory doctoral workshop is adding to my life is proportionate to its potential to enhance my CV. Unlike my usual stressing out over trivial things, I am stressing out over a legitimate problem: I don't have a venue for the event. I can't book a room at the law faculty because of exams. I can't book a room in college because of exams. I just submitted a request to this centralised venue booking system and received loads of offers - but they are all vastly over my budget. This is incredibly frustrating. I should have bloody applied for faculty funding when this option was available late last year but 1) I hadn't committed to organising it; 2) I was lazy; and 3) I didn't think that it would be held during the exam period, so I didn't consider how venue might be a problem.


(For my CV, obviously.)


Anyway, on a more positive note, my stressful Monday turned out pretty well. First, I scored 96% for my French test. Guess what my reaction was? Hint: I am Singaporean. It is biologically ingrained in us to care about grades. And so my reaction was, 'BLOODY HELL WHAT'S IT GONNA TAKE FOR ME TO SCORE FULL MARKS?'

I don't even know what I got wrong. It was probably the du/des/de la/de l' bit. Or the aux/au/a la part. I basically conjugated present tense verbs like crazy, memorised them, and forgot about the 'some' and 'of' bits of the grammar test. My studying method is so incredibly Singaporean: memorise the day before, regurgitate on the day itself, forget everything afterwards. Well done, self.

Second, my presentation/discussion group session also turned out rather fun. I was a nervous wreck just before it started, but seeing friendly faces helped: John, Ivan, Daphne and Edward (so nice of them to come along), Barry. Announcing my fear of speaking in front of a group of people also helped. Diffusing any potential tension or embarrassment due to lack of intellectual words coming out of my mouth by laughing, smiling and/or cracking a self-deprecating joke also helped. Of course, these two tactics worked only because it was an informal setting; I won't announce to a group of complete strangers or actual professors that I'm afraid of public speaking, and neither will I make any attempt at humour; or rather, I would probably minimise the humour.

But it was what it was, right? And I think it went pretty well. It's quite fun when people are gathered to discuss my work. I think the two most incisive comments came from John and Josh. John challenged my definition of a constitutive community (which I stole from Appiah) and Josh wondered if I wasn't using an empirical description of a person to do the normative work that I want it to do. I'm not sure how to deal with these two comments but that's the whole point: to invite comments, think about them, and improve the work. The paper was a really rough draft anyway (reading it over to prepare for the session was nightmarish as I spotted so many typos and missing words), and I'm not entrenched in my views yet, so everything is open to revision.

Apart from that, Edward pointed out a very practical issue I need to address: Singapore's economic liberalism versus its social conservatism. I probably need to clarify that I'm only addressing the latter.

So two things I took away from it: first, my PhD needs to be more rigorous; and second, when all else fails, fall back on my charm. I don't want to write too much about my PhD, save to say that the theories that I engage with somehow seem like easy targets; this concerns me a bit. As for the second point, I don't know how I come across to others, but I am beginning to realise that it's not as bad as I envision it in my head. After the session was over, Tom said I did really well, and if I hadn't announced at the start that I was nervous as fuck, nobody would've been able to tell. So I suppose this means that people's perception of me is more positive than my own judgement of myself and how I come across when speaking in front of a group of people. I suppose I am a bit too biased by this lifelong fear of public speaking, which I am trying to conquer - slowly, but surely.

I was also pleased that Tom specifically praised the writing when he was giving me comments. It is (obviously) important to me that my work maintains a certain level of good writing. Most of the time, when I am cringing over my papers, the thing that makes me cringe the most is the shitty writing; but for this paper, I consciously ditched my old stuffy academic style and went for something more...I don't know, I would say literary but that's definitely an overstatement. Something more stylistic, I suppose. But the topic of the paper lends itself well to a more creative style; it's theoretical, semi-philosophical, so I could take some liberties.

In fact, over dinner, Ivan commented on the semi-autobiographical feel to it. I suppose that's also what I enjoy about this issue (conception of the self, how our identities are formed): it's almost a personal reflection and I inject a lot of myself into the arguments, using my own experiences as examples. But that makes sense, right? I can only speak from my own experiences; I can't use the experience of a black person because I don't know what that is like, and so I won't purport any authority on the issue. So yeah. It's interesting.


I have been sleeping rather badly the whole week. I had dinner and drinks with Ivan, John and Josh last night, and came back with a headache, and the headache prevented me from a good night's sleep, and this morning I woke up at 7.50 for no bloody reason, and so I am quite tired now. This entry isn't particularly well-written but well, we can't always be perfect, yeah? I need to do the dishes, shower and get to the library.