I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton.
My research intersects economic and environmental anthropology, resource extraction, and social theory. Before joining UNB Fredericton in 2016, I was a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Program in Agrarian Studies. I earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Carleton University. I am writing a book about gold mining in Colombia’s northwest, which uses labour-based ethnography to explore the informal economy.
I am very happy that the latest special issue of Nokoko is out, with a focus on diaspora. Wangui Kimari and I edited this issue, with some great articles, including our Editorial Note.
One of the pleasures of editing Nokoko is the breadth of submissions. One of the challenges is editing a special issue amidst such plenty, while remaining committed to publishing all cogent contributions. This issue brings together three articles for a special issue on the theme of the African diaspora conceived broadly: cutting edge work which addresses the Somali community in Toronto, the meta-physics of migration found in transnational African cinema, and the displacement of black communities in the Pacific northwest of Colombia. Bookending these are four articles, which demonstrate our breadth: a reading of oral poetry as text and a thick description of a festival as theatre, both from Nigeria; a critique of closed caption television and policing in Johannesburg; and, from a promising new scholar, a review of the colonial legacies which lead to the genocidal violence in Rwanda.
My short article on getting a tenure-track job just came [out] in the newsletter of CASCA:
> Until June 2016, the plan was to move into my parents’ unfinished basement with my wife and our young son. It was a bad plan, for obvious reasons. But it was the only plan we had. I felt defeated by three years on the ‘academic job market’, and I was broke. A SSHRC postdoc in the US when the Canadian dollar fell to 68 cents had proven to be a financial disaster. I told myself that 2016 would be my last year looking for an academic job.
Blaise Pascal, apparently, wrote in a letter in 1657: “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte,” or "I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” The expressions, often misattributed to Mark Twain, means it is harder to write in a few words what could be written in a few pages.
Many of these Writing Tips have been about how to get the energy and motivation to make writing a habit. I’ve had less to say on how to write well. I have some tips for that, too.
One challenge that I have in revising is that when I read my words on a screen, my mind fills in the blanks: I read what should be there and not what is there. I skip words that don’t fit, and I add words that are missing.
Writing is hard work. The first five minutes are often the most difficult. But, if there’s a deadline looming, a dissertation due, or a monograph months behind schedule, sometimes keeping at it is even harder. You’ll need some writing tricks to push through, especially when stopping while the going is good is not an option.
Today will be short because it’s Friday and Fridays are busy at Yale: I have meetings—or preparation for meetings—from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. How to write when you have no time? How to write when you are too busy?
Easy: Write less and start earlier.
When I did my Ph.D., I used to think anything that did not push my text was a case of—self-diagnosed—"thesis procrastination." Procrastination is many things, and it might be helpful, but my self-diagnosis was misguided. I was wrong because I included reading for pleasure in the list of what counted for procrastination.
I want to tell you one of the most important things I have learned about making writing a habit.
Slowly, I am learning to separate the time to think about a writing project from the time to write the project. When I write, I want to focus on the words and images and people and not get lost with questions of structure. Now, I make an outline.
The hardest part of any task is sometimes the first five minutes. Starting sucks. The last thing you want to do is make that initial push harder. So, try to decide on the day's task before sitting down to start on it.
I got a lot of work done in January by doing one task a day. Writing a book is not “one” task, it is the result of hundreds of smaller tasks. When I thought about the book as a whole, I got quickly lost in what Jessica Abel calls the dark forest. By concentrating on doing just one thing to move the book forward and then stopping, I was able to come back to writing with renewed energy every day.