Thesis Ruminations

At the moment I’m trying to figure out the first step to take in refining my research question.  I think I might go back into the literature to remind myself of what’s been done before, and see what I can add to the conversation on this subject. There are a number of ways I can approach this topic, and I have to decide what’s the most interesting to me.

Thinking this through: I might want to consider and evaluate a relevant debate within sociology – are the distinctions between “culture,” “subculture,” “counter-culture” are still relevant or useful? Some of the ambiguity within my current proposal is there because I don’t really know where I stand here. Those distinctions make it easy to categorize and study people, but we live in a world in which social/group affiliations, cultures, and identities are complex (if the term “counter-culture” evokes the 1960’s in my mind). Can it really be said that, say, the BDSM community is a “subculture” when many symbols of this group have been taken into “popular” discourses – Lady Gaga music videos, for example? Or are there values/ideologies/narratives/practices that are unique enough to locate this group within a sub-category of “culture”?

Similarly, I have to figure out whether or not “women who are into burlesque and could possibly be doing something interesting with gender norms/ideologies of gender, but maybe not, and maybe some are, but maybe some aren’t” count as a “sub” or “counter” culture. If not, is there a better way to theorize what they are doing?

But assuming they do count as a subculture for a minute, I could ask questions that try to tap into the discourse and ideolologies within this subculture. But then there are a number of things that are interesting here. I can figure out how they are relating to “cultural” norms and ideologies of gender, or I can try to capture the “narrative” used within this group (understanding it on more of a “micro” level).

Then I have to find a way to ask questions that aren’t full of academic language and whatever my assumptions might be (not with the intent of eliminating them, since I’m assuming that’s impossible, but with the intent of figuring out how my own location as a researcher/woman/white person/etc. affects what I do). There’s a lot to think about!


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