Monthly Archives: February 2016

Weekly log: Feb 29 – Mar 6

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the weekly log thing. After Chinese New Year I haven’t prepared myself for doing research – that’s been almost two weeks. Teaching tasks have taken some time away from me this semester. My last presentation didn’t go well in Thomas Wong’s postgraduate seminar, and it took me a while to figure out what I have been doing.

Feb 29

I also include suggestions and thoughts from previous weeks in today’s log.

  1. Research is a social activity, so connect with your reader. That means, the merits of a research paper lie more in its ability to convince its readers. This will require the researcher to have clear writing style and follows the convention in research community. It is also the researcher’s responsibility to consider counter arguments to make her argument more convincing. Talking to more people about her research will also help, because then she will have a better sense of the questions people might ask, thus better deal with reviewer’s critiques. You will need to constant make good argument to build your ethos, and people will gradually have trust in you.
  2. I learned this lesson after an incompetent presentation of my thesis in postgraduate seminar. People were unhappy of my proposed use of “auto-ethnography” and the two comparable cases I gave them. In fact I was aware of the methodological issues, possibly even better than some of them. My data was much richer than I presented to them. But I failed to show them I know this. Thus I felt they were not taking my argument seriously, because I didn’t take the presentation seriously myself. Research is not only about reporting what you have found, but also about making people accept your report. In fact, the latter is perhaps more important at my current stage of career. In the past few months I’ve been too happy with my imagination, but my imagination is nothing because people won’t take it seriously. This is why Dr. Tian said the way some researcher in mainland China does their research will impede their later career. “You should write those things only after you are established.” Dr. Wang Liping had a similar point when I said I wanted to work on theory as The Social Construction of Reality
  3. Write as you go along, everyday. For the following reasons – (These tips are from The Craft of Research)
    • Write to sort your data, your reading so you won’t feel everything is in a hopeless muddle.
    • Write to encourage your best critical thinking. Writing is thinking by itself.
    • Write so your life will be easier when you are drafting later.
    • Write to understand your source better.
  4. Sort your data along your argumentThis is connected to my problem in writing literature reviews. I tended to spend too much time reading every single word in a reading. But this is unnecessary, as I only need to take the key argument in a paper and sort it along my argument. This is where Dr. Tian will suggest “project-based reading”.
  5. Do not critique a source until you can summarise it. Self-evident.
  6. Significant problems are those that changed our way of looking at things. Great researchers are those who can propose great problems.



Weekly log Feb 1 – Feb 7

Feb 1

  • Read three papers on narrative / contingency by 孙立平,卢晖临 and 黄宗智 respectively. Now finished reading all reference papers Dr. Tian gave me, but haven’t sort out a clue yet. Need to do some “deep reading” tomorrow.
  • Bought several books on Chinese history / Hong Kong. There are several pairs that might be interested to read together
    • 王绍光 《超凡领袖的挫败》 VS 裴宜理《安源 發掘中國革命之傳統》The two are both on “revolution”. Wang discusses Mao’s failure in Cultural Revolution and rejects- at least partly – Weber’s theory of charismatic leader. In his discussion, people joined the revolution not because of Mao’s charisma, but because their rational calculation. [Haven’t read through for supporting details.] I haven’t read Perry’s book, but she seems to discuss around culture elements in mobilisation during CCP’s early years.
    • 刘兆佳《一国两制》VS 阎小骏《香港治与乱》The political reality of  HK is more complicated and less romantic than I thought, especially after I learnt how HKUSU had treated 叶璐珊. Student Union disturbed council meeting again and posted mean posters  all over campus, exhausting my last sympathy towards then. 我几乎要被逼为自干五了。
  • Talked to Tian about my project. She suggested me 1) write a reflection journal and 2) conduct survey.
  • Methods – I still haven’t understand what “narrative” means in an epistemological sense, and how to conduct research if I take this standing. Should re-read Tian’s ICS paper.
  • On reading: project based and learn by doing. If you just read broadly this is not very efficient.
  • On managing long-term project: be organized and create order to yourself! — Very Important Point
  • Afternoon – David Shambaugh delivered an one hour lecture in 11/F Social Science Chamber. Basically he restated his “China might crash if no political reform happens” argument as in this WSJ article –  He has a new book coming, in which he discusses four possible pathways for reforming China. See reading notes on OneNotes.
  • Modernization literature. I came to a glimpse to this part of literature twice today. First was when hanging out in University Bookshop, scholars are trying to discuss liberalism and Chinese modernization. This is a conference paper collection published by CUHK press. Second was when David Shambaugh mentioned Samuel Huntington, and I found an ASR review article by Ronald Inglehart –  Previously in Dr. Sida Liu’s memoir-like article 《芝大留学往事》he talked his interest in modernisation problem when he graduated from PKU. Now I had a thread to go on…

Feb 2

  • Edgework Katie presented on postgraduate seminar today. Key (theoretical) word: edgework, cocaine use, white collar boxing. She proposed a concept of “edgework capital” and I commented this is a class thing (I asked: who contracted the pleasure in taking risk? Katie didn’t agree and said in fables risk taking was also admired and this is a universal thing). But there might be more sociological potential in it. Say, “sense of control” and “alienation” (someone said this already? See OneNote for notes and reference). Then you’ll have (the classical) modernisation argument. (Reminds me of Pun Ngai’s imaginary chapter on body, time and alienation in her book Made in China. )
  • State, law and economy is a class led by Richard Wong in HKU’s economics department. Bi Ran recommended this course to me. Some of the lectures cover modernization literature in political economy and use comparative-historical method. (See methodological notes today) Syllabus here –
  • Charisma Dr. Paul Joose presented on his 2014 paper on the dynamics of co-construction of charisma by leader and her disciples. It is a three stage rather dull model.
  • Agency is the word of the day! I read later in From Max Weber (Gerth and Mills) about the reason Weber used charisma is to account for discontinuities in history. Frame it another way this would be agency, discrepancy, or contingency. Come back to the introduction of Social Theory Twenty Lecture by Hans Joas, in which he said the three most important questions in classical social theories are 1) what is social action? 2) 3) how is social change possible? It is in this third question that the problem of agency come out.
  • Narrative and history I continued to dig along this line from what Dr. Tian has gave me. The debate in 1994 around historical narratives wanted also to account for agency.
  • Positivism as an ideology is the origin of “the problem” of agency. For if it was not because positivism wants a coherent and generalizable theory, agency and arbitrariness (thus, uniqueness, space and temporality) will not become an issue! See Philip C. C. Huang’s excellent comment on empirical research and theory.
  • How to read theory? Dr. Wang Liping: learn how Weber posted questions and approached them. Tacit knowledge again here. You learnt the styles, the feel of their writing. But what is style and what is feel has not been codified yet. That’s why you can’t teach theorizing but only the content of theory. Week one reading (Richard Swedberg 2012 Theory and Society) denies this but it says nothing actually! It’s like you need to mimic classical calligraphy, or read fictions to learn how to write.