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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Pages to a PhD: Response to Week 3, Term 1
As a scholar, you're lucky if you can learn to ask questions that have larger, broader implications. I've never felt particularly good at this, but I guess some of it comes with age. You read all of the articles, and then you take a step a back, and suddenly you're asking yourself questions, big questions, you've never thought about before.

What is the purpose of scholarship?

What are we trying to do? Ellie Hisama espouses a belief in using scholarship as a platform for advocacy, in her case, for the advocacy of ethnic and gender equity. Yet advocacy can be turned both ways. Imperialist/colonialist inspired literature which made up the larger body of Orientalist scholarship until very recently, advocated for a particularly troublesome characterization of the Oriental Other. Does advocacy fit into scholarship? Again, what are we trying to do? Present a factually based interpretation of history? While interpretation implies bias, much as advocacy does, does it shade the scholarship as much as outright advocacy?

And if advocacy does have a place in the purpose of scholarship, how are (or maybe just are) we ethically compelled to use that platform as a means to promote our own personal beliefs (ie, feminism, gay rights, etc.)?

We as scholars, and perhaps more importantly artists and scholars, are given a voice few others have as well as, hopefully, the training to clearly and persuasively use that voice. How do we balance the desire to make a lasting impact upon our world with the need for scholarship that remains as unbiased as possible? How do we use scholarship as a platform for advocacy without being subjected and sometimes limited because of labels (ie, feminist musicologist, in Hisama's case the Asian-American feminist musicologist, the queer theory musicologist) that are accompanied by social stigmas?

And I guess the larger question beyond the purpose of scholarship, is who do I want to be as a scholar and a musician? What do I feel morally compelled to do with my artistic and scholarly voice? And how do we learn to embody that voice that is only authentically ours, without being influenced by how the world perceives us?

These are the questions I've been asking after the first few weeks of readings. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

Peace, Love, and Tunes,


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