thesis writing practice part 1: a playlist.

In less than a week, I’ll be defending my thesis. I got the comments back from my examiners earlier this week and the defence date (December 13th 2018). Prepping for my defence has led me to think about my writing practice and my time in academia.  

Dancing and writing have always been a major part of my life.  For me, the two are often interwoven, and if I spend time doing the one, it often consists of me doing the other. 

Before I started my undergrad, I lived in LA and worked as a pop and locker dancer. When I danced in LA, in-between classes and rehearsals, I would read or write. While I wrote my thesis, in-between writing sessions, I would dance. It might not be obvious (although I think it shows in Chapter 2) but music and dancing was a central part of my thesis writing practice.  

While I wrote my thesis, there were specific songs I would turn to, some motivated me to keep going, some fit the theme of my thesis, others helped me work through my ideas, others are just old favourites that I enjoy dancing to. I curated the songs into a Spotify playlist (click here) and listed them below.

I also added a few rambles here and there, some are about the songs, others are about my time in academia. In some instances I highlighted the lyrics that spoke to me or posted the video.

1.  Welcome to the Party – Diplo, Zhavia Ward, French Montana, Lil Pump

This song is from the Deadpool 2 soundtrack. This was my “pump-up” writing song. I would dance to this song whenever I needed to motivate myself to write. I’ve often jokingly said that Deadpool inspires my academic work. I like Deadpool because his a ludic type of figure who breaks down the fourth wall. He’s also an unconventional superhero. His attitude is something I wanted to apply to my thesis. 

2.  I Give You Power –  Arcade Fire featuring Mavis Staples
3.  Bodak Yellow – Cardi B

4.  Re-Education (Through Labor) –  Rise Against
5.  Protest – GoGo Penguins
6.  Push – Rich Aucoin

This song kept me going when I was feeling down. The rhythm is also perfect for the style of dance I do. I’ve also seen him performed a few times. He brings out a parachute in his shows. Playing parachute with complete strangers in a bar creates an interesting type of community. I’ve always left his shows feeling hopeful.

7.  We The People – A Tribe Called Quest
8.  Corporation – Jack White
9.  HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
10. Let’s Work – Prince
11. Stand! – Sly & The Family Song
12. R. E. D – A Tribe Called Read featuring Yassin Bey, Narcy, Black Bear
13. This Is Not A Game – The Chemical Brothers featuring Miguel
14. Under Pressure – Queen featuring David Bowie 

I don’t mean to reduce the original meaning of the song,  but the lyrics

 “It’s the terror of knowing what the world is about
 Watching some good friends screaming
 ‘Let me out!’
 Pray tomorrow gets me higher
 Pressure on people, people on streets”

took on a new meaning in graduate school. I enjoyed my MA experience, but I saw a lot of my friends and colleagues be negatively impacted by their time in academia. I think academia, as it stands now, is inherently competitive and anxiety inducing. It was hard to see it affect my friends and colleagues. I think everyone I met in my program deserved to be there, but “imposter syndrome” is something else. 

Imposter syndrome hit me hard. I still don’t think that I “fit in” in academia.

I drafted my introduction first and chapter 1. After drafting chapter 1, I realized that I had to accept I would never fit in, and make my own way. I know this sounds cliché, but once I accepted that I didn’t fit in, and decided to do my own thing, things got easier and that’s when my project started coming together. 

This blog is a result of me deciding to do my own thing. The different unorthodox elements of my thesis,  such as the acronyms on the first page of each chapter, are also a result of me deciding to do my own thing.

15.  Electric Pow Wow Drum – A Tribe Called Red 
16.  They Don’t Care About Us – Michael Jackson 

17.  Dance Yrself Clean – LCD Soundsystem 

“So go and dance yourself clean
Go and dance yourself clean, yeah
You’re blowing Marxism to pieces
Baby, they’re arguments, the pieces”

18.  Turn Into the Noise – Patrick Watson
19.  If It Be Your Will – Leonard Cohen
20.  The Violence – Rise Against

21.  The Phoenix – Fall Out Boy
22.  You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind) – Buffy Sainte-Marie
23.  The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron
24.  Nina Cried Power – Hozier featuring Mavis Staples 
25.  This Is America –  Childish Gambino

26.  Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
27.  Get Up, Stand Up – Bob Marley & The Wailers 
28.  Hands Up – Blood Orange 
29.  Musicology – Prince
30.  i – Kendrick Lamar 
31.  Everyday People – Sly & The Family Stone
32.  Democracy – Leonard Cohen 
33.  Earth Song –  Michael Jackson
34.  Fuck Tha Police – N.W.A 
35.  Batshit – Sofi Tukker 

36.  Make America Great Again – Pussy Riot 
37.  I Wish – Stevie Wonder
38.  What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

39.  Franco Un-American – NOFX
40.  Praying – Kesha 

41.  I Shot The Sheriff – The Wailers 
42.  Man in the Mirror – Michael Jackson 
43.  Power In The Blood – Buffy Sainte-Marie  
44.  First We Take Manhattan – Leonard Cohen 
45.  Nowhere Fast – Eminem featuring Kehlani 
46.  Hey Kids! (Bumaye) – Run The Jewels featuring Danny Brown 
47.  Transgender Biscuits – Fantastic Negrito 
48.  I like It – Cardi B featuring Bad Bunny and J Balvin
49.  Get Up Offa That Thing – James Brown
50.  Better Now – Post Malone 

Don’t judge me! I was going through somethings. I have a not so secret love of Post Malone.

51.  Severed – The Decemberists 
52.  Mathematics – Mos Def 
53.  Murder The Government – NOFX 
54.  Wasted on Each Other – James Bay
55.  Dance to the Music – Sly & The Family Stone
56.  1000 – N.E.R.D & Future

57.  Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Against Me! 
58.  Papers Planes – M.I.A.
59.  Money – Cardi B
60.  I want to Break Free – Queen 

61.  Fight The Power – Public Enemy
62.  Scream – Michael Jackson featuring Janet Jackson 

63.  Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen 

When I decided my proposal was ready to be submitted, I was seating in a hostel in Toronto at 2:00 am in the morning listening to this song. I  was attending CUPE’s yearly national conference. It was somewhat of an oxymoronic experience. Here I was thinking and working on Rancière’s concept of dissensus at night, and during the day I was engaging in politics in a very bureaucratic way. I’ve listen to Cohen’s music since my early teens. I find I always return to him when I’m stressed.

My love of his music eventually got me to engage in his poetry, engaging with his poetry eventually lead me to other Canadian poets. I remember going to Chapters to buy his book Stranger Music when I sixteen and also coming back home with bpNichol’s book of variations: love – zygal – art facts.

64.  (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang – Heaven 17

LCD Soundsystem release their on version of this song on November 2nd 2018, the day I submitted my thesis.

65.  Bullshit Anthem – Fantastic Negrito

“Take that bullshit, and turn it into good shit
 Take that bullshit, and turn it into good shit
 Take that bullshit, and turn it into good shit
 Take that bullshit, and turn it into good shit”