Monday, May 23, 2011

The Tattoo Paper!

So below is the tattoo paper.  For those who are not Jane - I'm posting it here because many people who took my survey expressed interest in reading the final product.  It's really long, about 18 pages, so I've also made PDFs of it and the appendix (which contains surveys in full which I quoted) for easier reading.  PDFs can be downloaded here (paper) and here (appendix).  Enjoy?  Also, I have a Creative Commons license on this blog, so please do not take my work without crediting me?  Thank you!

American Studies and the Survey

One of the reasons I have been so stressed over the La Malinche paper is because - shocking news! - I am taking more than one class this semester.  Two of my classes required major research projects for their completion.  For my American Studies course, I went on a somewhat different journey.  While I did stick to women, I ended up writing about modern American tattoo culture and the perceptions of the female body within it/due to it.  I researched a lot of history and theory about tattooing and the female body, but I also wanted tattooed individuals to recount their own personal stories so I could include them in my paper.  I made an online survey and ended up with over 1800 replies.  This will all be explained in depth in the paper (which will be posted on this blog shortly).

But there was another aspect about the survey which really threw me off.  When I made it, I expected about 20-50 responses.  Obviously, I got far more than I bargained for.  This is a completely new field of research for me - I am used to dusty books and online databases, not individual responses.  The survey I made was a bit flawed.  One person pointed out to me that some of my questions were leading, which I completely understand.  I was very clearly trying to gather answers which would make it easier to prove my thesis, which was a bit shaky at the very least.  

The thing that was really surprising, however, was the amount of responses I received.  I spoke about the phenomenon in a footnote in the paper:

Simply said, I did not expect such an outpouring of assistance  Not only were nearly 2,000 members of the internet community willing to fill out the survey, but many of the responses went into depth about personal experiences.  These were not yes or no questions.  Various survey responders expressed regret in not being able to give more thorough answers because of their own limited experiences, wished me luck in the paper writing process, and requested to see a finished version of this project upon its completion.  Many talked in depth about the meaning of tattooing in their own lives, its views in society, and considered the implications of gender within tattoo culture.  The popularity of the survey and peoples’ willingness to discuss body modification was astounding.  At one point, it was tempting to completely switch the topic of my paper to analyze why people would be so willing to take time out of their day to talk about tattooing.  Though this is not the point of my paper, I would like to question what it is about tattoo culture that makes most people extremely willing to discuss and display their modifications.  Or does this immense response have something to do with internet culture in general – having a forum where someone is interested enough in you to follow your blog and care about what you have to say over the other six billion people in the world?  The survey itself felt like a Wallace ‘special-for-me’ experience.  People answered it as if they were speaking directly to me, and many left their e-mail addresses offering a way to contact them for more information if necessary.  In the end, with only a little over a week to complete this paper, I was not able to read every single response.  While the answers were ‘special-for-me’, their reception to date has not been.  In the future, I would be interested in analyzing a large portion of these replies, but it was not possible for the exploration of this paper.  The answers I will be quoting for the most part come from question number six: “Do you think your gender presentation affected the stranger’s decision to touch you?  Do you think they would have acted differently if your gender presentation was different?”  This question really seemed to get to the heart of the problem I am attempting to analyze, and the answers to this particular question allowed me to sort the responses in the most efficient way.  The magnitude of response, however, has made me think about the degree of importance in my research and whether this survey will be useful for future projects within my academic career.    

This form of research was eye-opening to me and made me a little glad that my normal sources are not members of the internet community.  Although the surveys were very helpful, it was incredibly overwhelming and sometimes frustrating to read them. 

And I will be posting the paper next!  And stuff. 

It has been a difficult few weeks, but at least it is over?  Yes.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post-Paper Thoughts.

Having nearly a week to step away from the final paper has not done too much for my nerves. Writing (and even more so, revising) this paper has been one of the most stressful experiences during my time at Bard. I cannot begin to image what senior project is going to be like - I cannot even think about my project topic right now because sometimes it feels like it has already taken over my entire life. Which it somewhat has.

Overall, I am happy with how my paper turned out. It is, of course, weak in some aspects. Working on finals for so long made revision even harder to deal with, and in the end I only did about half of what I wanted to do. However, I am really proud of the work I did on identifying the ideas behind historical exile/exile from history. I had not realized how unclear this idea was until Tabetha pointed out the flaws in my original wording (historical exile). I guess it became a term that I made up out of nowhere? People do that, right? And if I am going to continue on this track with my senior project, defining terms is going to be really important. It just sort of blows my mind that I came up with this terminology just to be able to write this specific paper for a very specific class, and it somehow worked. The magic of liberal arts! (Emphasis on the liberal.)

The other part of the paper that I spent a lot of time reworking was the conclusion. With help from Jane, I went in an entirely new direction and kind of attacked the Oxford History of Mexico. It was by far the most pleasant part for me to write after the definition of exile from history. The things that do not need citation really get me typing quickly and thinking even faster.

After working on these two sections for a long time, I gave up. I spent about a day thinking I was done, that I could not do any more. And then Tabetha informed the class that she was extending the deadline – to today, actually. I knew I was leaving, but something about that e-mail gave me the push to put another couple hours into the work. I ended up working from an entirely new source. Of course it turned out to be one of those situations where I wondered why I had not used it from the beginning. But it worked out! And that is what is important!

Overall, I have had an interesting semester trying to get through this paper and on to the next step. I have about a third of a bibliography for my senior project and a lot more direction than I did at the beginning of this semester. And of course, I learned how to research a lot better! I could not have done half of this work without Jane teaching me all about research. I actually ended up also helping a few of my friends out.
So yes, a couple more posts to go. I am going to switch gears for a bit and talk about another form of research in my next post! Until then.


So we survived the rapture, but more importantly: this paper has been done for nearly a week.  And here it is:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Yeah here it is, my first draft of my La Malinche paper.  Jane, I hope I have humored you enough.  Title is: The Enemy Within: The Transformations of La Malinche within the Twentieth Century Chicano Movement

Oh boy.

Jane said that I can start blogging RIGHT NOW.  I am very far behind, so I probably should.

Yesterday, I handed in the first draft of this scary paper to Professor Ewing.  We had a five hour course aimed at peer review, so that should be helpful in the near future.  Jane is currently sitting next to me and reading my paper which is SCARY.  This is a lot like how I felt last night when my peer-review partner was scribbling all over my paper.

It's like a baby, a little bit, that I put a lot of time and effort into that is now getting torn apart.  I know this is all in the name of being helpful and making my work stronger, but review and revision scares me!  I barely ever do it (don't hate me, Jane!)  There's something about producing a work which makes me never want to look at it again.  It's like: "There, I've done what you've asked of me.  Can I go now?"  But the answer is always no, which is a bit annoying and a bit disappointing.  Why can't I be one of those magical people that turns out a perfect essay on the first try?

The writing process was a lot of things.  Tedious and boring but also easy and fast.  It went back and forth between "what the hell am I doing?" and "damn, I know my stuff."  I kept having to find new sources and eliminate ones that I thought I was going to use heavily.  My paper went in strange directions.  I forgot that I didn't have a real conclusion until I handed it in, which was obviously an "oh well, too late" moment.  I panicked a lot over the whole thing, but somehow it ended up being alright.  I was scared 23.5 pages would not be enough but some people showed up with 16.  I was happy with how alright-sounding the whole argument went, although I was able to recognize the holes and issues with transition in my paper.  And of course, now I have a lot of revision to do.

I'm not sure what my revision will entail, but I have some ideas.  I should not be afraid of clearly and wordily fleshing out my argument.  I know that I tend to be vague.  Tabetha told me that I should argue with myself about La Malinche's voice not being present in the historical record because her actions are present.  This made me think a lot about the power of action and agency, which I had already fleshed out a lot in my Octavio Paz analysis.

BLARGH.  That is how I currently feel.
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