Monday, November 19, 2012

On positionality statement

I finished writing my positionality statement PS (just the first draft) and I want to share my experience with it. The first issue I want to share is about the content, or what to include in the PS. This was the easiest part. I knew what I wanted to write way before I started writing. I have to say I enjoyed writing my PS because it is a more reflective and casual kind of writing than regular academic writing. I liked expressing myself more freely than usual and sharing my thinking process rather than the fruits of my thinking. 

However, I think it is kind of difficult to figure out where to stop and how much self-disclosure is too much or potentially detrimental to your academic identity. I mean is it okay to say things that might suggest that you are not so confident, that you have reservations, or that you feel insecure? Going in the other direction is equally undesirable. How do you know if you are not self-serving and self indulgent or if you sound suspiciously over confident? 
I'm thinking that finding this balance between sounding too insecure and too pompous is one thing that can be fixed based on the feedback you get from your readers and by reading more positionality statements. The problem there is that PS is a rather nebulous genre. I found all kinds of PSs out there so it is quite difficult to make inferences regarding the genre requirements, genre options, what to include or the right tone for it. 
In my PS, I answered seven questions inspired by the British psychoanalyst Paula Heimann's (1956) questions suggested as guidelines for  analyzing the patients’ speech in psychotherapy sessions in her article Dynamics of Transference Interpretations. The questions I answered were: Who is speaking? To whom is this person speaking? What is this person saying? What is the purpose of this person? Where and when is this person speaking? How is this person speaking? And, finally, what is this text? I do not know to what extent these can be helpful to others but these are the topics I discussed in my PS. 
So that answers the content question. When it comes to the right tone issue I found reading the text aloud quite helpful. I also put the text aside for a couple of days and read it later. Sometimes I write things because I am in a certain mood and then when I read the text some other time the words sound off or weird. So reading the text again after a while helps me understand what does not sound right.
In addition to content and tone I also had to think about the language itself. I found it quite difficult to write well when I tell an anecdote because it kind of requires a register that I'm not so familiar with. I wanted to do something somewhat experimental and at the end of my PS I told a complex personal anecdote and what a story I had encountered meant for me. I wish I were but I'm not a story teller. I do not feel comfortable writing in narrative form--creating a scene, telling a story. I do not know if I am making any sense but in terms of the content (what I wanted to write) I found writing the PS very easy but when it came to form, register, language or whatever you want to call it, it was very challenging for me. 
This experience made me realize that there was a gap between what I wanted to express in narrative form and my ability to do so. I might be in trouble :-) since this is going to be a narrative research and I will be writing narratives of everyday events, which I surprisingly find more difficult than writing a regular academic piece. The problem is that I do not always know how to express the concreteness of everyday events and their details, I cannot always imagine what the audience can visualize and what I have to show them. I find it very challenging to make other people see what I see or feel how I feel. Anyway, it is complicated and difficult. I guess reading more literary work can help. I will try this to improve my narrative proficiency (ha ha as if we do not have enough proficiencies and competencies in SLA and applied linguistics here I am coining a new proficiency). 
Anyway, I think the final product was not as bad as I make it sound here. But my husband's reaction to my PS was "You write so different from what I'm used to [he is a linguist]. If this is writing, then I wonder what it is I write. I kind of envy you. This is not the Turkish way, it is not the English way either. It is quite unique to you." I was pretty sure this was not a compliment. Ouch, right? Well, I take pride in being different and unique so I got over it eventually. 
I made some revisions to make things clearer and sent my PS to my advisor but I have to admit that I was a little concerned. Anyway, he read and commented on the document very promptly. In the email, he wrote "Interesting!" and told me that his comments were in the attached document. I decided I hated the word 'interesting' because it really said nothing. I mean it was not even clear to me if it was a positive or a negative adjective in this context. The time between reading the body of the email and opening the attached document to see my advisor's comments felt very looooooong. Fortunately, everything was okay. Phew! I had to make revisions of course but nothing to worry about so I could move on to the other sections of the dissertation. Soldiering on.


  1. Compared to yours, my writing is dull!

  2. I don't think that is true. I think I owe you an apology Engin. I do not think I represented your feedback fairly in my blog entry. You said many nice things about my writing that day but I only wrote about the one that sounds negative. I guess negative events are more salient than positive ones. Sorry about that. You always give great feedback and I sometimes think you are way too easy on me.