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Feeling like I'll stick out


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I'll be starting a PhD program in the fall at a fairly well-regarded and rising program in the US.  The majority of the emphasis in the program is in the American subfield (more than half of the prospective students were in American) and they'll likely have an emphasis on IR in the next few years as that wing rebuilds.  I'm a political theorist with an emphasis on the history of political thought.  There will be one, maybe 2 other theorists in the program with me, so I won't be alone in my subfield, and there's one guy who will be in his 4th year when I start.  No other grad students will be working in the history of political thought specifically.

 

Political theory is very different from most of the rest of political science, functioning more akin to a Humanities discipline than a traditional social science.  I'll be taking statistical courses and methodology training along with my cohort and will put that training to use in coursework for my 2nd field (likely American), but realistically when I'm writing my original work there won't be any place where statistics or any quantitative component fit in.  

 

I'm worried as I get closer to moving and starting grad school that I'll stick out within my department, be the outsider, doing something completely different from anyone else and viewed in that way.  Is that what theorists are like in your programs? 

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I think sticking out is a good thing. Why would you want to be doing what everyone else is doing? Probably more relevant when it comes to publishing, but who cares if you are not doing American or using Methodology like everyone else? In my experience, the intense theory people were held in high regard because we thought they were smarter than us (and they usually were). 

Edited by anxiousphd
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Is it one of the good programs for theory? I thought the theory market was horrible?

 

It's not a top theory program, but there are a handful of good, decently known people.  And yes, the market is horrible.  

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Well, at least you are going into it understanding that the market is horrible.  From my MA program where everyone else is either gone (no longer taking classes and therefore barely around) or focused on policy (while I am CP/IR), I can tell you that it does make for a lonely academic experience.  If there are faculty interested in your research that will be a huge plus (for me both IR people took leave as I write my thesis).  Overall despite different research interests you will still find at least some classmates you have something in common with (and you can also make friends in the history/philosophy dept if your school has one), and even for those who do have shared interest, dissertation writing, etc can still be a lonely time (from nearly everyone I've talked to).  I'd also recommend having something in your life besides academic work even if it is just playing rec volleyball, or dungeons & dragons, or karaoke night (whatever your thing is), it tends to give your brain a chance to process what you're learning and is also useful for managing stress (not to mention a social outlet).  
But generally, having different research interests won't make you some odd black sheep excluded from conversations and social gatherings... I wouldn't worry about that :) 

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I give you a lot of props for pursuing this. Your dedication to the subject will be your guiding light. You are going in, have thought the pros and cons of the situation and have made an informed, rational decision. I respect you for it and wish more people would adopt your mode of thinking.

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I give you a lot of props for pursuing this. Your dedication to the subject will be your guiding light. You are going in, have thought the pros and cons of the situation and have made an informed, rational decision. I respect you for it and wish more people would adopt your mode of thinking.

 

Thanks.  I wrote in the Doubt thread about a little spiel about needing to have 'the fire and the guts,' for the experience and the study alone to be enough, and it really is for me.  As to placement later on, so much is who you know and who they know, and the good thing for me is that both my undergrad advisor, who I'll stay close with, and my likely grad advisor are both Harvard PhD's who studied under Judy Shklar, so I'm tapped into that legacy.  I know that I can write and think that I've got some original ideas and links between works that I'll be able to get published in journals and possibly even up to book form.  If I'm well-published and meet the right people, I'm fairly confident that something will come along, and if not, then I'll have some backup work planned (though the girl I'm gonna marry will be a doctor, so finances won't be too huge a concern).  Right now it's all the ride though.

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Thanks.  I wrote in the Doubt thread about a little spiel about needing to have 'the fire and the guts,' for the experience and the study alone to be enough, and it really is for me.  As to placement later on, so much is who you know and who they know, and the good thing for me is that both my undergrad advisor, who I'll stay close with, and my likely grad advisor are both Harvard PhD's who studied under Judy Shklar, so I'm tapped into that legacy.  I know that I can write and think that I've got some original ideas and links between works that I'll be able to get published in journals and possibly even up to book form.  If I'm well-published and meet the right people, I'm fairly confident that something will come along, and if not, then I'll have some backup work planned (though the girl I'm gonna marry will be a doctor, so finances won't be too huge a concern).  Right now it's all the ride though.

Jackpot! haha.

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