The Dissertation Prospectus (Hidden Curriculum #6)

For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking the dissertation prospectus: what it is and how to write it.

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Congratulations, you’re a PhD candidate! You might be either celebrating the fact that you are done with exams and coursework or tentatively wondering, “Now what?” (Or both.) 

While you are definitely free from the constraints of courses and teaching, there still remains one final hurdle before you’re really free (aka ABD): the dissertation prospectus. In this post, I offer some general guidance for navigating this onerous and often inadequately explained requirement.

Writing the dissertation prospectus doesn't have to make you feel like this guy
Writing the dissertation prospectus doesn’t have to feel like this

Prospectus Timeline

As with everything, the timeline for writing and submitting the dissertation prospectus may vary somewhat from department to department. However, in general, there are certain steps that you usually must follow before officially changing your email signature to include “ABD” (all but dissertation).

These steps are, roughly:

  1. Assemble dissertation committee, including deciding on a chair or co-chairs, and submit through appropriate channels
  2. Consult with committee members about dissertation topic and possible approaches
  3. Draft dissertation prospectus
  4. Defend prospectus (aka meet with your committee members to discuss your draft)
  5. Complete revisions and submit prospectus to department for final approval
  6. Start dissertating!

This post focuses primarily on writing the prospectus. If you want to know more about how to approach other steps in this process – such as how to choose who’s on your committee or how to prepare for and what to expect at a defense – let me know!

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3 Steps to Implementing Antiracist Pedagogy (ARP)

I have talked about antiracist teaching on here in the past. This week I want to delve deeper into why I think antiracist pedagogy (ARP) is important and some ways that we can implement it in our classrooms.

I’ve always been skeptical of diversity and inclusion initiatives that include offering more courses that might ‘appeal’ to people of color and draw them in. This manifests as offering or amplifying existing courses on ‘race and ethnicity,’ on ‘slavery in the ancient world,’ and on the relationship between ‘barbarians’ and Greeks and/or Romans.

In the absence of more structural reforms, I have always viewed such an approach as a trap. 

Courses on these topics are absolutely necessary (although certain choices in vocabulary are not) for exposing students to alternate perspectives, ones which both challenge and complement dominant narratives about the ancient world. Without such perspectives, our understanding of the ancient world would be incomplete.

However, when implemented poorly, these courses reflect a persistent two-part illusion. 

Plastic vases from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens
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BIPOC, POC, or Black?: A Note on Terminology

Last week I came across this tweet about the term ‘BIPOC’:

It reminded me of when I raised the question of what term people preferred to use when referring to people of color: BIPOC, POC, non-white, or some other term. I raised this question because even then there were mixed feelings about the use of ‘BIPOC’ when discussing the experiences of people of color.

I was genuinely surprised at the results (most people preferred ‘POC’) and the discussion it prompted. 

I’ll admit that when I first created this blog, I wasn’t 100% clear on how the term should or had been used. It was a new and thought-provoking term that I thought was more politically correct and inclusive than POC (which I now realize is part of the problem). 

Like most people, I didn’t do my research and just made the switch without really understanding the significance of (and problems with) the term.

When I asked POC studying the ancient world on Twitter last December to share who they were and what they studied as a way of signal-boosting historically excluded groups in the field, one individual claimed that using the term ‘BIPOC’ in my call for contributors was ‘insulting’:

Even now, it seems like the animosity toward the term remains. 

So, I figured that, since I continue to use the term in conjunction with this blog, it was time to set the record straight:

What does ‘BIPOC’ mean?

Where does it come from?

How should (and shouldn’t) it be used?

A Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020
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