Knowledge Desire

Yesterday I was considering an application, yet again, for a research grant in Bulgaria. (It is disheartening that American institutes want to fund Americans who are in America and will return there, or foreign scholars, but in no way would fund a new researcher who is an expat.) While doing so I stumbled upon the Bulgarian journal of Sociological Questions. It is the first thing that has actually made me want to move to Sofia. I had romantic imaginings of sitting in a high-ceiling library, and hearing my thoughts echo against the marble floors, and then having dinner or coffee with a tight-knit group of people who are passionate collaborators in the pursuit of sociological understanding. In just seconds I imagined years of debate over nationalism and youth issues, over education systems and sources of political power. I doubt I will act in that desire,  as my loathing of Sofia is too deeply ingrained in me, but it is comforting to know that there are people in Bulgaria pursuing similar academic thought as me, and that not all of the research is conducted externally.

When I found that journal I wanted to have the time to read the whole thing, all 60 years of publication. Now, obviously that is absurd. We don’t read whole journals. We use searches to pick out only the parts that we really need. I will admit that I often do this lazy bit of cutting corners. Yes, I know the keyboard shortcut for ‘find on page’ but sometimes I wish that neither the opportunity, nor the necessity for such scanning was there. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I could devote myself to understanding rather than production- if I had the time to dialogue rather than disseminate.

Of course all of this pointless wistfulness ultimately leads me back, yet again, to a question that has been surfacing too often lately. Why don’t I have the time and freedom to do the things that I love? What is it about society that forces me to become a worker in a job I don’t like, or in a low-paid job that takes all of my energy instead of letting me develop social relations, be a mother and a wife, and give time to issues that I consider important? And, why am I only asking this now, at age 29, when I have been making similar complaints and engaging in everyday resistance since a young age regarding these same issues.

More and more I am considering university, especially university in the united states, to have been a ridiculous choice for myself. The debt that I ‘start’ my adult life with is quite constraining, and ultimately I am unsure if my degree in Sociology will help me in any way in Bulgaria. However, I cannot imagine not being composed of some of my academic experiences. My Shakespeare class that I took freshman year taught me a certain amount of passion, and gave me a schema for inspiration that I still regularly employ in my philosophical and spiritual musings. My Sociology of Utopia course introduced me for the first time to a professor who was crazy with passion for her subject. My experience in  Istanbul has completely challenged my understanding of the world and sociology in general. The courses that I have taken here have made me feel, for the first time in my life, like I am an academic adult. So, whether it was a financially smart decision or not, the time invested in the experience has been worth it, for me. 

I guess this comes back to the tired question of what education is all about. Unfortunately, individuals, society, politicians, and institutions all seem to have very different answers regarding that question. Is education about getting a job? Is it about personal development? Is it about social control and the continuance of hegemonic structures? What is its function?

For me education has been a bumpy journey, longer than usual and with many detours. I usually say that I wouldn’t have it any other way, and although I appreciate what I have learned, I think I would have preferred a more direct, short route, with fewer student loans, or perhaps to have skipped the whole ordeal altogether. 

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