It’s a rare thing to be given a big chunk of time to really dig into one subject. As anyone who’s gone to school, had or job or raised a family knows, your attention is always so divided that total immersion in one topic is impossible.
In the three weeks I’ve been at USIP, I have devoted nearly all of my time to researching Libya, civil society in countries emerging from dictatorship and conflict, and civil society’s role in promoting a rule of law culture. There are, of course, still huge gaps in my knowledge (I remember Professor Barnard telling my Corporations class it takes 10 years of studying one subject to become an expert in that area– right before our exam – I think it was meant to be encouraging), but It’s been kind of exhilarating to be so focused.
My feelings about my time so far here remind me of one of my philosophy professors at McGill telling us about a year she spent on a fellowship. She got a sort of dreamy look on her face and said something like “you just read books all the time, and were around really smart people, and then were all fed good food and talked about what you were reading,” (okay – that was some serious paraphrasing). It’s not exactly the same – my work here is a lot more directed, and the food at USIP is just ok. But I’m doing self-directed research, with the support of really smart people, on topics I am genuinely interested in and it’s my job!!
I didn’t intend this post to turn into a lot of gushing and a couple of professorial anecdotes, but there it is. To round it out, here’s an interesting news items I’ve come across in my days of reading: “Where following the law is radical” - lawyers in Uzbekistan protest a corrupt and repressive government by . . . following the law.