The Best Defense is a Good Offense
I defended my dissertation prospectus today from 3:15 pm to 3:30 pm. Seriously. Yes, my program is apparently fake. But this is how I looked:
ALL IN 15 FUCKING MINUTES. I was prepared, and I answered everything, and conceded points where I know I must be more sensitive to fine distinctions and possible false conflations. I wish that my program was like a real graduate program, in which the committee actually knows about your area of research. I think I got slammed by the questions asking me to conceptualize law as entitlement vs. law as proscription on behavior and all of the normative legal questions because neither of them were familiar with organizational theory or sociolegal studies (legal consciousness, mobilization of rights, etc.). I am actually surprised I got useful comments, but glad that I did--all in 15 minutes! However, this did serve to remind me that however far I spin off into sociology or organizational theory, I have to keep firm doctrinal hook, and remember that I am at the end of the day making arguments about law. Talking about how people respond to the law is not the same as talking about the law itself, and as I want to be a law professor, I have to remember my audience. And myself and my own legal training. What are the normative legal implications? What legal prescriptions? What does my project say to lawyers, judges, and administrative agencies?
All good stuff, although so intense I feel completely shell-shocked. I am pleased to say though, that I had a response for everything, including the honest one of "my project is theory generating. It is one aspect of the project to tease out the mechanisms of market and legal mandates on organizational compliance." This is how you survive paper talks and, probably, the AALS meat market.
I wish I could say with certainty "I totally rocked it," but I think I did as well as I could, and I won't know for a week or so whether or not I passed. I do think that I am at a more advanced stage of my dissertation (I have a draft prospectus, have begun preparations to do the fieldwork, am writing the literature review) than most people in this program. Everyone else has spent this last year doing coursework and figuring out what topic they want to do. This is why we were only required to turn in a 1 page prospectus. I have 30 pages. I spent the year taking methods courses, both qualitative and empirical. I supplemented my legal education with courses on organizations from the business school and sociolog department. I had my topic going into this first year, and I spent the year refining the project into something feasible with identifiable independent and dependent variables. I'm golden, right?
My task now is to actually do the thing, and remember the disciplinary framework I must situate every theory I generate and every conclusion I come to: the normative, legal framework.
Okay, that's all. Just wanted to let you know how it went. I think I passed (seriously, how can you fail to advance someone based on 15 minutes?) but I won't hold an "I advanced to candidacy" party until I know for sure. I am risk-averse like that. Also, superstitious, but don't tell TD.