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Posted on Tuesday 24 February 2009 at 11:04 am

HELP: I need a word

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I'm working on my proposal for my grant application. The proposal essentially amounts to a five-page summary of my dissertation (little picture), why what I want to do is important and others should care about it (big picture), and how this specific grant would help me accomplish all that (justify the money). I've got the sections on little picture and justifying the money down pretty well. I keep hitting a snag on the big picture part.

In a nut shell, my big picture argument is that I'm looking at the interplay between group ethnic identity formation and individual self-identity formation and that while I'm looking specifically at the Dutch in colonial New York the theoretical arguments are much more widely applicable. My argument is that previous scholars, especially of the Dutch in New York, have focused on group identity formation and largely ignored the interplay with individual identity formation, which has caused them to misunderstand the role of ethnicity in general. Prior historians have seemed to argue that group ethnic identity existed and you could either embrace that identity or be a traitor to your ethnicity (that's a horrible over-simplification of their arguments, but you get the idea). I want to argue that group ethnic identity existed more as a theoretical crazy mesh of various ideas, customs, institutions, beliefs, etc. floating around, but that in the real world individuals had to choose which pieces of that identity to embrace in their own lives and which to ignore in order to survive in a world that had multiple different cultures living side-by-side. This could result in conflict between ethnic groups as well as within a particular ethnic group. In my intro paragraph, I have the following sentence in an attempt to provide the quick overview:

"The culture and customs of an ethnic group became a SOMETHING from which individual members of the group selected pieces to incorporate into their self-identities, and often members of the same ethnic groups would embrace or ignore different elements of their shared culture."

I don't know what to call my SOMETHING. Melange is the closest word I've come up with thus far, but I've already used it once in the paragraph and I'm not sure it is quite what I want. I looked up melange in a thesaurus and there wasn't anything useful. Miscellany, hodgepodge, mishmash, and assortment just don't fit or don't have the weight I need. I've debated using some type of analogy, but can't come up with anything that works.
Feeling: Working
Exploring: Barnes and Noble Cafe
Listening: Chatter in the background


What's Taters, Precious?
mrstater at 4:37 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Melting pot? Alphabet soup?
bratty_jedi at 4:58 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
I've thought about those kind of things and I'm not sure they'll work. Melting pot is so overused I'd rather steer away from it. I'm afraid of coming across as trite. Some kind of soup analogy is one of the things I was playing with, but I can't find a way to make it work, in large part because every bowl of soup taken out of the pot would have essentially the same contents. Soup works better for the creation of one culture group identity out of the elements thrown in by various sub-cultures. It doesn't work as well for the other end, individuals pulling out different elements of the created group identity.

I've had a couple of modern historians tell me that there is some post colonial literature on late nineteenth and twentieth century history that addresses these same issues. One of my fellow grad students just told me to check out this one book in particular that talks about group ethnic identity as a big pile of bricks and individuals pull out different bricks to build their own walls. That is kind of what I'm going for, but I can't use that without having read the book and citing the author, and I don't have time to do that for this proposal since this thing has to be to my advisor today and in the mail by Saturday. I'll obviously look at it and probably incorporate it into the dissertation itself, but that doesn't help me today.
What's Taters, Precious?
mrstater at 5:00 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
What about a salad bar or buffet?

I'm sorry if I'm not being helpful!
bratty_jedi at 5:32 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
A buffet or pot-luck might work. Something about ethnic groups brought dishes to the table and individuals took away plates of whatever they want and might favor some of the dishes provided by their own group but not exclusively so and which dishes of the group were favored would vary from person-to-person?

You are being helpful! I promise!
What's Taters, Precious?
mrstater at 5:33 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, pot-luck, that's probably much better than buffet. That seems like a sensible analogy to me!
bratty_jedi at 5:50 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Awesome! I'll try to run with this for now. It might be a bit too involved of an analogy for the five-page paper, but I'm not sure yet. In either case, I'll definitely keep it in mind for the dissertation itself.
Calyndra Ralline
calyndra at 5:25 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Collective? Or would that be too Borg?

In Educationeese we refer sometimes to the backpack or treasure chest of experience, which is a similar concept on a smaller scale.
bratty_jedi at 5:38 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
Collective sounds a bit too uniform, like everyone must subscribe to all the principles rather than the pick-and-choose that I'm aiming for (assimilate or die?).

A mixed bag of candy from which everyone could pick their favorites or the treasure chest of toys at the dentist's office when I was a kid is something else I was playing with which might be kind of like your educationeese experience stuff.
labellerose at 7:39 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)
psitutor at 9:20 pm on 24 February 2009 (UTC) (Link)

Thesis Reading Group

your dissertation sounds very interesting. and your outline sounds as though it will be a piece of cake for you, unlike many students you seem to know what you want to do and have not turned it into an octopus.

Also, to let you know about an online Thesis Reading Group at

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