I’m the Girl Talk of Philosophy

So I am the Girl Talk of the thesis world.  I do mash-ups.  That’s my thing.  I make my living off of taking other people’s work and smushing it together into something on which I put my name (not without giving due credit of course).  But really, I am taking the thought of a 13th century Japanese Zen philosopher and comparing it with a contemporary feminist thinker of technoscience.  That’s like combining “The Hallelujah Chorus” with Missy Elliott.  And, I can groove to it.  Without getting hit in the head or knocked on the ground like the recent Girl Talk show here at Bates.

But the most interesting thing about the comparison of my thesis to mash-up music is that the critiques of both ventures are the same.  Concerning mash-up music, debates have been circulating concerning the question of whether a mash-up song should be considered new or not.  Is a mash-up song authentic?  Is it “real” music?  Or is it simply two previously written songs placed together into something that is less novel than it is a rip-off.  And what does it mean that computers are so fancy these days that any Joe-shmo can take two of his favorite songs and layer them together?  Does that count as authentic?  Or does one need to have a certain knowledge about music, about both the songs, about how sounds and beats and rhythms work together?

I face some of those similar questions in my thesis writing process.  Can what I produce be considered “original” or “new”?  What about authentic?  Am I just taking from others?

Unfortunately, because Girl Talk just needs a record deal and I need not to be torn limb from limb by feminists, I have to make sure my methods in this process are unassailable.  While thinking two songs are awesome and then having the artists approve their use works for Girl Talk I can’t exactly put that same approach into my methods: I think Dogen and Donna Haraway are awesome and their works are published so I’ll make sure to cite them properly.  That won’t fly.  I need to contextualize these authors’ thoughts in their specific historical times.  Which means I’ve read A LOT about 13th century Japan and A LOT about America post-WWII.  And what have I learned so far?  I have learned what makes what I’m doing so difficult and GirlTalk has no idea.

The problem with what I am attempting to do is that I am alive.  Yes, I’ve discussed this with my advisor, this is actually real.  The problem is that I’m alive.  How do I fix that problem and still finish my thesis?  However, this is a problem that all historians supposedly face- we’re alive and the people we’re talking about often aren’t.  So we can’t ask the Coolios for permission to use track 13.  I cant ask Dogen if he’s okay with what I’m doing because he’s dead.  And I can ask Donna Haraway- and maybe I will once I get a more solidified thesis idea but the fact of the matter is- I’m alive and Haraway’s alive and Dogen’s not and we make an odd threesome.

But I’m optimistic.  I’m learning a lot about both thinkers and the times in which they existed.  I also learned that I hate Ronald Regan.  So here I am: the mash-up philosopher who’s making friends and influencing people.  And hating on Ronald Regan.  Only with thesis.