Personal Research Project I'm Really Excited to Do is Also Too Depressing

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Sheepfish, Mar 24, 2020.

  1. Sheepfish

    Sheepfish New Member

    This probably won't make any sense without some background information, so. Here it goes:

    I'm currently on a gap year while contemplating some grad school choices, and unfortunately my senior thesis paper is a bit off topic from the type of grad school thesis I'm currently considering, so I'm thinking about writing yet another scholarly paper and submitting that instead. My current idea boils down to "my autism headcanon thread post except it's a 10+ page paper", which, suffice to say, I'm perfectly happy to dig up scholarly sources for!

    The not-so-unexpected complication of that is that the prerequistite research requires a lot of reading through books about portrayals of autistic people in literature, which, so far, involved a lot of segways into "look at how the neurotypicals dehumanize us!" or "look at who's constructing the popular narrative about autistic people! (hint: it's not the autistic people themselves)", which are valid and important points, but which are also... profoundly depressing. And I'm not even selecting for sources that are unsypathetic to autistic people - I've been sampling books by autistic people, cousins or allies whenever possible!

    It's so profoundly depressing that I feel that it's hampering my progress on this thing I really want to work on, because my brain is blue-screening at the state of (the lack of) autism acceptance too much to do more productive reading or writing.

    I do also realize that many of my emotional reactions are not responding to what the author is acutally saying; for example, I'd read something along the lines of "(presumably neurotypical) critics identify [character x] as autistic because of their stereotypical ideas about autistic people which are blatantly untrue" and think "okay, so am I (an autistic person) contributing to our own dehumanization by headcannoning someone as autistic presumably based on criteria similar to the thing you're calling out???", which doesn't help.

    The questions here:
    - Should I continue to do this thing?
    - If so, how can I do it without compromising my sanity?
    • Witnessed x 3
  2. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    I mean, but honestly, isn't that part of what your paper would be about? "Here are how people who aren't autistic - and, often, don't see us as fully human - view us in media. But here is how we ourselves see us reflected in the media we consume."

    It's not wrong for us to look at media, and see a character and go same hat!! Even if it's because the character is doing something "stereotypical." Because I don't think it's actually the stereotypes that are wrong, per se, but the attitudes the viewer is bringing to the table.
  3. latitans

    latitans zounds, scoob

    i don't know precisely what field you're in or where you're studying, but when i applied to grad school in the humanities in the US, i didn't find that my BA thesis was expected to be closely connected to whatever my dissertation field would be. it had some similarities (topic was broadly in the field of history of religion, material was from two of the culture groups that i study, interdisciplinary methodology), but the methods and types of questions were quite different from what i'm doing now, 4 years in and getting ready to defend my dissertation prospectus.

    this is all to say that if this project becomes too overwhelming, you don't have to do it before grad school. you may even find it easier to look into the topic within the framework of grad school research--it can encourage a type of separation, i suppose is the best way to phrase it, from the topic. like, you get so into the nitty gritty that the big heart-filling reasons that you got into the thing in the first place sort of fade into the background until you intentionally take a moment to try to find them again.
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2020
    • Agree x 3
  4. Sheepfish

    Sheepfish New Member

    Sorry for the (by forum standards) late reply - it turned out that the precise problem I have with doing the research project is somewhat rooted in my emotional responses which make no sense and I have difficulty articulating, but I'll try to do my best to explain?

    So for some background information: got my BA in Comparative Literature in the US, and am currently thinking about applying to a grad school in Japan. I think part of the problem is that while I very much like to be in Japan for personal reasons, I do have to wonder if applying to a school in the US (or elsewhere) would be a better academic idea? But... I really don't want to stay in the US more than I have to?

    And... unfortunately, I really don't think submitting a paper on Ragnarok and Climate Change to a Japanese Literature program would be as good idea, although if I really don't have the sanity left over to actually do an autistic interpretation of a Japanese book, I suppose I will have to do that.

    That is very much what I hope to do with the paper, but from what I've heard it's apparently a Bad Idea to openly admit that you're autistic when you're trying to apply to a grad schoiol in Japan, so... I don't think I'll get to utilize that specific argument in the final version of the paper.

    The other problem is that I'm having difficulties on an emotional level engaging with the sources I want to be engaging, because 1) my monkey brain keeps interpreting "it's okay for autistic people to read characters however they want actually" as "they're only going to let you off the hook because you happen to be brainweird", and 2) I somehow pattern-match the Bad Thing the authors are criticizing as a thing I am doing - even though last time I checked I wasn't, for example, propogating theories about how autistic people are subhuman because we lack Theory of Mind? (I think this is the analogue of when I'm reading an angry tumblr post about how Straight White Men are the root of all evil, and I get upset even though I am none of those things)
  5. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    okay, solely addressing the Stereotypes Are They Bad Shit

    short answer: nope!

    longer answer: i don't think stereotypes, in and of themselves, are intrinsically bad. they're just a thing all people do, where we only see snapshots of people, and we build categories and pattern match from there. and when it comes to being part of some in group (and i mean any in group, it doesn't have to be a minority, or even something about idpol), we also communally build our own ideas of like. what the snapshot of a [x] person is by us.

    the big thing that goes wrong with stereotypes is 1) not letting people exist as full human beings within them (boiling down a person to only the stereotypical behaviors they engage in - or, on the flipside, denying that someone could belong to x group because they don't engage in stereotypes) and 2) an outgroup superimposing their bigoted, dehumanizing views of an ingroup via their stereotypes for that group (ie, like, all racist stereotypes)

    the second one is kinda wishy-washy, ngl, because it relies a lot on like theorized intent, rather than concrete examples, sorry

    but basically like. okay i am a bisexual and i am polyamorous and i am afab and currently presenting as a woman - is it somehow my fault that unicorn hunters exist, seeing as i'm theoretically their ideal target? is it somehow my fault that people have weird horrible ideas about whether or not bisexuals can be faithful, and i'm "proving them right" by not being able to "commit" to any one person?

    and as another autistic, like - i say stuff like "autistics are the most attractive neurotype" and... yeah, looking at the history of all my crushes, that sure is a thing that is true for me? am i, what, fetishizing other autistics??

    no, i just really like people who are similar to me! but i mean, yeah - if i knew someone was allistic, and they said things like "autistics are the most attractive neurotype" yeahhhh i'd be kinda uncomfortable? because there's definitely an us vs them mentality going here, and i'd like to know what about autistics as a group are so attractive to this person. which like, puts people like you who don't want to be out and open about it irl kinda in a bind, yeah. i don't have good answers for that either, sorry

    i realize the shame spiral (or whatever horrible emotion dominates for you here) is hard to break when you start going I Am Having BadThink but... i really don't think people looking at each other and saying "i see me in you!!" is a horrible act of dehumanization

    re: the actual paper - you don't necessarily have to out yourself, you could frame it as "this is what self-identified autistics (who are definitely not me) see reflected in media about themselves - and media they see themselves in, even when that's not in the text"?
    • Agree x 2
    • Informative x 1
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