Difficult conversations

So, what do you do?

When people find out that I am working towards a PhD, a natural follow-up question is about my focus. I find it difficult to answer this query, not least because I'm a US American getting my PhD at a German university, in a department titled Inclusive Education, though my doctorate itself will say psychology, and I actually situate my work somewhere between critical social psychology, migration studies, and sociology of education.

These complexities can be waded through, however, depending on time and level of interest. What I find more difficult is negotiating the conversation around my work itself. How I frame my research varies wildly, often based on my own assumptions about my interlocutor's politics, prejudices, life experience, and my own energy level. Am I prepared to be mansplained by yet another white German dude about why national identity is different in Germany because (the following is an estimate of the roughly hundred different ways I've been told this), "immigration is very new in Germany and people aren't used to diversity the same way they are in the US", after I have just said that I focus on national identity and Islamophobia in contemporary Germany? Am I ready for yet another assumption of white solidarity and an encouraging, "oh that's great you're doing research on that, there are so many problems with getting them to integrate," after I've just said I focus on migration and identity? Which version of my life story do I want to offer when I am inevitably asked the seemingly innocuous, "why on earth is someone from New Mexico researching discrimination in Germany?" Yes, why indeed.

So, to allow myself space to work through these and other questions as I do this work and have these conversations, I have decided to once again start blogging. At least this way all the versions of my answers will at some point be available for public consumption. Perhaps I'll just start handing people a card with a link when things get tense, as they invariably seem to.