Friday, August 24, 2012


So, I finally passed Ph.D comprehensive exams.  Unfortunately, while that was a grueling ordeal, which required reading books I would ordinarily have ignored, that does not mean I have a Ph.D yet.  This fun process, which feels as much like academic hazing as our foreign language requirements, is really just the qualifying round.  Research, writing, and dissertation defense come next.  In effect, what I've gone through might be looked at as the academic version of olympic qualifying - it just gives you the right to compete at the top level of the sport.

Next step? I'm taking a week off from serious academic stuff to relax and recharge (and respond to my online students in their first week of classes).  Then I'll figure out how to narrow my dissertation research down to something manageable - I've already decided to drop the Marine Corps from my analysis of atrocities in Vietnam due to the problems in getting sources about the Marine's experience (read Nick Turse's very long dissertation to see the depth of those problems, but basically the Corps just didn't keep good systematic records about potential war crimes).  The issue that I'm facing is that there are sooo many pages of documents, sooo many oral histories to navigate through, sooo many memoirs to read, that its just unmanageable in the time frame I have left to research and write.  That means I need to narrow things down to a set of events or a units to really focus on.

I really don't want to write yet another book about My Lai.  That's a hornet's nest that I just don't want to kick.  The other moderately well-known atrocity is Son My.  I'll have to ponder that one a bit and see what's already out there on it.  As an event, it does have the advantage of being specifically addressed by the documents in the Col. Tufts archive up at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  That's an entry point, if nothing else.

So, what's the weather like in Ann Arbor during the month of October?

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