The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The Reading (Half)Year

January 1, 2013

I read. Really, I do. In fact, I read alot. But most of the reading I do, I’ve figured out, is for one of two particular purposes. First, I read to review. The International Feminist Journal of Politics gets about 100 manuscripts a year, and I read about 30 books between the Oxford Series on Gender and IR and the New York University Press series on Gender and Political Violence. I do about 50 reviews per year for other journals and book publishers. I read stuff that my Ph.D. students are working on to make sure they are appropriately situated in the literature. Reading for reviews is largely great – you get to see the cool stuff in the field early, and help think about its development. But its not methodical, or long-sighted. The other reading I do is to write. When there’s something I’d like to write about, I read the relevant literature, looking to learn what I can learn about what others have thought about it from similar and/or relevant perspectives. This serves as a foundation for what I’d like to write. I don’t think, in those terms, I’m that dissimilar from the pattern many of us fall into.

But there was a time, not that long ago, that I really read. I read a good book, then the good stuff in its bibliography, and then the good stuff in those bibliographies. I once read everything in the almost 2000 footnotes in my most recent book, much of it several times. I find myself shortcutting that lately to manage all of the other work – yet find every time I sit down to read something for some reason other than those two purposes inspiring, and completely worthwhile. So, I have a plan(/resolution): to read rather than write for a prolonged period of time.

The plan is below the fold.

Starting July 1, 2013 until January 1, 2014, I won’t write. July 1 is to clear the current writing backlog and keep all promises that I have to people/publishers currently. Every minute I would have used to write, I will read – stuff neither for review or for the purposes of writing, but relevant to the things I think about, research-wise. I will make a list like the list of things to write, set quotas, and make a plan to get the reading done. Other than blog posts, I won’t write about it until the end, or write with it. Suggestions for building the list welcome!

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Laura Sjoberg is British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway University of London and Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Her research addresses issues of gender and security, with foci on politically violent women, feminist war theorizing, sexuality in global politics, and political methodology. She teaches, consults, and lectures on gender in global politics, and on international security. Her work has been published in more than 50 books and journals in political science, law, gender studies, international relations, and geography.