Observations on Hong Kong
19 October 2021
It has been said that a poem is never finished, just abandoned. Academic writing has a touch of that too. The visions and revisions it has taken to get a text into decent shape could always do with one more run through, one more update, one more check for meaning and style. It is true also of research. It could be – it is – endless, but one must just stop somewhere otherwise the writing will never get done. If one is doing research on contemporary issues, a decision must be made about what to include and when to end the period for analysis. The process of selection and exclusion is one of the skills of judgement in research and writing one seeks to learn, test out, pass on, but always facing it afresh with each new project. For as Borges illustrates so well with Funes the Memorious – who remembers every detail but knows nothing of meaning, which only comes with generalization – without selection and exclusion, no sense will be possible. And if this is a concern that applies to research on current issues, it applies even more to historical research, since in addition to the question of when to stop, there is the much more challenging question of when to start. Each event, each effect, has a range of causes, and each of them in turn a further range. And so selection and exclusion – methodology – become key to making any sense, contested as that will always be. In the end perhaps, all you might say about your research and writing is that there are better and worse ways of abandoning it; and that what is offered in the text is the best you are able to do for now. ...Click here to read the full article.