Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Diss - Dessert - Desert - Elation - Frustration - Desperation - Dissertation

So I am writing my dissertation these days. The working title is "Did the truth commission in Sierra Leone, accompanied by trials, have a substantially different impact from the truth commission in Liberia, with the absence of criminal accounting?" 

I got the idea for the title from the discussion in Neil Kritz's article 'Policy Implications for Empirical Research on Transitional Justice.' (Merwe, Baxter & Chapman: Assessing the Impact of Transitional Justice, 2008) The author is discussing the role of research in policy choices. For instance, he says there is a "clear need...to find ways of disaggregating the different contextual factors and different transitional justice components at play in any particular case." So he suggests the following research question "Did the truth commission in Argentina, accompanied by trials, have a substantially different impact from the truth commission in Chile, with the absence of criminal accounting?" (p.15) 

I took the question and exchanged Argentina for Sierra Leone and Chile for Liberia.  

It is safe to assume that it is not a very sexy title. Some academics really try to be witty and clever and succeed, too:
  • "Truth-Seeking, Truth-Telling, and Postconflict: Curb the Enthusiasm?" 
  • "Homo Economicus Goes to War: Methodological Individualism, Rational Choice and the Political Economy of War"
  • Civil War is Not a Stupid Thing: Accounting for Violence in Developing Countries
  • "The Dark Side of Democracy: the Modern Tradition of Ethnic and Political Cleansing"
  • Not Breaking the Rules Not Playing the Game International Assistance to Countries At War
  • The Dark Side of the Force
  • "A Rational Kind of Madness"
  • Kicking Away the Ladder Development Strategy in Historical Perspective
  • NGOs Beyond the Magic Bullet
  • Surviving Capitalism How We Learned to Live with Market and Remained Almost Human
If academic articles and books were food, their witty titles would be garnishes.  As you can see there's a bit of Stanely Kubrick, Star Wars, James Bond, psychology and pop culture in these titles. Gosh, I never realised how inspirational films can be for academia! 

So, if I want to have a sexier title, I guess I should throw in a classic movie reference, some pop culture and garnish with Latin. I am going to come back on this one. It will be cool to have a less boring title than this one. 

As my friend (also from SOAS who graduated already with a VCD degree) has so eloquently advised me: "These bastards get impressed by the first impression they get and some of them I doubt would read the whole thesis." He was actually referring to the introduction and making it as academically crisp and sexy as possible but I can surely extend this advice to the title too! 

In the meantime, I need to forge on ahead and find out where is the justice in transitional justice. 

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