“They” tell me that doctoral students are not allowed to attend vivas. In fact, the only Viva a student would ever attend is their own. Thus, I was already grateful for the opportunity to sit in… albeit as an observer. I found the experience of seeing a fellow student’s viva an eye opener, even if it was to see what I need to be prepared for in the ‘distant’ future.

Of course in a usual (western) critical landscape a viva should not come as much of a surprise. However at SAIACS… we are still building our skills of critical thinking in public. Our doctorklub, a seminar for doctoral students and faculty, is still a work in progress (and progress I think it is doing). But also in the MTh level, I think more and more students must get used to presenting and defending their views in front of difficult audiences. I know these ‘critical space’ models are highly western… ie. they fit within the western way of working… but assuming that it is something that we have inherited… to excel within a schooling system… both institution and people need public spaces of discourse.

Of course… I’ve been looking at Acts 17…where a public space of discourse (the Areopagus) was just a space of indifference (where people just loved (according to Luke) to talk for the sake of talking). And I guess no one wants that. The ideal public discourse is the discourse that is aimed to strengthening us all… in pushing the bar of knowledge… in engaging our minds more deeply… and to be corrected.

Back to the Viva… without going into the details… to maintain both the privacy and confidentiality of the process… I think it is fair to say that there was much to be corrected. Two critiques stood out… the need for more Indian sources and thinking… and a clearer methodology. I liked what one of the faculty said to the student; you may not implement everything that we suggest here… in fact… somethings you must implement, but others you may choose to do so… but the amount you correct will determine the difference between an average to an good thesis.

I think of my own viva… which seems further away than the last days! but I feel that I’ve had a huge advantage not only of seeing such a process but of being exposed to so much methodology in my discipline. I feel that I am on the right track… I feel I have some clarity over what I need to be doing… the only left to do is start.

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