Literature reviews

It has been quiet of here late because I have just put the finishing touches to the literature review chapter of my thesis. While it has been about 4 months in the making, in reality, the bulk of it was written since Friday last. I have been off work all week and spent the best part of Easter weekend at it too. As I type, there’s a first draft being printed off for review later today. It goes to The Supervisor on Tuesday next and it is also in fulfilment of the GY802 course I have taken.

The process of compiling a literature review involves one significant discovery about myself and formal geography writing. It is not a literature review, it is my literature review. Instead of thinking that all the available literature on political secularism, secularisation processes, socio-legal definitions of both and the geographies of faith and religion have to be read and commented upon, I have realised over the last two weeks or so that it only the literature that I believe to be relevant to my questions that are up for this ‘review’. This might take one person 20,000 words, it might work for as short as half this for another person. In any case, I am left with five sections in addition to the introduction. These are:

  • Subtraction stories – where I take issue with mainstream social scientific understandings of secularisation processes
  • Why secularisation needs space – an examination of  Berger’s concept of legitimations as a way of opening up more spatial accounts of secularisation processes
  • Who’s public and which private –  a way of bringing forward the inherently political nature of the secular
  • Scale and secularisation – how Marston et al.’s flat ontology of scale might be adapted to a normatively-constructed secular, public space
  • Geographies of secularism and faith – the ways in which geographies of religion have attempted to spatialise the religious

Building on these, I ask my main research questions. I will admit that I am nervous about handing this on. It is the culmination of at least 18 months reading. I also have a tendency toward trying to shoe horn this, this, and this into most paragraphs. I guess that is what this afternoon’s revision is about. As I went along, I was heartened by the fact that I could recall ideas and arguments that I had rehearsed in my head over the last year or so and build them into a fairly well structured discussion. Mendeley desktop was a God send in this.It is definitely worth investing the time and energy getting your reading into an application like this. Thanks Stephen. I’m happy to walk anyone through its use.

The GY802 course that has just finished has also made me realise that writing large sections of text is about taking on others’ arguments. If they’re published, they can be argued against and I have very little to disabuse me of the notion that because they’re published means that they cannot be criticised. It’s a liberating feeling and makes me feel like like I have a niche in this section of geographic thought. Right, the printing is finished. I’ll be back here on Sunday with some of the stray ideas from the document. Oh, and the CIG is on (PDF) next weekend. All I need is a paper.

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