While preparing to write this introduction, I reflected on all of the different introductions I’ve performed throughout the past year: introductions to new professors at Syracuse University, to my new class of popular culture undergraduates, to new first year graduate students, to acquaintances at parties. These are all introductions I plan. I decide how to present myself and prepare to posture myself in specific ways depending on the group. What about the introductions that I don’t plan, though, the introductions that precede my formal planned oral or written enunciations? By this, I am referring to the introductions that swirl around in discourses outside of my control. In what ways does identity, or assumed identity, act as an introduction to my personhood before I even utter a word? How does my body, that of a young white female Ph.D. student, signify for me in a way that I can only attempt to control? How does my writing style or vocabulary use indicate something about my education or my regional affiliation and in what ways can these assumptions prove problematic?
A mentor professor once told me that, when teaching, it’s important to become an exaggerated version of yourself in order to let your teaching style merge with the other facets of your personality. But I must ask, how does one decide which aspects of that “self” are appropriate to let shine through and how do those decisions affect others who are also in processes of introduction? I constantly think about these questions in my own classroom as I attempt to create a comfortable environment in which my students and I can talk freely about our interests. One of my main goals is to get my students to think critically about the world around them and the ideologies of the texts that they consume. In order to do this in film and popular culture classes, there is a lot of posturing that takes place. To talk in this way forces students to identify as liking something and, in doing so, they are inevitably forced to reveal something about their taste. This leads to the utterance of many qualifications: “I hate to admit it, but…” or “This is embarrassing, but…”
I must be reflective about how these types of conversations force students to introduce an aspect of themselves, and therefore a condensation of themselves, in a way that might make them uncomfortable or reveal something about their personhood that they are not quite ready to reveal. One must consider how taste is tied to (or is perceived to be tied to) hegemonic notions of gender, race, sexuality, class, etc. and be conscientious of the ways one presents themselves as well as asks others to do the same. Introductions are inevitably bound up in a posturing that is dictated by the very necessity of having to consolidate one’s self into small descriptors and all I’m asking is that we remain self-reflexive about this process, how we present ourselves, how we ask others to do the same, and our expectations of the outcome.
With that, I introduce myself to you: I am a third year English Ph.D. student at Syracuse University where I study and teach film and popular culture. I am a HASTAC scholar. I am interested in new media and shifting forms of authorship as well as representations of the Midwest in sitcoms. I love my research as well as my teaching. I completed my BA at Western Michigan University with a wonderfully supportive group of professors. I am also defined by my experiences outside of academia: I am a daughter as well as a sister, I grew up in Edwardsburg, Michigan, I like to Netflix binge-watch, run and bargain shop.
So, I extend the question to you, the HASTAC community: Who are you and how do you grapple with this knotty genre of “the introduction”?