This year, I finished my 144-page, 40,000-words master’s thesis. I have never written anything so long in my life. It was 6 years of off- and on-work. I left graduate school for a long time after being broken down by an abusive relationship, and I had to request special exception to continue in the program. Since then, I have been working full-time and trying to launch my own theatre company, plus training in the circus and trying to get my life overall on track. I spent countless evenings reading 20-page academic papers just to write 1-3 sentences in my thesis (isn’t academia fun?). I stared at Excel spreadsheets far longer than normal. I spent hours transcribing interviews with awesome people. And finally, on September 7 of this year, I successfully defended my thesis and was approved to graduate with my Master’s in Cultural Anthropology, with a concentration in Film Studies.
I’m very proud of the research, which included a unique combination of media effects research with ethnography. This was, as far as I know, the first paper to approach bullying from this combined perspective and to bring respondents’ narcissistic attributes into conversation with their attitudes toward bullying. My findings were that people with such attributes were more likely to pay attention to the effects of bullying behavior, and that people who were exposed to media portraying bullying were more likely to identify it as such.
I produced one short documentary on bullying as part of this research, and I hope to continue my visual anthropological work post-degree, albeit independently. While I do not plan to seek a job in academia, I do plan to use what I have learned to hopefully effect real social change in the movement to stop bullying. This is the power of anthropology when applied to real-world issues: to inform people why they do what they do and empower them with knowledge to change it.