Back from Hiatus

I’m back today from roughly a month’s hiatus, which I spent working intensively on my dissertation. I plan to maintain a regular blogging schedule through May and the summer, though some travel this week may prevent me from resuming daily blogging until the weekend.

It’s good to take a step back from this project, but I’m returning to blogging with a few more frustrations than when I left. The big advantage of what I write here is that I can react rapidly to events and add a little meaning, context, and analysis to them, with a lag of as little as a few hours in some cases. An academic journal article, in contrast, might take as long as two years from the time of submission to the time of publication. The big disadvantage of blogging is that almost all of what I write day-to-day is provisional or, at worst, inaccurate or irrelevant in light of later information. I’m simplifying, I admit; there are a slew of options and genres in between the academic article and the blog post. In general, though, longer-form, better-researched pieces take more time to craft, but offer deeper insights into trends and the long-term meaning of events. All this is merely to state the obvious, but also to say that my evaluation of the trade-offs among different media has shifted a bit. At present I’m less satisfied with the blogging medium than I used to be; I would like to find a way to present information more holistically.

In the short term, I’ll likely stick with the blogging model I’ve been using: quick reactions to events as they occur. In the medium term, I plan to start experimenting with different ways of presenting information, including visually: the Syria Files at Syria Deeply offer one model of how to make crucial contextual information available, accessible, and compelling to readers (viewers?). At the same time, I am wary of duplicating content already available at Wikipedia, BBC country profiles, etc. I welcome suggestions from you on how to make the site better and how to diversify its content without reinventing the wheel. What kind of content would someone new to the Sahel need, that is not available, or not well presented, already?

Turning to other matters, during April I wrote two pieces for World Politics Review: one on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan (April 2), and one on Chad‘s role in (and announced withdrawal from) Mali (April 16). A few other external pieces are in the works; I’ll post those here as they come out. I should be back by Saturday at the latest with more news-based content.

6 thoughts on “Back from Hiatus

  1. Welcome back! Understand your sentiments about the limitations of the blogging medium completely.

  2. This might sound kind of crazy, but just as a break from the analytic newsy side of writing (particularly if you are writing a dissertation- ack! my fullest sympathies!), maybe you could do little thumbnail sketches of what the countryside, people, festivals, daily life is like in the countries that you visit in the Sahel. What is it like to buy meat? What are the roads like? How are people dressed? How does it smell? You could get descriptive, or merely poetic, and maybe you don’t want to do this but it would give you a chance to use a different part of your brain and give those of us a picture of the Sahel beyond our own old memories or news footage. And you could even be humorous! Let us in on the local jokes.

    Glad you’re back.

    • This is a good idea, and thanks for suggesting it. I’ll give it some thought – might be an area where bringing in guest posters would be good.

  3. Welcome back!

    I use this blog to stay abreast of news and get your sifted analysis coming from many sources, so while you may be frustrated by the short form nature of blogging, you’ve been providing a great service that’s not available elsewhere on this region.

    I really appreciate your link roundups, as you scan more news sources (and languages!) than I’m able, so I hope that you keep up with those– even if it repeats some of what could be found on Reuters. It makes a difference to have someone knowledgeable culling the most useful links and adding some context about reliability.

    I’m not sure I agree with the above poster who is asking for descriptions of countries & peoples, as that sounds too National Geographic explorer for me, but I would appreciate magazine-style ‘in depth’ snapshots on various political and cultural trends, something like a more serious, studious combo of Think Africa Press & Africa is a Country.

    Have you considered soliciting more writers?

    Perhaps another example of a blog you migth want to look at is Ajam Media Collective, another regional-focused blog that manages to combine some very deep analytical articles on politics with some fun fluff. http://ajammc.com/

    Best of luck and thank you!!

  4. I agree with Jane in both how I use your site and her suggestion about the snapshots of various political/cultural trends. Depending on your interest, maybe you could even occasionally branch out to discuss how events in the Sahel are impacting other areas of the continent and the rest of the world.

    I can definitely understand some of your frustrations as well, but know that you have been providing a really incredible service. Plus, I think a large part of it might simply stem from the immense complexity of your chosen region of specialty…events in the Sahel seem to take more unpredictable turns more quickly than just about anywhere else. I’m sure that whatever route you decide to take, you will continue to provide a great end product. Best of luck with your dissertation.

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