Writing Comps Lists as Collaborative Process

I haven’t updated in a while because I was at CACS in Montreal over the weekend and because I’ve fallen into a dark citational abyss that is preparing my comps readings lists. In my program, there is no set canon of texts from which you are expected to choose; rather you put together your own lists with your supervisor. I’ve been doing a lot of reading of other people’s cultural studies lists online, and talking to as many people as possible about their experiences with this process. It strikes me that, as a process of citation, preparing a comps list is actually a super collaborative process that extends way beyond the student-committee relationship, but for some reason, there aren’t many social or technological mechanisms in place to make this collaboration happen. Sometimes asking people about their comps lists, or to share their comps lists, feels like asking them to do something deeply risky and revelatory, like singing Karaoke in public. One thing that I plan to do other than blog about this process is add a section to this site with links to online comps resources that I’ve found helpful, as well as my own lists (once they’re finished).

My Comps Areas:
Major General: Media and Culture (program defined): culture, identity, politics and social life (my addendum)
Major Specific: Feminist and Queer Theory (I got to pick this)
Minor: Digital and Online Technologies (I sort of got to pick this)

Things I’ve learned in the process so far:

  • This is much more a process of de-selection than of assemblage.
  • If you want to stay sane, you can only work on this for two hours a day, max

Advice other people have offered:

  • Follow the citations to make sure you really cover your field
  • Don’t follow the citations because you’ll get stuck in a comps hole. Break off key debates instead.
  • This is going to be the best part of your PhD
  • This is going to be the worst part of your PhD
  • Set it up so the finished written product is useful to you
  • Stay focused by reading to your questions
  • Think of it as an exercise in relating your own position to a broader field
  • The most important quality of a good list is that it’s manageable as a project with a specific timeline


Other People’s Lists that I’ve found helpful so far:

Pamela Ingleton, PhD candidate at McMaster
Cultural studies, social media, public sphere, the everyday, authorship

Fenwick McKelvey, PhD candidate at Ryerson
Communication studies, code politics, digital research methods, political economy of information

Simon Fraser University Graduate Program in Women’s Studies
Very comprehensive on feminist theory and cultural studies