Today, I was interviewed by members of the Faculty Development Committee concerning my proposed sabbatical. I began the session summarizing and clarifying my proposal. First, I gave them a clearer statement of my research questions:
1. How are beekeepers managing their bees in the light of environmental threats? I stated that the word "managing" not only includes apicultural management techniques but those cultural frames beekeepers use to make sense of the environmental threats and their possible solutions.
2. How are a beekeeper's cultural frames systematically related to his/her structural position within the beekeeping field? Like all fields, the field of beekeeping is characterized by an unequal distribution of various types of capital (e.g. economic, cultural)with beekeepers' position in the structure determined by the amount and species of the capital held. Does this structural position shape the position-taking of beekeepers on environmental threats ?
After presenting these two questions, I went on to discuss the development of a bee-focused global issues course and the researching and writing of an ethnography in a literate culture.
After my summary the committee asked me questions about my proposal and it's implications and importance to the institution. One person asked whether I thought of using bees in other courses like Public Policy. He'd noticed my discussion of agricultural policy in the proposal and thought it might fit in well with a course he and I have already taught together. As if he set me up, I told him I was already changing my Public Policy course because of my current research and would focus next semester on environmental policy.
Another person asked me about the liability issues which, in his case, was really a question of visibility. How would I protect the students from bee stings and prepare for possible allergic reactions? I responded by explaining the rarity of allergic reactions and some of the precautions (e.g. no bananas in class!) I would take. This didn't totally satisfy him, since his real concern was with assuring parents that their children would be safe from bees. Another faculty member simply suggested that the course be given an appropriate "warning label" and each student sign a waiver.
Now I must sit and wait for the institution's response to my proposal.