Political Science doctoral student Jason W. Blakely is among the degree candidates who recently filed their dissertations. Following this accomplishment, he will soon join the faculty of Pepperdine University as an Assistant Professor of Political Science.
As Blakely prepares for his next journey, he reflects on his academic life as a Berkeley student, and admits there is something about it he will never forget: “The sense of personal growth and transformation! I am not the same person I was when I arrived. Education, at its best, makes us into better versions of ourselves.”
Born in Colorado to a Spanish-speaking Colombian mother and an English-speaking American father, Blakely was attracted to literature and poetry when he was only nine. Years later, an interest in politics emerged and he became fascinated with “how the political world is expressive of different languages and worlds of meaning.”
In fact, attention to language is part of Blakely’s life even when he is not working or studying. Most of his free time is spent “enjoying and experiencing language,” he said. This includes exploring books, movies, songs and lyrics, as well as “conversations with friends, family, and neighbors.”
“Growing up with two different languages in the household made me intensely curious early on about how language shapes our sense of the world,” he said.
In a recent interview for eGrad, Blakely discussed his academic experience at Berkeley and revealed what inspired him to write his dissertation, entitled “Three Political Philosophers Debate Social Science: Leo Strauss, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor.”
What is your dissertation about?
My dissertation is about the limits of scientific knowledge. Specifically, I attempt to advance a school of thought called “interpretivism” that argues that the study of politics is not a science like, say, chemistry or physics. Rather, because human actions and practices are expressive of meanings, the study of politics is much more like the study of the law or literature. In my dissertation I try to narrate the emergence of this perspective and argue that certain of its central insights have not yet been fully appreciated.
What made you decide to focus your dissertation on this particular topic?
My topic emerged out of long conversations with two brilliant people I met at Berkeley — one a graduate student named Tyler Krupp, and the other my adviser, Mark Bevir. One of the most enriching aspects of life at Berkeley has been the quality of minds at this institution, which is truly humbling. During my time here I have learned from countless people; Kinch Hoekstra and John Searle also come to mind. I never would have grown and developed intellectually to this extent without such conversation partners.
What was your biggest challenge while working on your dissertation?
I think many dissertation writers would admit that one is finally prepared to actually write the dissertation only once one has finished it! If only I could begin to write the dissertation now — then I would write it as I should!
How did you feel after submitting your dissertation?
Very grateful. I have been blessed to have the health, opportunity, support, and good fortune to spend these years at Berkeley working on problems of great interest to me. It requires the sacrifices and support of an entire community to keep a place like Berkeley going. I never want to lose that sense of gratitude.
What made you choose UC Berkeley?
The academic quality is as good as the best places in the world. To my delight, Berkeley also turns out to be a place with tremendous benefits for living — the natural beauty, food, people, and cultural dynamism of the entire Bay Area. My wife and I will miss our neighbors and the home we made here.