Summerhays Politics Blog

The hazards of studying conservatism

21 July 2020

Done at UQAM

by David

Just submitted the final, approved version of my master’s thesis. I’m done and I’m really proud of it. (Learn more about my subject here)

I got the idea of applying for a master’s studying conservatism around the summer of 2016. Sounded great back then because Trudeau was in and Trump hadn’t been elected yet!

I’ve been studying at UQAM’s since January, 2017 and I can’t say enough good things about my education and the good people I met there: always thoughtful discussions in class, political science is a fabulous department. I learned a lot more in three years here than in my undergrad at McGill, no doubt about it.

I was basically the only anglophone around. I learned a lot about feeling different yet feeling welcome. I think I met only one other anglophone student the whole time I was there.

But I’d recommend it to anyone. UQAM is a special place. I’m going to miss it. I think every single one of my professors offered that I could write in English but I decided to do everything in French. That was a real challenge but I got it done with a lot of generous help, especially from my supervisor Jean-Guy Prévost, who was top-notch from the beginning to the end. I also couldn’t have done any of this without parter, my family, and my Quaker community.

About Jean-Guy

I have to say, my supervisor was awesome. If I sound grateful to him, read the rest of this blog. He agreed to take on a super ambitious project, he was supportive all the way, he helped me express my frustration in appropriate ways, very tactful with feedback and criticism, oh and he corrected tons of my anglophone French, probably hundreds of pages of it, even though I hired proofreaders for the thesis.

I heard from a lot of folks at UQAM about his public letter in 2012 denouncing a “culture of intimidation” at UQAM back in the days of the student strikes. I know that hurt some feelings, and it probably was artless. I never asked. I do know, I did very well to have him.


The thesis was emotionally tough. The writing was a joy — I love writing and editing. But I faced a number of challenges. 1) Chasing around Harper — that guy is brilliant but so boring. 2) Dark topic: talking about crises of meaning, and the prison system. 3) Disappointing work done on Harper and conservatism i) (with a few exceptions: Boily, Mulrooney, Freeden, Tillich), 4) Going through major revisions: i) of my thesis proposal ii) then of my thesis 5) Waiting. I waited for feedback from October 2018- early Jan. 2019, all of Feb. 2019, from October 2019-February 2020 and from April 2020 until July, so 11 months total out of the past 21 months waiting. i) Waiting is especially hard when my thesis talks about a crisis of meaning in modern life! That’s a lot of time to wonder what on earth I’m doing here 6) Coursework was super grueling.

It’s honestly been very challenging on many levels, lonely and feeling seldom understood and unsupported in some ways, while feeling so very, very supported in others. I feel there are so many people who care, so many wishes for a better world, but really a lack of vision.

I have something to contribute

At the same time, this whole process has me feeling special and blessed.

I have something to do and something to give, for now anyway.

I have vision. I don’t know why, but I do. Doesn’t mean I’m right. But I just mean that I have a big picture and I have ideas on how to get from A, where we are now, to a B that so many thirst for.

When I explain how I see the world to people, so often I feel like I’ve inspired something or clarified a gut feeling, that what I’m saying is unique and can’t be found anywhere else, and in a lot of different areas from teaching piano to conservatism or how to win a grassroots campaign or think about race or indigenous issues.

I say all this yet it’s strange and mysterious to me: I don’t know what my purpose is on this earth except to try to live love as best I can with every moment I have. Life is so strange, I’ll never understand it.

Still, today is a day to celebrate, a celebration best done with this beautiful card (thank you, love).

Love, always

tags: UQAM, masters, thesis, conservatism