Yesterday I finally received my computer at my desk in the office I share with other PhD researchers. I noticed it after the library decided to close early and I thought I would try my luck. Turns out it was installed that morning. It was around 1830 hrs when I sat down at the piece of equipment. I was so thrilled at the sight of it that I remember exclaiming ‘it’s here!’ like that long-awaited-for parcel. I left the office at 0000 hrs.
I started my PhD a month and a half ago. I didn’t realise how important it would be to just have a seat and a computer at the table. My situation is somewhat odd. I am a social scientist registered under a natural science department. I know that interdisciplinary research is considered the next best thing in the academic turn, but this situation is different from the norm of having a natural scientist in a social science space. I know we cannot include architecture as a natural science, but it is a rather technical art degree. The inclusion of people with this background into say cultural geography is not new. Another trend I have often seen is Chemists engaged in the social sciences – my favourite undergraduate teacher had a degree in it and my supervisor for my PhD did their PhD in chemistry. That is a great thing. However, I must say it feels a little weird to be in the opposite situation.
This isn’t the first time I have been in this topsy-turvy form of ‘interdisciplinary’ situations. I undertook a diploma in Forensic Science alongside my degree in Sociology, and was the only social science student in the class (psychologist don’t see themselves as being of the social sciences). I ended up doing very well in this course; I was excited to work within a situation where I could see cause and effect immediately. Blood splattered at an angle tells you its point of origin. How simple, yet brilliant? Anyway, being part of interdisciplinary research may sometimes feel isolating for your thinking process. Even though the people around are very friendly, there is only so much you can chat about. Which is why I think some of these little steps have helped me:
- Being a part of an interesting academic network
- Speaking to people who seem interested in your project – this is called “networking” in business speak.
- Re-affirming your position by engaging with opposing perspectives
- Challenge your position by looking at different ways in which people address your research/interest areas
- Meet people from other departments for coffee chats
- Anyone one else you know? Meet them for coffee!
- Don’t think that the people around you cannot be engaged to discuss your perspectives – speaking to a non-specialist audience is seen as important. Natural scientists classify as this audience when speaking about social sciences, something we all forget!
- Don’t take too much work on at once – remember your project!
- Don’t let the admin team get you down with their incompetence (sorry not sorry)
I do feel I put myself at risk of not focusing on my research. Always make sure your work has some semblance of relevance to what you are studying. This can help recover any lost enthusiasm.
If nothing, these are notes to myself. A reflective journal is definitely helpful and here’s a first.
Today I read an paper in which cultural capital is used interchangeably with multiculturalism and intercultural knowledge. I am disappointed in the publish or perish regime.
In making a comment on differences in food cultures within a same geography based on different religion, I found an apology emanate unexpectedly from mother hoping that she was not being sectarian, but could not find the ‘correct’ word instead choosing ‘sexist’.
Definitely brings out the problem with political correctness and the inability to actually talk about difference without feeling like you are treading on eggshells. It should be a concern that people cannot reflect on the difference between being discriminatory instead finding it problematic to appreciate non-homogeneity.
When we were little(r), my mother always told us to look outside the window onto the green grass in the morning. “It improves eyesight”, she said. With only some fail, we would go to the kitchen balcony window and stare outside the grilled windows, pushing either clothes drying in front of us from obstructing our view, or just trying to concentrate on the grass between the black grills. It has been a while since I last did this, but I did so this morning.
I don’t know if my eyesight is better at all. I haven’t lost it, but it seem to work normally. Although I can never tell if different eyes see different things, but I digress. What I do realise when I stare out the window onto a lawn of grass is that if not soothing my eyes, it surely soothes me mentally. How we take for granted these things. I lived in a megacity for 7 years prior to my current place. I barely ever saw green. But when I would go home, a villagesque place, my eyes would have just before thirsted for the luscious green view of paddy fields or just trees and forestscape. When home, I would be quenched. Whether it was being at home that had an influence I could not tell, but my face (my friends in the city city would comment) was always rejuvenated and with hope I strode forward until next I would be delivered to the motherplace. The same almost occurs here. As if a memory, I feel full of promise and hope. In the wretched winters I feel it difficult to cope, but springtime comes around and I seem fine.
This morning, as I peered through my window pane (and the sun finally rises when I say this), I stared at the grass. I remember mother’s words. I remember that my eyes need rejuvenating. And I almost feel like that view is much better than the tears I wanted to shed for missing home.
The shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office has given rise to a spectrum of opinions being expressed. While some consider this effect a direct claim to the Freedom of Speech, what with the range of people commenting, it is commonplace to forget the very concern here: people were killed by other people. This is not justifiable by anyone.
Looking at the variety of responses, we have notice the right going berserk, the left being defensive and a popular online reaction. But what of the fact that, again, people were killed? It brings me to consider the context of these comments. The right to be heard or seen as socially aware and upholding a moral standard. This is what I consider Moral Panic in the global now. Around the world, responses are offered. This is not purely an attempt at a popular social movement, but rather a sort of contention with the idea of presenting as socially aware, as being opinionated. The Moral Panic which I suggest is not one against certain morals, but rather a generic form of offering one’s opinion. Opinion for opinion’s sake. This is the moral confusion (or conviction) of the day.
The globalised individual is aware of their surroundings, extended to the corners of the world, this galaxy, the next and all to come. Perhaps this latter condition is the next step. We will have ethics about how Andromeda should not be interacted with, but then we can have the saviour complex swoop in and suggest needing to extend protection.
Of the many concerns of local self-government/democratic decentralisation, people are subject to the problem of the dominant group’s dictates. Again, I wonder the extent to which we can use the idea of majorities as a validation for that which is correct. Indeed, there is a need to safeguard basic human rights of some peoples. this ought to include disadvantaging aspects. We must recognise that there are certain privileges in society. This is not to discount the fact that those who do gain from privilege are not intentionally bad; instead, we need to rectify the system’s faults. However, we need to look at conditions with some basis for acceptability. I would propose that Article 3 of the UDHR ought to be the first. A right to life must precede an arbitrary condition of “equality”. Of course, this does not imply that minorities such as elite people (which we know is around 10% of people) do not control situations.
This, to me, points to a need to contextualise this concept of ‘justice’. Or perhaps devise a new equation.
Ok, read this article.
“But how do we dance?”, they ask. “We are but mannequins on display, elaborating or possibly just hinting times told, perhaps of rot and decay”.
The view was vivid, the coffee strong. And with a song we hummed along the way down to the shore. The waters behaved.
And the breeze told a story of past times (perhaps it was assumed by the song we sung).
Entangled glamorous contraptions; perhaps not so.
But directed in segments,
onto strange paths.
Then, finally, to rest.