Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Personal Muzungu

This is more of a personal post about my doctoral journey. I have some new supervisors which is very good. There are some changes to my status which require administrative attention. It is always a problem that I am so far from London now. California is really on the edge of the universe even as a state in the US. I am completely isolated from other PhD students.

I tried to get involved in a local university graduate seminar but they were all sociologists and anthropologists and the topics of discussion were so far a field from what I wanted to think about, it seemed inefficient to continue attending. So, I phone my mates in London when I can and whinge and as funds are running low I go to London less frequently than I should. I will finish but it won’t be the prettiest thesis Queen Mary has ever seen.

Right now, I am working part-time on some book chapters for a book I am co-authoring. It is on US Business Law. It really is quite interesting even if it is domestic.

The thing I am thinking about most now is how isolating the PhD process is. Being a housewife can be isolating too. I am not astounded by the isolation. Rather, I wonder how the English style of sink or swim really compares to the US. In the US you have course work and so many activities that involve the student in the Department. Queen Mary has some activities but not for all students.

I am in the Centre for Commercial and Legal studies. There have always been fewer opportunities to meet other students even when I lived in London. Granted, I have always been a mature student which really sets you apart. I went to University when I was supposed to…but that was about it. The rest of my degrees I have always been on the fringe. The fringe is where I have spent a great deal of time.

Regardless, I think about how isolation defines the PhD experience. Sort of like sleep deprivation defines Medical students in the US and junior associates at law firms. I think all of these are extremes. They may serve to separate the wheat from the chaff very effectively but otherwise are meaningless. I believe each program picks an adversity they want you to suffer and voilĂ  that is it. You are tested and tried and either you survive or you don’t.

I am confident I will survive. I am not as dreamy about the whole doctoral thing as I was when I started. Instead, I believe I have some important research and I want to get it out there. Not because someone will get it out there first. I am quite sure I have little competition for writing about stock exchanges in East Africa. And if there were competition, that would be a good thing.

A friend of mine who lives in London told me I needed to explain my African experiences to ‘my people’ so they learn. I liked that because I believe that. I don’t want to save Africa as most people think when I tell them about my research. I want to translate just the little part that I know for ‘my people’ who are limited in their thinking but have very big hearts. I hope to know more so that I can translate more.

Nuns, who are in training, water sticks daily to try and make them grow-it is intended to build faith.

I see my isolated research like that.

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