'I'm still alive in December!': A retrospective on a crazy semester

Haven't updated this since September. Feel like the last day of work for 2016 is an opportune time to do a short-run reflection on what I think has been the craziest semester of my PhD candidature/life:

1. UK WAS A GOOD TIME

So, I was in Lisbon back in September. That was an amazing time - after a slow, jet-lagged start, the conference was invigorating, and I managed to get a good dose of Lisbon's vibrancy and verve.

I then flew to London. Got sick on the plane, and copped a hot coffee shower from a fellow passenger during the descent. Damn. This was as bad as it got, thankfully - I spent a week in London and managed to get some good work done at the George Padmore Institute, SOAS, and the Black Cultural Archives.

Black Cultural Archives, Brixton

Black Cultural Archives, Brixton

I'm still ambivalent about London itself. A week is certainly not enough to make a judgement. I did especially love Brixton - a diverse suburb (borough?) with a strong history of struggle against racism. Speaking of racism, though, I went to a Chelsea match at Stamford Bridge (vs. Liverpool - we lost 2-1) and, although the atmosphere was incredible, some of the fans did little to dispel the perception that they're more partial to racist behaviour than most. A white man threw a can at a woman in a hijab, and security did nothing about it. Unbelievable.

Stamford Bridge

Stamford Bridge

After London, I travelled to Birmingham to research for a couple of days at Stuart Hall's old haunt - the University of Birmingham - and sifted through the archive of the famous Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. After that, Manchester. There, I spent three days at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, in the incredible Central Library.

Central Library, Manchester

Central Library, Manchester

Overall, the UK part of the trip was a really valuable experience. It was brilliant to meet some researchers who I really look up to and respect - in particular, Robbie Shilliam, Adam Elliot-Cooper, and Ian Bruff. It was also obviously exhilarating to explore a part of the world I'd never seen. However, exploring wasn't really the priority - research was. And it was hard going - archival research is a lot more taxing than I thought, especially when you have a relatively broad and diffuse research focus. Lesson for future Cam: strictly delimit your archival research both temporally and topically!

2. DID A FEW CONFERENCES

The day after I returned from Europe (25 September), I presented a paper on a panel I'd convened (The international political economy of Islamophobia) at the Australian Political Studies Association (APSA) conference at UNSW, Sydney. Presenting with vicious jet-lag feels like what I'd imagine presenting would feel like after more than a few pints. More recently (end of November - early December), I presented papers at the Historical Materialism conference at USyd, and at the Australian Sociological Association (TASA) conference at ACU in Melbourne. The first two papers are available on my Works page or on my Academia page, the last is not available yet as I'm currently editing it for publication in 2017. All conferences were valuable in working through some different aspects of the arguments in my thesis, and the comments/feedback received will no doubt sharpen these arguments.

3. HAD A FEW PIECES PUBLISHED

Though I'm still working on that magical first 'peer-reviewed' publication, I was fortunate to be involved in a few enjoyable (even innovative) publishing opportunities. My review of David Theo Goldberg's Sites of Race was published in Transnational Literatures. I contributed to the Past & Present reading group's collective review of Jason W. Moore's Capitalism in the Web of Life. Finally, an interview I did with my friend Alex Wilson (sleepmakeswaves/Cartography Studios) was published over at Life Is Noise.

4. SPENT TOO MUCH TIME TEACHING

Possibly the most challenging part of the semester was the teaching load I took on. I taught two subjects at two different universities - a Masters-level subject on International Political Economy at MQ, and a first-year subject called Working With Cultural Differences at Western Sydney University. Despite the amount of time I had to dedicate to them, both subjects had content that spoke directly to my research - broader global structures of inequality in the former, the day-to-day dynamics of race, gender, and sexuality in the latter. This made them very enjoyable and valuable subjects to teach. Thankfully, in the times I found the marking load too much, both convenors were exceedingly patient, encouraging, and generous.

WHAT NEXT?

Soon (March 2017) I'll move into the third and final year of my candidature. So, next year I'll be winding the conference attendance/teaching load thing right back and focusing all my energies on writing this thesis up. It's going to be hard work, but I'm psyched to put everything into it.

'Til then, I'm retiring to my hometown on the South Coast, before hitting up NZ in January. If you're still reading this lengthy post, you're probably a friend, family member, or colleague. Thank you for your support - whether giving me feedback, encouragement, or even just sympathetically listening to me go on and on and on about how busy and tired I've been!

Very keen to do a bit more of the below. My best to all for Christmas and the New Year.

Federal Falls, Orange, NSW

Federal Falls, Orange, NSW