Back in the harness

This blog was meant to be about doing a PhD, the thoughts and trials of carrying out research for a doctoral degree. At what stage did doing the actual PhD take over? Now that I look back, probably at about the same time that I started getting seriously engaged with the theoretical material. I resented this blog as another task in a series. That and the fact that I have a full time job and a whole load of personal stuff happened. Since posting reflections on doing the PhD last summer an awful lot has happened with the research:

  • Three colleagues and I put together a winter school for geography postgraduates here in NUIM: four days, c.25 speakers. It arose out of our collective experience from GY802 last April and May. That’s only been put to bed this afternoon because the winter school took place in late January. There are further details here. We learned very much about academic politics and geographic methods. Right now, we are all kind of tired of it and glad it is over. It was almost 6 months in the making.
  • I walked a week on the Camino Frances in France and Spain: I thought of this as research praxis and it ended up being a fairly extraordinary week. The praxis got praxis’ed and all but the phenomenology of it became overwhelming in my note taking and recording. Right now I feel as if I could base the entire thesis on pilgrimage practice in Spain and Ireland alone. I have extensive notes written up for Our Lady’s Island and Croagh Patrick and had also planned to get to Lough Derg once the season opens. Now I’m reconsidering that last one: the question of ‘enough data’ has been dealt with this week in consultation with The Supervisor. Still going to York in July though. Oh yea and New York and Gottingen in between.
  • I have written a draft paper with The Supervisor for a planned special issue of Area.  Right now it is titled A Morphology of Provocative Choices and concerns itself with Anders Breivik, the Muslim Brotherhood and Europe’s right to decide who is secular and religious. Given the way academic journals operate, I expect it will be 2013 before it is published.  The process of writing the bones of it over the Christmas period was well worth it. I know that I still suffer from get-it-all-down-on-paper-first-itis but writing is writing.

I’ve read a lot too: Lentin and Titley’s book on the crisis of multiculturalism stands out right now because they’ve written a book that repoliticises the secular in a way that I was struggling with. So, from a prompting by Naomi Jacobs this morning (and I think my coffee with Kevin yesterday), here’s the bones of the doctorate:

Some places in Ireland are considered sacred and others secular. On a scale of public contention, Marian statues, practices of pilgrimage and primary schools are all places of sacredness and secularity. What do these places tell us about the public sphere and conceptions of community in Ireland? 

That’s fairly simple, right? Right? I think I am a better writer now than this time last year. I think I am a better reader than I was this time last year. All in all, I’m on course for completion by early 2014. See you back here then.


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