Rites of passage

I am struggling these last weeks with finding any sense in my thesis work. While I have a fairly defined plan for the next period until the end of 2013, I guess I am constantly questioning my motivation. I am doing this because the end of the PhD means making choices, principally about what my next job could be. I’m not good at making choices. Here’s the plan I sent The Supervisor last week, following a query from someone else about my progress:

  • A new draft of the literature review. I have been revising it over the last couple of weeks, alongside compiling my bibliography.
  • The first half of August: write a syncretic chapter (formally Chapter 6)
  • If I have time, I’ll redraft the methodology chapter too.
  • From September to November, I would like to make further revisions to Chaps 2 to 5.
  • From November to February 28 2014, review, rewrite, rehash, rewire.

If I can squeeze out two, long-promised, co-written papers for Irish Geography over this time, that would be great too. Now, as the badge suggested, the PhD is still fine but writing it alongside work is more difficult than i had thought this time last year. OH assures me, in her continuing forbearance, that every PhD meets some kind of crisis. In short, I am jealous of the time I don’t spend writing about the geopolitical implications of a re-formed secularity. This questioning of motivation is also related to the thoughts of Kelly Baker and others. I like working with ideas, writing about them and telling others about them. There is every chance however that this full blown economic crisis will bring about the restructuring of all educational work, not just at primary level. Universities want teachers who don’t spend too much time thinking about, or actually, teaching but enough to create innovation machines sufficiently sparkly for work that is being devalued in new ways every, single, day. If they can do this for a lot less money, that’s called ‘a good thing’.

So why am I continuing? Because I believe what I have to say is important. It is worth writing about the spatial practices of Irish Catholics and its political implications. It consumes me. About one year ago, Stephen sent me a picture from Hardwicke Place, in Dublin. Last month, he sent me another picture from the same spot. Here are the two, side by side:


On the right is an image of the public housing in Hardwicke Street. It has an image of a crucified Jesus painted on. I am going to assume, but I will find out, that it was painted by people who live there. On the left is the same block of public housing, following necessary renovation, and the installation of a new football pitch in the yard. The image of a crucified Christ has been erased. (I’m going to leave aside the railings which some might interpret more significantly.) What does the image’s erasure tell us? What is implied by this redefinition of the public space? Did the people living ask for its removal? What happens to an area when art like this is removed from Dublin and other cities? (Note to self: folk art is a stupid term.) What kinds of politics are implied by the removal of the image in the area’s redevelopment? What effects did the image have anyway?

It is important that we know the answers to these questions because these are the places where we live. Place is political; it is not just a container for some quaint experiences. It reminds me of the question that got me started on this thesis in 2009: if someone took a lump hammer in anger to the Marian statues of Dublin, would it matter? if I keep this in mind until February, I might just get through this.