Maria with the Red Hair
After I left sixth form, my dad died. After my undergraduate, my husband was in a coma in intensive care. And after getting my Ph.D we have had lots of family health problems and other traumas to contend with. Academia has been the last thing on my mind, and I certainly have a lot of grievances with it.
Yesterday it was our graduation at LJMU. It was a special cohort for me, as I was in the second year of my Ph.D when they started as first years. We have gone through the process together.
The Ph.D process was traumatic for me, and I will publish on this. I also wrote a blog post here about it. My research cut deep, and a diagnosis of Bipolar towards the end of writing up was both cathartic and a case of life imitating art. I was told that our research chooses us, and it does. The crisis of mental health in the prison system needs to be felt, you need to be battered and bruised to begin to comprehend the mental torture of women prisoners by a system that reinforces the violence they face outside of the prison.
I love teaching and I love research. But I don’t love academia itself. I don’t want to constantly produce. I don’t want to be judged on output.
And then yesterday happened.
On the train en route to graduation, I spoke to a wonderful Scouse pensioner called Maria. Maria has the same ginger hair colour as me. She is of Chinese/Irish heritage, and her family have lived in china town since the 1800’s. Maria spoke about the gentrification of china town/L1, “Since the money has moved in, the ordinary people have been pushed out”. I recommended Lynsey Hanley’s book “Estates”, before Maria continued with talking about how Liverpool is city of immigrants, and the current xenophobia is designed to divide us. What a woman! And I speak to Marias all the time. And Johns. In the park with my dogs, queueing in jobs, at voluntary work, on the train. It is Everyday Sociology, Public Sociology. For me, it is what it’s all about. Not your publication list, the REF, the TEF, it is about those everyday encounters where knowledge is bounced about. Where people get a name for what they have benen thinking. It is the moment we connect with someone, where we rant, where we debate, where we insist, and where we resist.
Resistance takes places in the smallest of acts. And when I meet a Maria, it makes me think “yesss!”. People are resisting, opposing and forcing back the dominant discourse that the right ring press are poisoning us with.
I left the train on a high and headed to meet the students after their ceremony. I am so glad I did. What students should know is that I learn so much from you. In every lecture, every seminar, every chat. We are producing knowledge together. I cannot thank you enough.
This post, and my Ph,D are dedicated to all survivors of sexual violence and mental health; to the women of HMP New Hall; my students over the last 4 years; and Maria with the Red Hair. You have all give me a reason to continue with this path. Thank you. x