Challenges of the PhD

As a researcher I find that the challenges are more straightforward than music because they’re more within my control. Academia in Australia is highly competitive, yes, but there also lots of opportunities. The PhD is like an apprenticeship and there are transparent and logical rewards for your efforts – pretty much the opposite of the music industry. The first challenge of research would be self-management. I’ve put in many all-nighters and have many times felt on the brink of insanity trying to solve some tiny but all-powerful problem in a huge pile of data and code. A lot of research work is very boring and difficult and you have to keep yourself motivated through the troughs. A second challenge with research is writing and keeping up output when you have a lot of different things half-cooked.

A third challenge with research is cynicism. Right now I’m in a good place now and enjoy my topic, research, and writing. But with time the academic ladder will no doubt get more slippery and more fraught. Academics inevitably get more critical over time, partly because they are open to ever more criticism. My Mum once came to a PhD completion presentation I did and was traumatised by the questions at the end – no-one handles you with kid gloves like in school or something. For me that was just how things work. But maybe I will get tired of becoming thick skinned, so for now I am just taking it as it comes and seeing how much I deliver on this post doctoral project. In general I enjoy going to work and could honestly say I’d still do it, or something much like it, even if I didn’t have to financially.

Dr. Elizabeth Taylor is an Australian scholar, working as an Urban Studies Post-doctoral Research Fellow. She is also a blogger, musician and Radio Broadcaster with 3 RRR program, “The Urbanists.” Here she discusses the difficulties of academia in comparison to the work of being a musician. The interview is conducted by Australian sociologist Dr Sheree Gregory.

Read the whole post.

Colonisation: 99 Year Township Lease

This is another invasion; this is another colonisation, another approach of taking over everything. You know you cannot sell land for something, the land is so precious you cannot do that.

– Reverend Gondarra, respected Arnhem Land elder.

Gondarra is fighting the Government’s push to take control of Indigenous communities through a “99 year township lease.” Gondarra evokes a critique of Australia’s colonial laws, which dispossessed the traditional landowners for much of Australia’s history (and which continues in various ways to this day). Continue reading Colonisation: 99 Year Township Lease

Racism in Film Categorisation

[H]onouring the achievements of black filmmakers by declaring it “their” year does them a disservice. Lumping together heavy dramas with lighthearted romcoms simply because of the skin colour of the actors or director prevents these films from being measured against the whiter counterparts that actually share their genre — inadvertently ghettoising the former and protecting the latter from scrutiny. It’s difficult to imagine pulling, say, Blue Is the Warmest Colour, The Great Gatsby, The Hangover Part III, and The Fifth Estate into a story declaring 2013 the year of the “white movie.” Continue reading Racism in Film Categorisation

Ending Violence Against Women

Last week was also the 10th anniversary of White Ribbon Day in Australia, which begins a period of activism to stop violence against women, culminating on December 10th with Human Rights Day.

It’s disturbing to see this anniversary greeted not with encouraging reports of widespread activism and positive change, but with ongoing reports of male violence toward women. In a society where men are statistically the main perpetrators of violence against all genders, we need to accept some hard truths. The problem is whenever we try to accept anything, a raft of excuses and counter attacks arrive: violence is caused by monsters not men, the statistics are wrong, men suffer violence as well. Continue reading Ending Violence Against Women

Justice for Aboriginal People in Canada

When the white man first seen us, when they first said, “Well, there’s something wrong with these people here. They don’t have no religion. They have no judicial system. We have to do something for these people.” I guess that must have been what they thought because they totally screwed up what we already had.

They introduced new religion and there was nothing wrong with our old religion. They just didn’t understand it. We had our own ways of teaching our children, like the Elders and everything. There was nothing wrong with that way of teaching children. They just didn’t understand it.

The same thing with our judicial system. We had that judicial system and the white people, when they came here, they didn’t see that. They said, “These guys have nothing. We have to introduce all these different things to them so they can be one of us.” That’s exactly the problem that we have.

Chief Philip Michel, Brochet. Continue reading Justice for Aboriginal People in Canada

Ideological Construction of Race

“Race” is called an ideological construction, and not just a social construction, because the idea of “race” has never existed outside of a framework of group interest. As a nineteenth-century pseudoscientific theory, as well as in ceontemporary “popular” thinking, the notion of “race” is inherently part of a “model” of asymmetrically organised “races” in which Whites rank higher than “non-Whites.”

Philomena Essed, Understanding Everyday Racism.

The Confines of Western Feminism

Hispanic women are fully aware that our culture is entrenched in misogyny, but not necessarily any less than American culture. Women in the United States are often expected to take their husbands’ last name. Many men still go to their bride’s father to ask for her hand in marriage; just because we see it as a sweet gesture it does not mean that it isn’t patriarchal in nature… Loving tradition and having pride in your culture does not mean these women cannot vocalize the gender issues of their communities. My mother’s feminism was the truest form of feminism for me; a belief in the potential upward mobility of all women.

Patricia Valoy, Civil Engineer, feminist blogger, and radio host reflects on gender politics and the sacrifices her stay-at-home mother made for her children after they migrated from the Dominican Republic to the USA. Valoy writes that Western feminism encouraged her to see her mother as being trapped in patriarchy, but she argues that we need to find a way to move past narrow conceptions of feminism:

Feminism cannot continue to exist as a monolithic block, or we will never be able to include women from all walks of life.

Via Everyday Feminism.

Big Tabacco Ban High Court Ruling

The message to the rest of the world is big tobacco can be taken on and beaten… Without brave governments willing to take the fight up to big tobacco, they’d still have us believing that tobacco is neither harmful nor addictive.

Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon, speaking about the landmark High Court ruling against big tobacco companies.

The new law requires cigarettes to be sold in plain olive packaging without colourful branding. The world’s largest tobacco companies challenged this law saying it was unconstitutional, but the court ruled against British American Tobacco, Britain’s Imperial Tobacco, Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco.

This brings Australia into line with the World Health Organisation’s recommendations, which are not yet adopted by the world’s largest and wealthiest nations.

The adverse health effects of smoking are most notable in low to middle income nations, such as India (estimated 175 million smokers), Indonesia (65 million smokers), and Thailand (15 million smokers).

Australia’s Cancer Council chief executive Ian Olver says: “We hope other nations follow Australia’s lead and eliminate the use of tobacco packaging as a marketing tool, to help reduce the global tobacco death toll – which is on track to reach half a billion people this century.”

Quote source: Reuters.

Shortage of Cheap Private Rental Homes

Melbourne is experiencing a record shortage of cheap private rental homes, with just 0.3 per cent of new lettings (or 26 homes) deemed affordable to singles on Newstart, according to Victoria’s housing department’s latest rental report… A recent Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute report said physical comfort was a basic precondition for ’“feeling at home” and that households that rent faced psychological and health effects from having a lesser degree of control over their living environment.

The Age.

Melbourne’s rental market is presenting a wide range of socio-economic and  health problems for welfare recipients, including respiratory illnesses and depression, as they struggle in sub-standard housing conditions. Single parent families are especially vulnerable to exploitation in the current rental market. The government has stated that it cannot intervene as the private rental market is outside of their domain, however it is set to review Victoria’s public housing sector.