Category Archives: Political, Economic and Urban Sociology

Are We All Expert Impostors?

www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723

Image credit: PhD Comics www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723

In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men.  Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).

As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013).  I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.

(more…)

‘Where are all the grown ups?’ The Scottish referendum shows the dearth of UK political heavyweights

Today Scotland faces a monumental decision. For once, politics is thrilling, anything seems possible, Scots seem excited and motivated to vote, with a record turnout predicted. By the time you actually read this, the outcome might already be known. In the last weeks before the referendum, the result has been too close to call, which considering a few months ago the ‘No’ campaign had a twenty point lead, is quite a dramatic shift. Whatever today’s result, it will be a close one – Scotland will either become independent, with a huge proportion of people having voted to stay in the UK, or Scotland will remain British, with a huge proportion having voted to leave. Lots of people will not be happy, and the blame game will begin. Whatever the result, this campaign has reminded us of politicians’ increasing inability to persuade voters – quite a depressing thought, when that is what politicians are supposed to be there for.

(more…)

Learning to Fail or Failing to Learn    

Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.

Here is a picture of me and a Sapara boy taken on my camera by a girl in Jandiayacu, the Sapara community where I began my research.

Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. (more…)

Mass Exodus

 

Source: Maximizing Progress

Source: Maximizing Progress

Sociologists are frequently interested in how communities are imagined, built, developed, and restructured.  Studies of how communities are destroyed, abolished, or evicted are typically associated with scholarship on genocide, war, natural disaster, or gentrification.  These studies often equate the termination of a community with trauma, personal loss, and inequality.  In some cases, communities dissolve in less dramatic ways.  In some cases, as the needs of a population change, people and the communities they created travel from one space to another.  Recent news regarding the redevelopment of downtown Caracas in Venezuela sets the stage for an unusual case of a decomposing community.

In the 1990s, construction on the Centro Financiero Confinanzas began as hopeful Venezuelans envisioned the creation of an economic mega-center similar to Wall Street in the United States.  The skyscraper, which became known as the Tower of David after developer David Brillembourg, was a 221,000 square meter complex made up of five buildings and a 47-floor glass tower (Caldieron 2013: 139).  Expectations were high.  However, in 1993 Brillembourg died and the following year the Venezuelan market collapsed.  Construction on the Tower of David came to a halt.

(more…)

The Necessity of Disorder in a Soft City: De Certeau vs Foucault (Part 2)

CONTAINERCITY_2210000b This is the second in a two-part guest post by Bea Moyes, who is an independent researcher based in East London. Having completed a Masters in Research at the London Consortium, Bea is working on ongoing research into the history of East London since the 1970s. Her work has often considered histories and narratives of urban space, particularly through the act of walking the city, and with dynamic and creative interactions which are generated in public spaces. She tweets @BeaMoyes

The first post can be found here

Michel De Certeau’s argument on the relationship between strategic powers and tactical resistances, has interesting implications in the history of the metropolis, and to the way with evolve our cities today. In pre-urban agrarian society, tactical resistances were common, with those without land re-appropriating resources in activities like poaching, gleaning and scrumping. These social and economic rituals were well worn valves of everyday life, oiling the relationships of power between masters and workers. However, during the industrial revolution, and particularly  with the increasing organisation of power relations with urbanisation and land enclosures in Britain, this dynamic interplay became largely disconnected, contributing to the break -up of community structures which had existed before. This is obviously a simplified analysis of social networks between classes over nearly two hundred years, but it is surely no coincidence that during the nineteenth century in Britain, there was considerably unrest and protest by the urban working-classes.

In my own work researching the history of East London, (more…)

The Necessity of Disorder in a Soft City: De Certeau vs Foucault (Part I)

This is a two-part guest post by Bea Moyes, who is an independent researcher based in East London. Having completed a Masters in Research at the London Consortium, Bea is working on ongoing research into the history of East London since the 1970s. Her work has often considered histories and narratives of urban space, particularly through the act of walking the city, and with dynamic and creative interactions which are generated in public spaces. She tweets @BeaMoyes

CT_TOSTUDENT

www.christiantate.com

 

For better or worse, [the city] invites you to remake it, to consolidate it into a shape you can live in. (more…)

Don’t Quote Me On This!

Here is a photo I took of an elderly woman in Jandiayacu. She is one of very few people (possible only five remaining) who speak and have a deep knowledge of the Sapara Language. The knowledge of Sapara people is not written down; it is an oral tradition that has been recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

 

I am not going to cite, quote or reference anyone in this post, and I wonder if that will change the opinion of those who read it. Does citing someone else make what I write more valid, more accurate or more valuable? Citation and referencing are an important part of academic writing; it is a painstaking, laborious and often frustrating process that is, unfortunately, unavoidable. Of course, I understand why it is necessary. When communicating ideas or concepts it is useful to use citations to provide signposts to our readers should they want to know about something in more depth or detail. It is also important when we are talking about ‘facts’, particularly historic occurrences, statistics or things people have (supposedly) said. But there is another side to this practice that is more of a burden on the writer than it ought to be. (more…)

Going Out of My Mind in Jandiayacu

 

The Airstrip in Jandiayacu

This is a photo I took in July, 2014, during my fieldwork in Jandiayacu. Jandiayacu is a Sapara community in the Amazonian region of Ecuador. It is accessible only by plane or a difficult journey on foot and by canoe, which takes several days.  (click for full size image)

 

So often we talk about being rational, making decisions based on established facts and existing knowledge, as if it is, and should be, the aim of all people at all times. Ways of being or knowing that sit outside of accepted knowledge can open a person up to being dismissed, discredited or ridiculed, particularly in the academic world. Anybody who knows me knows that I am a somewhat methodical and ‘rational’ person (most of the time). I love questions and puzzles and finding answers, and I struggle with things being disorganised, chaotic or inefficient. This is probably why I have found beginning my research with the Sapara nation, an Indigenous people here in Ecuador, so difficult. (more…)

Is England’s World Cup failure symptomatic of Capitalism’s malfunction?

The Premiership Trophy

Football is England’s national sport. It’s played in every city, town and school in the country. The English Premier League is the richest league in the world. For millions of English fans who contribute this wealth, watching football either live or on TV is effectively a costly tax on their devotion to their club. Why then does England lose to smaller nations with fewer players and less money to invest in talent? (more…)

The “Sharing Economy”: is sharing really caring?

By krzyboy2o (milkshake anyone? Uploaded by JohnnyMrNinja) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The ‘sharing economy’ is on the rise and it might just revolutionise the way we buy and sell things.  It’s a fascinating new development, which one one hand may be seen as empowering and anti-corporate, or alternatively, as a threat to existing small businesses; a means for deepening existing inequalities of ownership; or something which appears vulnerable to the very corporations it seeks to replace. It’s also known as ‘collaborative consumption’ or the ‘peer-to-peer economy’, but whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty likely that you have already been a consumer or maybe even a ‘provider’ in this emerging marketplace. If like me, you’ve used a car-share website, or rented out a room in a stranger’s house, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

(more…)