Conferences: What a Boost!


As mentioned in one of the posts, I  presented at the Contemporary Ethnography Across Disciplines (CEAD) conference last week. I presented  in two panels…Yay!

The first presentation was interesting enough inspired by my blog post about my PhD struggles and specifically, language issues. I thought CEAD was a very welcoming and creative space where one could experiment with different kinds of writing and presentation styles (Another presenter did a fabulous role play). Anyway, the presentation was well received and provoked a lot of important discussions about power, race, language in academia, decolonising the curriculum, identity and so on. It could have been super lit if we had enough time but we still had a great discussion after the panel presentation and I got to network with amazing people. I will post the presentation as my next blog post.

The second presentation was based on my Masters research which draws on the concept of risk management to demonstrate that in a world where life is precarious due to illnesses, poverty and other social ills, child care revolves around sustaining the life of an infant. The chapter I presented at CEAD suggests that mothers are being pulled by different ideas on child care, from health professionals, family and friends and that  access to these multiple ideas forces mothers to choose who they trust and believe to have the best interests of their baby at heart. In this case, the grand mothers’ experience, having been a mother and having raised healthy babies is valued and seen as someone who has knowledge about infant feeding and child care. The grandmother is not only  a ‘knower’ by experience but also  a ‘knower’ a mother can trust which shapes childcare in particular ways and emphasises the importance of relationships of trust in childcare.

I was in a panel with two other great emerging scholars who are also conducting their research on the first 1000 days of life. Nicole focused on the different factors involved when pregnant women ‘arrive late’ at the clinic, particularly the everyday violence in the forms of gang violence, shootings, taxi violence and muggings and its impact on women’s experiences of pregnancy and access to health care. Kylie focused on the relationships of care that develop between infants and caretakers and how an ethnography of leaks can offer access into both the physical (biological) and social worlds of infants, revealing lived experiences of illnesses and care relationships, embodied structural inequalities, as well as highlight the role of power within caregiver-infant relationships of care.

So now you know my area of research, I am not sure if I ever mentioned it. The great thing about this conference is that it came at a time when I was broken, discouraged and just doubting if I can continue with this academic journey. I realised how isolating pursuing a PhD can be and how it can feel like no one understands what you are trying to say and no one understands how invested you are in this project, giving it your all. Sometimes supervisors, colleagues and friends offer criticism and even though it is necessary and it may come from a good place, it  hurts so much because you have given it your all and what the criticism communicates to you is that your all is not good enough. A friend of mine who is also pursuing a PhD said “I feel like I have given my supervisor my soul and even that is not good enough”. It also does’t help when you have insecurities about language and a whole lot of other personal baggage. But what I learnt last week is that you must never isolate yourself. You have to meet with other emerging scholars, senior scholars, talk to people nje, get out there and don’t just sit in that cubicle from 9am to 7pm locked up in your own world. Being at the conference last week, talking to other people about my work, exchanging ideas with others and just the great feedback on my presentations was just the kind of boost I needed. I think I am ready to grind again! No PhD anxiety formed against me will prosper. I serve an amazing God and so I know this PhD is mine, I just need to claim it.

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