Last week I had the honour of acting as discussant at a panel on Modern Britain On Drugs at this year’s MBS conference at Birmingham University. (It was a really great conference, but more on that another time.)
Peder Clark, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: ‘“Do You Love What You Feel?”: Ecstasy, Rave, and Ways of Knowing, 1988-1995’.
Ben Mechen, Royal Holloway ‘Rubber Gloves and Liquid Gold: Poppers and the Policing of London’s Queer Nightlife’.
Yewande Okuleye, University of Leicester ‘You Call It Marijuana and I Call It “The Herb”: Cannabis as a Boundary Object’.
I just gave an inaugeral. The most terrifying and life affirming thing I’ve ever done at work. It was a room full of amazing people – I was blessed to have four generations of my family there and loved the opportunity to make my 89 year old mum and my 7 year old grandson all swear in unison.
There’s a recording coming at some point, but there are some things that I really want to share, in a written form, for those who might not be interested in the main body of the talk itself, but might be facing similar questions in their negotiation with the academic structures around us.
How the fuck are we going to get through this shitstorm, intact, together, and without throwing each other under the bus? Who has got our back? and what can we learn from those who have negotiated the faultlines of the shitstorm before us?
I want to think about the possibility of working, together, kindly with respect. When your own institution lists ‘kindness’ as one of its key strategies there are interesting possibilities in the feelings at work, at work.
We will seek to be known as a ‘kind’ institution. We will care for each other and for the world around us, in responsible and sustainable ways. We will value collegiality and mutual support across all of our actions and activities. Sussex2020 Strategic Framework
So this blog is a way to explore how to protect the parts of ourselves that we give away when our personal is political. As Sara Ahmed says ‘to live a feminist life is to be a feminist at work’. But that means my institution gets a whole load of stuff out of me that was never in my job description. It means that when I’m evaluated, fedback upon, quantified, its not just my outputs, but my whole personal and political self that’s being measured. Furthermore, feminism is a beautiful, stretchy, broad old chorus, and its never simple when ‘being a feminist at work’ is by necessity informed by your own personal as political.
The UCU strike for USS has been a roller coaster and I don’t really know what it means yet, being a historian and all. But the strike over pensions and the marketization of universities has changed how I understand our structures and possibilities and how I feel about work, and how I feel about feeling things about work. (But I will leave the truly brilliant Claire Langhamer to take that one on) Its also changed the way academics in different institutions relate to each other, and filled our lives with Twitter.
I’ve never had an overly easy relationship with Universities, or really with education, but over the last few weeks I’ve never felt so completely at home in academia, or wanted to leave academia so much.
I was ‘invited’ to leave school at 15 and allowed to return to sit some O levels, I got 4, not including History. My first attempt at A levels at 17 was interrupted by the birth of my first daughter. As a single parent I lived in families of choice whilst I studied. As an undergraduate I had a team of incredible women who had each others backs. With my incredible friend Vicky, we campaigned about the representation of student motherhood in contraceptive education and over the councils refusal to pay our children’s housing benefit contribution over 52 weeks of the year ( it seemed pretty obvious to us that our babies weren’t actually students).
All my post graduate studies were part-time and unfunded. Structurally it was pretty clear that I wasn’t meant to be there, and certainly that I wasn’t worth investing money in. But on a personal level I was surrounded by lecturers and supervisors who invested in me. I was taught about the value of personal and political investment. And I guess that’s a trajectory I’ve followed ever since. That came to a clashing contradictory conclusion during the strike. I’ve never loved my colleagues more (and I loved them a lot already), I’ve never felt the possibility of taking back the agenda so closely, and I’ve never wanted to jack the whole thing in so much.
I really don’t want to sound ungrateful, and I do not take student support for strike action for granted. So why do I find it so uncomfortable when students demonstrate their support for me through their individual consumer rights? Why doesn’t their consumer pressure for compensation for hours lost in the current strike in defence of our pensions make me feel defended?
This post was originally commissioned by the CIRCY blog. Many thanks to Janet Boddy for all her support. I’m working to develop this into a broader project so thought I’d revisit it for a bit.
The Indie Rock-a Nore Festival was held on 21st October 2017 at the Hastings and St Leonards Angling Association. It was “[a] one-day indie-pop festival (midday to midnight), bringing together current indie bands and those of yesteryear. Raising money for Brighton based suicide prevention charity, GrassRoots, who provide support across East Sussex (Charity Number: 1149873)”. Alongside the bands there was a raffle, a pool tournament and a buffet. CIRCY made a small contribution to hosting costs, ensuring that all money taken on the door could go straight to the charity. Over £2500 was raised on the day.
The single is dead, so why is the charity single still going? There are so many other ways of soliciting donations to charity; by text, by paypal, by cash point. It seems anachronistic to return to the charity single model, where musicians donate their labour in exchange for a financial donation from consumers . Yet time and again it is the default response that marks the significance of an event.
Each time a new charity single comes out it makes me think about what is at stake – what problems are being responded to? what solutions are being offered? Who is helping whom and why?
The history of queer representation in film is sometimes the history of not being easily seen. It can be the history of having to work really hard to find yourself represented. It can be the history of having to work really hard with what you are given, when you are represented as the freak, the pervert, the duplicitous spy, the blackmailer.
Queerama for me, was the story of how people have negotiated the identities that have been imposed on them. As a history Queerama shows us a series of outside definitions of queer identities that have had to be negotiated; homosexuality, for example, has been seen as a sin, an illness, to an act of dissidence. Sexualities and their identities have been legislated and defined from above, diagnosed by sexologists, feared for contagion, dissected like a guinea pig, but they have also been squeezed through the cracks.
A moment of pure joy washed over me last Wednesday as I watched my two favourite feminist icons sit on stage together and chat about pioneering women in music as part of The Odditorium series of events for Brighton Fringe Festival. Viv Albertine, writer, artist and guitarist of The Slits was invited to talk in conversation with Lucy about the women she had come to recognise as influential in her life. It was like ‘grasping at straws’ she described, born in the fifties and with so few women visible in the public eye, let alone pioneering in alternative and subculture.