Hello, I’m Sarah Hughes, a second year PhD student at Durham University. My research explores creativity and resistance within the UK’s asylum regime and I’m currently in the midst of an enjoyable muddle of data collection, reading, writing and teaching. I’ve written this blog post in the form of diary entries, covering what turned out to be quite a busy week.
Monday 18th January
This week began differently to most; instead of being sat behind my desk in Durham I was in Oxford to give a presentation to the Border Criminologies Group and visit an art archive that they had kindly given me access to.
Drawing from Campsfield House IRC (© IMMIGRATION DETENTION ARCHIVE)1
As I’m looking at creativity and resistance in the UK asylum regime, I was interested in seeing the artwork that they have collected from inside Immigration Removal Centres. I met with an artist from the department in the morning, interviewed her and looked over the artwork before presenting to the group that lunchtime. I always get quite nervous about presenting, but my audience was friendly and gave me some really valuable feedback. In the afternoon I stayed in the Criminology department, meeting with those who are researching similar topics and discussing where to go with my own work. It was an extremely worthwhile trip, and I left at the end of the day with a notebook full of scribbled ideas as to where to go next.
Tuesday 19th January
Beautiful wintery walk beside the partly frozen canal in Oxford on Tuesday morning, heading back towards the train station
I spent most of Tuesday travelling back to Durham from Oxford. I did do some reading on the train (I’m currently trying to think through ‘hope’ in relation to creativity/resistance and am looking at Sara Ahmed’s work – if any of you are reading around this topic and have reading suggestions, please let me know!), but as the journey progressed, the busy-ness of Monday began to catch up with me, and I will admit I began to drift off! Later in the afternoon though I caught up on my emails and admin at home, and did manage to finish off some of this reading.
Wednesday 20th January
On Wednesday I went to the department in the morning and continued my reading. I prepared for an interview I had that afternoon in Newcastle, printed off consent forms and went over the questions I had planned. Whilst I do enjoy interviewing and can get quite a buzz from it, I do also find it pretty stressful (Will they turn up? Will it go to plan? Will the Dictaphone work?), and always seem to over prepare. Later in the morning, I had a meeting about a fieldtrip to Liverpool I’m teaching on in March. This was good, and I’m excited about starting the teaching for it. At lunchtime I went along to the Geography Department’s Feminist Reading group, which was great – we were looking at pieces by Sara Ahmed and Eve Sedgwick and had some interesting discussions around killjoy, paranoia and hopefulness. After this I had to leave quickly to be in Newcastle in time for the interview, which I think went well and will be useful – although I haven’t had time to sit down and transcribe it yet. I then had to be back in Durham later that afternoon for the ESRC start of term welcome drinks. Although I was now getting quite tired, this was fun, as it is always good to catch up with friends from other departments and hear how their work is coming along.
Thursday 21st January
This week has been unusually busy, despite being in the middle of my fieldwork, so I was looking forward to a day at my desk.
I spent the morning starting transcribing Monday morning’s interview (however interesting the material, I just hate listening to my own voice) and then had another meeting about the Liverpool fieldtrip over lunch. In the afternoon I started on marking some of the essays I’ve got to do as part of teaching on a first year Human Geography course. I do actually quite like marking as it is always interesting to see how the students have (hopefully!) progressed from their essays last term. I stayed in the Department a bit later than usual to try and get one of the groups finished.
Friday 22nd January
On Friday morning I finished transcribing the interview, and made a few notes of some initial thoughts from it. It had gone well, and combined with Monday’s research, I now have lots of thoughts on working through the art archive material. I then contacted a few more people who I’m hoping to interview. The rest of the day was just spent marking, and trying to get through as many of the essays as possible, as I don’t particularly want to be working at the weekend. On every other Friday evening, the Geography Department provides free pizza for postgraduates (which is great!). I was organising the delivery this week so I had no choice but to go along and catch up with friends and relax with some pizza (I know, great excuse!). As usual, we headed to the pub after and ended the week with a few beers…or orange juices – I’m doing dry January!
1. Image taken from https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2015/11/being-detention