So, my upgrade report is in. It feels a bit anticlimactic – when I handed my MA dissertation in, that was it, I’d finished my degree, there was some closure. This time round, I get to have a glass of wine and a weekend off, and now I’m back to viva prepping, and then there’ll be corrections, and then I have to get ready for fieldwork, and then I have to do fieldwork… Eep. But I think I need to celebrate these small milestones, because it’s a long time till it’s over.
Weekends, by the way, are amazing. I’d kind of forgotten. I slept till 11 and did yoga and read books for fun. My house once again looks like it is inhabited by adult humans who know how to use a mop, rather than, like, rabid foxes… who eat a lot of takeaways. I am easing myself back into cooking actual food, via heating my own pizza and garlic bread, to actually chopping vegetables. (Let’s just not comment on the fact that my report on local food was entirely fuelled by ready meals and takeaways, okay? I think this is what I meant about my ‘activist’ methodology becoming more ‘nuanced’ as I was ‘socialized as a full-time research student in an anthropology department’.)
And I did some work invigilating exams, which means money, which is always nice. The funding situation for next year is not good – the may-have-to-beg-family-or-bank-to-lend-me-money kind of not good. Though I’ve come across another couple of opportunities in the last few days, which means some more lengthy applications to complete but hopefully something will come of it. I feel like I have been lucky enough with funding in my first year that I can’t really complain, but equally I don’t have enough that I can focus on my PhD like it’s a full-time job. And it runs out at the end of August. The most frustrating thing is that the restrictions on how long you can take to complete your PhD are getting stricter and more bureaucratic, at the same time as funding is getting scarcer and the cost of living is going up and anything you can earn from part-time work is stagnating. So the options for getting money and paying rent are shrinking, but instead of there being some institutional accommodation of this fact, there’s less room to be creative and flexible. Thanks, neoliberal university!
Hopefully, one of these big grants will come through. As a backup/supplement, I’m going to start cobbling together as many small grants as possible from various charitable trusts. I’m hoping that together these will mean I emerge from my PhD having had lots of practice in writing successful grant proposals and communicating my work to the public and non-specialists. Though right now it’s time I wish I could spend reading. And I’m so close to the wire that it’s tempting to respond to questions like ‘How would getting this grant help your future research and activities?’ with ‘I could afford to pay rent and eat, which is quite useful’. I’m also doing freelance work to top up the funding I have for the rest of this year. The academy may frown on this, but I figure that people going abroad for fieldwork will be spending time sorting out visas, vaccinations, flights etc, which I don’t, but doing fieldwork at ‘home’ means I have to pay rent in London, so I can use the prep time to earn money instead.
Finally, the least efficient (but, in some ways, most fun) strategy is taking loads and loads of online market research surveys in exchange for which I will eventually get vouchers I can spend on books and equipment. It’s a nice non-thinky activity to do over a cup of tea. I am already 1/4 of the way towards an e-reader (which I am going to use to download loads of ebooks of things that are out of copyright and read them while I’m in the field). Plus I am getting close to earning some amazon vouchers that I can use for a dictaphone etc. It’s also kind of a fascinating process in itself. Like trying to figure out whether I screened out because of my age, gender, income, not having children, being a student… My favourite part is when I get questions like ‘Do you think [processed diet food] will help the problem [of all that healthy food tasting gross and boring and everything you like to eat making you ugly and undesirable]?’ Erm, strongly disagree? ‘What do you think would help?’ Erm, smash the patriarchy? Or, like today, ‘How many times a day do you think about food?’ Probably 26-30, but not in the way you mean. ‘Do you think about food during work?’ Yes. Thinking about food basically is my work.