Postcards from a PhD
‘If I could turn back time’ Cher famously sang, ‘if I could find a way…’. And as far as I’m aware, correct me if I’m wrong, she never did succeed in achieving temporal alteration. Unlike Cher, I actually have found a way to turn back time. Furthermore (unlike Cher) the process did not involve me straddling a enormous naval torpedo launcher whilst wearing a leotard. It is with my new found time-travel capabilities that I’m pleased to report that this week I started my PhD (again).
When I wrote at the start of my PhD last year that I expected I’d stray from the path from time to time, I had not anticipated this would take the form of a diversion to a completely different city. While I have loved PhD-ing, Liverpool just wasn’t working out for me for reasons which can be broadly summarised by not feeling I was getting a full student experience. With this in mind I’m re-starting PhD studies at the University of Leeds which, being the institution I studied at as an undergraduate, feels very much like coming home. They’ve even given me my old student email address back, the first email address I ever had, which is strangely satisfying. So anyway, if you have noticed things were a bit quiet on the blog-front, this has been why.
I’ve only been between PhDs for a few months, but I have missed the feeling of purpose it gave me tremendously and am very much looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Though I am technically starting again and not transferring, it doesn’t feel like a step back. I have gained a lot from the last year that won’t be lost in the process of moving from one institution to another. I’ve read so much, my confidence in discussing my ideas has increased and I feel I’ve really zoned in on my research area. My research proposal to Leeds felt so much more focused than the one I submitted to Liverpool a year and a half before. A good job too, as Leeds register you against your research title and you wouldn’t want to be lumbered for years with something that didn’t feel like it quite fitted. I’m very excited to be embarking on my research project: ‘Re-imagined pasts: the emergence of hauntology within electronic music and the retroactive search for meaning’.
If further proof were needed for my development this year, I even managed to finally solve my own conundrum. A year ago, in my first post for this blog, I discussed how I was still labouring to come up with a snappy definition of what hauntology actually was. Well, it may not be particularly snappy, but I’ve finally found a way of explaining hauntology that I’m happy with that also exhibits what it is about it that I think makes it worthy of research. I define hauntology in reference to cultural products as being a preoccupation with the things we believed in the past which, with retrospect, now appear naive. Hauntology simultaneously encapsulates both the wry observation of this naivety and the mourning of its loss. In the context of hauntology as a genre of electronic music this is exhibited through its preoccupation with themes such as folklore, the (lost) optimism of post-war British culture towards the state, particularly in terms of education and housing, and a faith in (now obsolete) technology. As a definition it’s still a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to fleshing it out over the next six years. Barring any future ventures into time travel, of course.