By: Wichuta & Laura, two Graduate School Development Studies alumni
“Wouldn’t it be nice to stay connected?” we asked during our last months at Lund University. When we finished one of our last courses at Graduate School, Whitney and I realised that this is it – we are soon leaving the beautiful Lund, friends will travel the world and move to different places. And somewhere between this melancholic and sad feeling that we might never see our talented classmates again, we got an idea to create an Alumni Association for Graduate School. A place where alumni meet, share their experiences with current students and network. We also dreamed of an association that would help students transit into the working culture.
As students, we often felt that we did not have enough connection with the “outside” word and knew only the surface of the real working world in our fields. Speaking and discussing our concerns with classmates, we soon realised that we were not the only one eager to get working experience or at least a sense of it.
Building on our shared ideas and conversations, this association was created with two main visions, and that is to connect students with alumni professionals and second help students to prepare for future careers. We wish to connect students with alumni who have working experiences in a field and can give student insights into the working industry. We believe that sharing experiences is a valuable and practical part of education; therefore, we aim to help students network within their fields, provide them with careers events, but also bring together talented alumni who have developed great careers in various fields.
As supportive as always, the Graduate School at Lund is in this project with us! Together, we are inviting all alumni and students of the Graduate School at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Lund University to be part of the Alumni network. We are planning for many events to connect everyone and take advantage of the diversity of our Graduate School to get to know more people and exchange contacts! Please, register yourself as a student or alumni here and help us to create a professional network.
By: Kelsey Danks Social Studies of Gender, 2018 Cohort
Housework is hard and I am lazy. Often it’s not hard as in difficult or actually requiring heavy manual labour but when you’re a student or you work weird hours or you have a deadline or have essentially any excuse, it’s very very easy to say “I can do this later.” and later never happens.
This habit is exacerbated by communal living. It’s very easy to look around the kitchen and go “Well, that’s not my mess and that’s not my mess and ignore the pile of books you’ve left on the table or the rice that you haven’t yet thrown in the food waste. So I’ve started recording ways that I’ve gotten cleaning done in the flat and ways that I can get other people in my flat to also clean, some of them are obvious but some might be helpful for you to use.
Method: Just cleaning when things are dirty
If something needs doing, don’t wait for someone to give it to you as a job! Get stuck in and clean any and all messes. It will not hurt you to clean up someone else’s pan and if it’s clean it’s going to stop bothering you.
Effect on flatmates: Shamed into cleaning. I thought that this method might lead to me accidentally delegating myself all the cleaning duties but what I found was that my flatmates started feeling really guilty that I was putting a lot of work in and then they started cleaning themselves. What helped was that I put a lot of cleaning efforts in early on so now the household tasks are fairly evenly delegated but they still think I’m the “Flat MomTM”.
Method: Spite cleaning
Everything is a mess. No one is pitching in. You have an assignment due. You do everything. They do nothing. Angst. Angst. Angst. Sometimes the world is against you and you have to take it upon yourself to clean everything. Even the things that don’t usually matter like hoovering under the sofas because well, no one else is going to do and I bet it hasn’t been done since you moved in. This is what I have dubbed “spite cleaning”. It’s surprisingly useful and effective for getting a lot done and honestly, you feel better afterwards.
Effect on flatmates: Leave you alone. To the surprise of no one, when you are exuding an aura of hatred, people leave you alone to get on with it. This might be helpful, given that you can’t stand your flatmates at that precise moment in time because they’re making you do all the work. But it doesn’t really get them to pick up the slack in any way.
Method: Visible cleaning or Cleaning party
This is my preferred method for getting other people to clean. Put on some music, set a room goal (i.e. clean the hallway) and just start cleaning. Be noisy. Sing loudly. Ask people “Who’s shoes are these?”. Have fun with it.
Effect on flatmates: Migration to the party. Flatmates will start to meander into the room you’re tidying, at first it’s to claim the pile you’ve been making of their things but then they’ll start cleaning. The party often doesn’t stop at one room, they’ll migrate to the living room and start moving their things in there as well. It’s amazing.
Additional Note: In writing this blog post, I mentioned the incident where I’d used this method to clean the hallway and one of my flatmates remarked “I just remember that I was sitting on the sofa and the next we were all having a good time tidying the hallway. I don’t remember how or why it started.”
Method: Cleaning sprint
Get everyone to agree that something needs doing. The whole flat, the kitchen, whatever is looking bad. Set a timer for one hour. Everyone tidies for one hour. Flat looks far far far more tidy after everyone cleans for one hour.
Effect on flatmates: Everyone feels like the problem has been tackled because you all agreed there was a problem. Everyone feels like they put about as much weight in as everyone else. This is a very fair method. The only problem arises when one person doesn’t join in or complains the whole time but then maybe they’re the problem, not the mess.
Method: Delegation method
Here’s the thing, if something is bothering you, there is a solid 50/50 chance that no one else has noticed it. Now, you could do it yourself, but if you’re busy you can also ask someone else to do it. Unsurprisingly, not everything has to be done by you but if you still expect the things to get done you often need to ask someone else instead of waiting for them to realise that the floor needs hoovering. If this makes you feel bad, remember, it’s a chore in itself to keep up with all of the chores which need doing and to be the one delegating those tasks (“the mental load”). There’s many ways to delegate: ask directly or drop it in a passing conversation, ask it as a favour of someone or quickly ask someone to do it on your way out of the door because you just ran out of time and you promise you’ll do the washing up instead when you get back. As long as you are fair about what you delegate and what you do, it often works.
Effect on flatmates: I’m not saying Milgram’s obedience study but… There’s definitely studies which show that when you ask people to do favours for you it actually makes them like you more because they feel useful and wanted. There’s also studies which say that if you ask people to do things, they’ll often do it, even if it’s not in their best interest. Asking people nicely to do things around the house (rather than just expecting them to) is surprisingly effective. Just make sure that you return the favour as often as you ask!
Some methods will work better for your household than others, some methods won’t take hold at all. If a method means you’re still the only one tidying then maybe have a bigger discussion with everyone in the flat face to face and create a rota and a means to hold people accountable. But regardless, keep cleaning, even if only out of spite and at the end of it you can sit down and rest easy knowing at least some of the cleaning has been done!
By: Kelsey Danks Social Studies of Gender, 2018 Cohort
To follow up on my previous post, I felt it would be good to create a post about how to set up a good environment for communal living, so here are my tips!
First of all, reflect on yourself.
What kind of person are you? What are your motivations for doing communal living? Are you doing it for financial reasons? Do you want to be able to talk to people at any time of day? Are you able to handle close conflict? Are you able to take criticism? Do you know when to put your foot down and how to communicate boundaries? Do you know how to take care of yourself?This might seem a little patronising but I don’t recommend communal living for people who have just moved out from their childhood home. Those who have moved out for the first time often don’t think about how much effort goes into the maintenance of a household. It’s a very good option available for people who have lived by themselves for a year, learnt to wash up often, clean the bathroom every time it gets dirty, hoover on a weekly basis etc.
Okay, so you think you’re ready to live communally?
The next thing (if you are able to) would be to choose who to live with. Previously, I’ve stated that we often end up not living with friends because we don’t want to ruin our friendships and that I think this stems from our negative stigma towards communal living. Thus, it could be seen that I am advocating to move in with your friends. Not exactly. Some of your friends (though they are lovely, I’m sure) are going to be the worst people for you to live with. They might be interesting and fun but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be what you want from a living arrangement.
My best advice would be to “Live with people that you want to be like.” This is a simple concept that I think more people should adopt. Our behaviours affect those around us, and in such close quarters it can either influence, inspire or annoy. There is nothing wrong with wanting to experience student life through socialising and going out to parties but if that is what you want, live with people who are living that life, don’t move in with introverts who want to go to bed at 23:00 every night! Conversely, if you’re ready to act like “a real adultTM”, move in with the people who are already working a 9-5 or seem to have their lives in order; you’ll only get increasingly frustrated by moving in with people who sleep until 12:00 and complain that they’re doing their essay at the last minute. Friction will occur when a social butterfly is hosting yet another get together in a household full of quiet wallflowers but that same social butterfly will thrive in a household of fellow extroverts.
Alright, you’ve gathered your small group of like-minded individuals.
Next comes the “expectations conversation”. This is important to have but also take it with a grain of salt. Everyone will be downplaying their expectations and needs and everyone will be subtly selling themselves as a tolerable person to live with. This happens for several reasons. One, no one wants to be seen as ‘high maintenance’ (unless you all are), this often leads to the famous “I don’t mind clutter, but I don’t like dirty.” line people use when they talk about cleaning. (The person who says this is also usually the first person to complain that there’s too many bags on the sofa while the floor of the bathroom is covered in grime). Two, the rental market in Lund is FIERCE and no one wants to risk their chance at reasonable accommodation because they are bad at remembering to pick up their laundry.
Is this conversation useless? No, but discuss your expectations as specifically as you can. What chores do you hate? What chores don’t you mind? Do you want to put food shopping money into a fund, who would you like to use that fund? Are you happy to just buy groceries as needed and trust that people won’t abuse that system? Is your sleep schedule liable to move about? Is keeping a strict schedule important to you? Do you want to live communally (i.e. share dinner together, share resources) or do you just want to share living spaces (i.e. want to use the kitchen at separate times and have more individual responsibility). Be as upfront as you can about these things and discuss in as much detail as possible but also be flexible on what the final outcome will be.
Moved in with everyone?
Now for the real fun! Always someone around to watch a film with, people around for you to share your signature dish with (or to try theirs), and when they’re out you can appreciate peace and quiet in a whole new way! Remember to be invested in other people “How was your day?” “Did the interview go well?” and remember to thank people “Thank you for washing up.” “Thank you for grabbing the rubbish the other day.” It goes a long way in making sure that people in the house feel like their efforts are visible and appreciated even if they shrug the praise off.
But alas, there’s even trouble in paradise.
There will come a time when the rent is late or the milk wasn’t replaced or towels have been left all over the bathroom. How is the best way to handle conflict? I would assert that the worst way is the commonly adopted passive aggressive note. The note does not solve the issue but instead frames the issue of the mouldy cup into one of moral superiority and surveillance, it shames the person in a way that is not effective as there is no real accountability to a post stick note. This tends to become an option for people who want to avoid direct conflict but in not confronting the issue it oftentimes creates more conflict.
What is the solution? Be BLUNT and UPFRONT. “Please don’t leave your cup to get dirty.” Said out loud, to the offender. No need to add “I noticed the other day that-” or “It’s really annoying to have to clean up when you-” or anything which almost inevitably leads into shaming the other person. If you state the simple fact of what is annoying you, it will mortify the individual into doing the correct thing. If you are very conflict avoidant, bring it up in a funny way, like in an ultra whiny voice or laugh your way through the sentence, let the person defend themselves (which they will often try to do) and say “no problem, but next time.” Some people are concerned that being this blunt can antagonise themselves to other people but I have found the opposite to be true. If you are always honest about when something is wrong and able to adequately explain what is upsetting you, it puts the rest of the household at ease because they know your boundaries and know that you’re not harbouring any resentment.
This leads into my favourite aphorism: Hanlon’s Razor. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”. I’ve seen a lot of living arrangements (and even professional relationships) break down once one person starts to suspect another of acting in spite or hostility when oftentimes, the offending person has no knowledge of the problem, no knowledge of how to solve the problem or forgot the problem existed. I’d been told off for putting milk cartons into the plastic bin (because that’s where it goes in the UK) instead of the cardboard bin (as apparently it goes in Sweden), but this was not corrected until the Swedes sat me down and showed me exactly where on the carton that it stated it was for the cardboard recycling (I had been skeptical). But it had turned out that my ignorance had infuriated them for a while because they thought I wasn’t doing the recycling on purpose. Nope, I’m just stupid. But luckily we can often fix stupid.
Lastly, I think it is important to frame your living situation as permanent.
Six months is a significant amount of time to spend with the same people and if you or they are all passing it off as only six months to have to tolerate living communally, you’re going to have a bad time! Don’t treat it as if it’s temporary, even if it is. Act as though you’re going to all live together forever and then put in the effort required to make that work. If you go into it wanting to make it work, it will work!
By: Kelsey Danks Social Studies of Gender, 2018 Cohort
“Write as though your reader has no experience in your topic.”
This is the phrase I’ve heard over and over in various forms, usually at the end of lectures between the essay being assigned and the essay being due. I understand the student wants to know “How do I write this in a way that is sophisticated and accessible enough to be understood but intelligent? How can I emulate the authors that I read in your class?” The teacher is explaining “Please use an appropriate tone in your academic writing. Assume the reader is experiencing your subject for the first time.” But I find that this hasn’t been the answer the student is looking for because it doesn’t explain “how”. They deflate and maybe ask a follow up question relating specifically to citations but ultimately, they’re no closer to understanding what tone to use on their papers.
Past an introductory level teachers start to assume knowledge of their students, and students start to assume knowledge of each other. Somewhere around the bachelor’s thesis level, after ten years of being drilled to use an elaborate code in our essays, many of us start to panic about what knowledge is commonplace and understood by all and what we need to actively describe in order for the essay to be comprehensible for the average reader. Seemingly, the more we specialise, the harder this task becomes. When you study one thing day in and day out, it is hard to take a step back and realise what information you are taking for granted. While we use reflexivity to understand where we stand as a researcher in relation to the subject of study we don’t often use it with us as the academic in relation to our audience.
Elaborate and restricted code is a concept first published by Bernstein in 1971, it is the idea that we speak in different ways in different situations and this has an impact on how we interact with the education system specifically. If simplified for the sake of the blog format, restricted code is when you work under the assumption that those around you are experiencing the same context, elaborate code is when you speak with the assumption that those around you may not have that context.
For example: “Bojo’s at it again.” (Restricted)
Versus: “I see from the newspaper I am reading that Boris Johnson, leader of the British Conservative party, is once again trying to attack the European Union from a position of right-wing populism as we discussed a couple of days ago.” (Elaborated)
Restricted code is often associated with the working class, thanks to Bernstein’s original paper Class, Codes and Control: Theoretical Studies Towards a Sociology of Language. Bernstein asserts that education teaches in and demands elaborate code of its students, something that working class students are often limited by due to their restricted code of dialect, slang, less complex syntax and vocabulary etc. and are thus penalised by a system which does not recognise restricted code. This is not to say that working class children are idiots, nor that they cannot learn elaborate code, nor that middle class children do not use restricted code, only drawing awareness that working class children may be at a disadvantage when they first enter the education system.
I would assert, however, that we return to restricted code the further into academia we delve. This is a theory I have with little academic grounding, but hear me out. We must make assumptions about our readers in order to write otherwise we will be immobilised by descriptive definitions. We cannot start every essay discussing the importance of Marx, Freud and Foucault before leading into our actual thesis, it is usually enough for us to state “This directly relates to Foucault’s theory of discourse.” with a citation or say “Socialism” without going through the history of Marx’s writings and we would expect our reader to nod along. If you would like to test this for yourself, go ahead and read an article in a very different discipline and highlight everything you don’t understand. If (like me) you’ve forgotten how to perform basic addition, check out a STEM article such as Software Engineering Principles Applied to Computer Assisted Language Learning or BLOCK-SYMMETRIC AND BLOCK-LOWER-TRIANGULAR PRECONDITIONERS FOR PDE-CONSTRAINED OPTIMIZATION PROBLEMS and see how far you can get without getting confused (hint: the second one is harder!). And sure, we can argue that social sciences have a different formula or a different audience to STEM articles but that would be to miss my point. We move back towards a more restrictive code the more specialised we become and essay based disciplines such as social sciences and humanities have not acknowledged this process.
We are not here to necessarily illuminate the shortcomings of academia or overturn it, but it would be sensible to answer the question posed by the student at the beginning “How should I write my essay?” One could go the ‘Judith Butler’ route and just write in a way that is utterly incomprehensible to all but the most closely matched peers. On the other hand, students often go the other route and become overly descriptive in their writing and end up taking word count away from their analysis. So how do we find the line in between these extremes?
My personal feeling is that we should move away from the concept that anyone could be our audience and begin focusing on a likely audience. Can my essay be understood by anyone in my subject? In my major? In my class? A useful way forward out of the paralysis of over-explaining would be to begin to write for yourself but at a lower academic level. For example, at a Master’s level you should write for who you were at a bachelor’s level; at PhD, you write for masters’ students and so on. I think a lot of us are naturally inclined to write like this anyway because when we acquire new information we’re more likely to assume that no one else knows it.
So, next essay, don’t try to write “for everyone”. Instead, imagine what you didn’t know at bachelor’s level and write for that version of you.
By: Kelsey Danks Social Studies of Gender, 2018 Cohort
Single person households with no children are the most common type of household within Sweden. Living by oneself is seen as the marker of independence and thriving in that state is a show that you have truly made it and are succeeding as an adult. So why is it that after two years of living by myself and a year of living with my partner am I returning to the idea of communal living?
Communal living is often looked back on with horror, something for young people to endure as the interim between living with their parents and becoming an independent single person household. It is usually filled with memories of hiding in rooms, waiting for someone to leave the kitchen so you can go in to make your own meal as quickly as possible, dirty dishes, loud parties which either keep you awake or put you in the disdain of those with a rigid sleep schedule and passive aggressive notes indicating in a not-at-all-subtle way that people should clean up after themselves immediately.
Why communal living fails
Communal living often fails because it is treated like a group project. That is, you are thrown together with people you hardly know and expected to work in harmony. Learning conflict resolution and compromising are part of the process and it will ultimately prepare you for ‘the real world’ where you might encounter people that you might not like. Except, of course, anyone who has participated in a group project would tell you that it doesn’t really work like that. More often it involves interacting the least amount possible with your group in order to get the work done and/or pushing the heavier load onto whichever person is the most desperate to get a good grade (or a clean flat). Given the higher stakes involved in a living situation, it is a huge gamble to put people who aren’t familiar with each other into a living situation and expect them to thrive in it.
Due to these initial experiences, we often start perpetuating this idea (if you are ‘forced’ to carry on with communal living) that you shouldn’t move in with your friends because you won’t be friends by the end of the experience. As a result, we often plunge ourselves into households with people we tolerate as opposed to people we like. Often resulting in continued isolation and continued subpar living standards. We continue to treat communal living as this “in between state” that we have to endure before we can be real adults. We feel ashamed for being in a financial or social situation which requires we live communally as opposed to independently. We envy our friends who have their own space and spend time there instead of our corridors with poorly chosen or assigned ‘friends’.
My case(study) for communal living
My partner and I moved in during August 2019 with two close friends whom I’d met through Lund’s Student Theatre. All of us weren’t high enough on the housing lists to find anything so we decided that a collective effort of finding accommodation might be more fruitful than each of us searching individually. We (very fortunately) ended up finding a flat in klostergården and settled quickly into our new accommodation. We had all been slightly apprehensive about the move, especially my partner who (as an introverted and tech minded individual) had his reservations about moving in with three loud musical theatre nerds.
However, since moving in we have found multiple benefits with the arrangement. Firstly and most pragmatically, we are all saving a considerable amount of money, the rent and bills are cheaper, the cost of bulk foods works out better over time, there’s also a decreased need to go out to socialise (which can be very costly in Sweden in the evening!). We quickly fell into a routine which left us with a very manageable workload, I cook and take pride in it, it’s not something which feels like a chore to me, I manage the kitchen and do the food shopping. My partner manages the electronics and fixes or automates things to make our lives easier, the other two have relatively divided up cleaning chores in a way that means they get to do the things which are less stressful or boring for them.
The ‘shame’ aspect of not being the clean one is also surprisingly useful! But aside from these practical aspects, we also found that we were more generally more responsible both for ourselves and each other. We would notice when someone had forgotten to eat or hadn’t been sleeping properly, we would make greater efforts to keep our own mental health in check knowing how easily it can spill over and affect those around us. During a stressful week in December (since dubbed “hell week”), we took turns to emotionally and mentally break down after experiencing personal and shared traumatic incidents and there was always someone put-together enough in the moment to help us get through. We find ourselves going to different people for different things: tough love, a pep talk, a hug, practical advice, a sounding board; which I found drastically improved my romantic relationship as I was no longer putting pressure on my partner to provide all of these things. Going into this knowing that we all want it to work long-term, unsurprisingly, has made it work.
The need for de-stigmatisation
The health detriments of living alone are numerous and well documented. If we continue to view communal living as a shameful situation which connotes not being an adult, independent or financially capable, we will continue to make people vulnerable to the isolation and health risks of a single person household. For those of us who can not have or do not want to have our own nuclear family units, there is a lack of socially acceptable options for living which will not disproportionately affect our wellbeing over time. Communal living certainly needs to be rethought.
By Fredrik Eklund Social Studies of Gender, 2015 Cohort
Fredrik Eklund is a Graduate School alumnus who completed his master’s degree in the Social Studies of Gender with a major in Political Science in 2017. He recently returned from Nepal, where he worked in a school with the prevention of discrimination, harassment and bullying. He is currently looking at different options to continue his academic career in Germany.
As I think about it more in-depth I find that my reasons and motivations for dumpster diving (DD) changed, merged, and diversified with time. Initially being related to sustainability and economy, it evolved, and rather surprisingly became a way of socialising, as well as forcing more creativity in the kitchen.
Being vegetarian, I found that buying the fresh vegetables I needed was very expensive and taxing on a student budget. More so I really enjoyed dairy products a great deal, especially cheese, but felt that I should reduce my consumption of dairy. I thought that DD gave me the option to continue eating dairy, but minimised the amount I purchased from stores. Connecting my vegetarianism to DD made a lot of sense. It was a good way to simultaneously live more sustainably, improve my economy, and show that there are ways to use food that has been discarded as garbage.
When I did it regularly, about twice a week, I didn’t buy fresh vegetables or fruits at all. This had a positive effect on my economic situation and it also forced me to be very creative with my cooking, as peppers, apples, zucchini, and tomatoes were things I found in abundance. It was a reoccurring shock to see how much perfectly edible food was thrown away by stores. It was sad to see how huge quantities of food are unnecessarily produced and carelessly disposed of, food that could be made available to those who cannot afford it.
Based on my observations and findings during DD I find that three things seem to increase store waste. First is the consumer demand on each individual store to have a wide selection of products, for example budget stores like Netto and Lidl, in offering expensive 50 kronor ecological juices and cheese. We all want a “one stop shop”. Second is the demand from consumers on stores to have huge varieties of vegetables and fruits in the stock all year around. I sure do like my avocados! Finally, the use of oversized plastic packages for vegetables and fruits causes staff to throw away 2 kilos of apples, even if only a single apple inside the package is damaged. These are just three examples which if approached and solved, could thereby contribute to more sustainable management of food. It is both the consumer’s and the store’s responsibility to make this happen.
I suspect that Lund, being a student city, has a significant influence on the availability of and accessibility to dumpsters. Few stores lock their dumpsters, and the many employees one meets when searching for edible products understand and accept that students do it. It is also likely that many employees are students themselves. Hence, it is rather unproblematic to dumpster dive in Lund, particularly as a student. This most likely influenced me into doing it so regularly.
This led me to think about and reflect upon the social position and individual and ideological reasons for dumpster diving. An individual with a very favourable social position like myself, legitimises his choice to search through garbage with sustainability, student income, and vegetarianism. This turns it into something cool, hip, and even trendy called dumpster diving, framed within discourses of sustainability from the position of a white male student. I highly doubt that a socially marginalised individual, homeless and hungry, can give store owners, security, or society the same “acceptable” explanation. I think that there is a risk that these individuals’ actions would just be seen as unsanitary, desperate, problematic, and even criminal. The point I wish to make is that depending on why dumpster diving is done and by whom, it will be viewed differently by other people, yourself, and society. Therefore I wish to conclude by posing the following question: Would dumpster diving be as accessible, easy, and accepted in Lund if it were done by people other than students and for reasons perceived to be other than those of sustainability and student economy? I know that in other cities, for example Stockholm, many if not most stores lock their dumpsters.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and reflections, and I do encourage you all to start dumpster diving! In addition to the above mentioned reasons it’s also a lot of fun! I sure will continue where and whenever possible.
BySofie Trier Jensen Social Studies of Gender, Cohort, 2016
Sofie Trier Jensen is a Graduate School alumna who completed her master’s degree in Social Studies of Gender with a major in Gender Studies this past spring 2018. During her third term of studies at Graduate School, Sofie had the opportunity to intern for Mangfold, Cecilie Nørgaard in Copenhagen which is an organisation that works to integrate research-anchored perspectives in culture and education. Here’s a look at an abridged version of Sofie’s final internship report for the course.
An Exploration of Form and Content
Is it possible to create knowledge that is accessible to more people, while maintaining the same validity and status as that of a traditional academic writing? That was what I wanted to explore in my internship report.
My main claim is that guidelines and procedures about academic writing are not objective or neutral standards, but moulded by political forces. The ongoing neo-liberalisation of the education sector, characterised by evaluations, rankings and calculations, are thus in risk of suppressing the critical potential of feminist studies and other critical fields. My appeal is thus that we should make deliberate and judicious choices, rooted in our methodology and not just thoughtlessly inscribe our material into fixed templates on the basis of old habits and the hunt of academic recognition.
Accordingly I have create a collage with the purpose of making gender socialising as an omnipresent praxis more visible and relatable – to more people – also outside of academia.
The Big Blue Binder
When I was a kid I used to flip through this big blue binder. On the back of the binder it said SOFIE, written with capital letters. The binder was about me! The binder documented my entire life with pictures, a birth certificate, birthday cards, drawings… I would flip and flip and flip from one end of the binder to the other glaring at myself laughing, eating, playing, sleeping… First day at kindergarten, holidays, holding my baby-sister for the first time, losing a tooth, building a snowman, having ice-cream. Flip flip flip – and as I grew the binder grew with me, more pictures, now statements from school, letters, even some of my hair glued to a piece of paper. I would gradually understand more and more about time, about who I was and where I came from. I really loved that binder, it made me feel as if I was a part of something wonderful and that the life that I lived was just picture perfect.
I recently revisited the binder. I took it from my bookcase – dusty old thing and heavy too – and placed myself in the corner of my sofa with the binder in front of me. Soon I got pulled into the story of my life once more. This time however I am an adult, an analytical and critical adult – and now I see things differently.
I am aware that there might be some without a photo album of their own, some without photos at all, some without family members to take their photo or maybe someone whose photos for some reason are too painful to look at. Nevertheless, my hope is that most readers will be able to relate to the universe of the collage, that they will experience some sort of familiarity with the composition of the pictures, with the atmosphere, with the motives of the drawings, and with the praising words from a parent. That they will understand and sense the continuity and repetition of a certain gendered existence and that they, regardless of their own gender identity and expression, will recognise the mechanisms of gender socialising. Repetition is a central theme in my collage: repetition of words, expressions, and visuals, repetitions in the sense of continuity throughout time and space and in the sense of a tireless child flipping and flipping in a big blue binder, day out and day in, year after year.
Avenstrup, Kristina & Hudecek, Sine (2016) Køn i pædagogisk praksis (Læring i dagtilbud). Dafolo
Bourdieu, Pierre (2007) Den Maskuline Dominans. 2. Udgave. Århus Tiderne Skifter
The purpose of this “survival guide” is not to give you tips on how to formulate a good research question or structure your thesis—trust me, you will get plenty of help when it comes to the content of your thesis. I will not insult your intelligence by telling you not to plagiarize, either. Instead, I will talk about some mistakes that I and some of my friends made and the setbacks we had, while telling you how you could avoid the same fate.
As a recent thesis course “survivor,” I believe that my case can be a cautionary tale for those of you who tend to procrastinate, get distracted, fail to set achievable goals or spend way too much time reading—basically, the ones who make the entire process of thesis-writing much harder for themselves than it is supposed to be. While writing a master’s thesis is not the easiest task, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to make it simple for yourself, and manage to submit your thesis in May.
#1 You don’t have as much time as you think you do
This is a very common misperception among many thesis-writing students including myself, so the first thing you should remember is that you don’t have the luxury to slack because you are on a tight schedule. Once the course starts, it might look like you have more than enough time and writing a 20.000-word thesis will be a piece of cake, which may lure you into doing other things e.g. making travel plans during your last term. This kind of thinking makes it incredibly easy to get distracted from working on your thesis until a month or a few weeks left before the deadline.
Well, I certainly thought that I had more than enough time and failed to prioritize working on my thesis over my other, less important commitments. I was also guilty of doing some traveling myself. As a result, I could not make it to the first examination opportunity in June 2019. Then I ended up spending the entire summer agonizing over my unfortunate choices and mistakes because I was stuck home trying really hard to finish my thesis while my friends were traveling, enjoying their lives, and getting some vitamin D.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t have enough time to finish your thesis, but it is important to keep in mind that you should use your time wisely. Even if you have a solid plan and know what you are doing, there is always the possibility that things may change as you work on your thesis and you may want to go in a different direction with certain sections, which will require you to have time.
#2 Try to work on your thesis every day
This tip might seem completely pointless for those of you who procrastinate, but another unsolicited advice that I want to give is that it could do wonders to push yourself to get at least a little thesis-related work done every single day. I did not do this, and realized that the more time off I took from working on my thesis, the harder it got for me to go back to it, the guiltier I felt about shirking my responsibilities and the more I put off what I needed to do. This, my friend, is a vicious cycle that you don’t want to find yourself in.
Considering that you might be under the impression that you have a lot of time, it is so easy to make excuses and take long breaks from thesis-writing. This rule would apply even if you had all the time in the work to complete the task in front of you. I know, I know… Not everyone works the same way, everyone has their way of doing things and their own timeline, and so on. In my experience as a former student who used to tell everyone the exact same thing, this is merely an excuse to justify one’s tendency to procrastinate. Working on your thesis slowly but steadily is a much more efficient method than working on it extensively in a short period of time.
#3 Attend the midterm seminars and group supervision sessions
If you are anything like me, you might not be very fond of the idea of an incomplete text that you submitted being scrutinized by your teachers and peers. Maybe you are not the best at handling criticism, particularly about something that you are not absolutely proud of… or maybe you don’t have enough material to submit and get feedback on because you have been procrastinating.
Even if you feel like you are behind and believe that you might not get much out of attending the midterm seminar or groups supervision sessions, I recommend that you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone and go to those meetings. Maybe you will not get as many in-depth comments as others because you don’t have a lot of material, but you might still get many useful suggestions and improve your thesis. Besides, meeting your peers who are all experiencing the same stressful situation and seeing that you are not alone might evoke a feeling of camaraderie within you, which can be empowering.
#4 Make well-thought-out outlines and set precise goals
Another mistake that I and many others made during the thesis-writing process was not to clearly plan every step of the way, in addition to setting goals that were not well defined. For instance, it is not uncommon for any thesis-writing student to plan to write a certain number of pages or words every day, but that might not necessarily be an achievable goal in itself.
At one point, I convinced myself that I would easily get done on time if I wrote three pages every day, and I tried very hard to reach that goal only to get more and more stressed out. Sometimes it even felt like what I was writing was completely meaningless, which meant going back to where I started and rewriting entire pages. I now know that focusing on quantity rather than quality can lead to huge setbacks.
My suggestion is that you should be much more precise when you are setting goals. If you want to write three pages every day, you should plan ahead what these pages will be about and which sections that they will be part of. It will get you much better results to make a thorough outline of your thesis, and to come up with a daily/weekly/monthly plan to slowly but steadily build a cohesive draft. That is one strategy that will help you submit your thesis on time.
#5 Seriously, don’t read too much
This one is a little bit ironic as it entails procrastinating while you think you are working on your thesis: You should avoid reading too much because doing way more reading than you are supposed to makes getting actual work done on your thesis very, very difficult. While there are certain risks associated with focusing on too few articles and books, doing the opposite is no less dangerous. Believe me, you surely don’t want to feel like you wasted a lot of time that you could have used to write your thesis.
I know from experience that some of you might feel like there is always more to read, and it is not wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that you should read absolutely everything, either. Can you honestly expect to read every single book and article that pertain to what you are trying to do? How do you think you will incorporate everything you want into your 20.000-word thesis? You can’t, it is as simple as that. It is admittedly a little tricky to know how much you should read, but it is essential. You can search for other master’s theses similar to yours on LUP Student Papers and see what references former students used. Alternatively, you can talk to your peers about this to get an idea or ask your supervisor for advice on how you can delimit how much reading you should do.
To conclude, I don’t necessarily agree with the statement that the best thesis is a finished thesis; however, I can attest that completing your thesis will take a tremendous amount of stress off your shoulders and you will be able to move on with your life. These tips and tricks are far from being an exhaustive list of what you should and should not do during your thesis term, but I strongly believe that paying attention to these points will help you get there. My last suggestion is that you should ask for help when you need it. Don’t be scared to bother your supervisor because it is only natural that you need advice and they should be able to offer you help. Also, if you are struggling with the whole thesis-writing process, Graduate School has great study advisors whom you can schedule a meeting with and get support from.
One Graduate School student’s experience of social distancing
Last week, we spoke to Anne Stella, a first-year student in the Social Studies of Gender program from Kenya. As all of Lund University has transitioned to temporary distance education and promoted social distancing, we wanted to hear how some of our students have been adapting to this new way of learning – and life in self-isolation. Here is what we learned about her experience.
It was about 2 p.m. on a sunny weekday afternoon as I dialed into yet another Zoom meeting. It seems like we’re using Zoom for everything these days. More than just meetings or lectures, Zoom has even become my new norm for Sunday fika and even the first virtual birthday party I’ve ever been invited to.
Anne Stella was soon online and I instantly noticed the poster board behind her, a requiem for the kind of travel that became unavailable to us all, overnight. “I was initially in denial,” she noted when I first asked about how this experience has been for her: “I was so desperate for things to be normal. But this one is as personal as it is global.”
Anne Stella is currently taking Graduate School’s Fieldwork course, which she says is going okay, but that she misses the classroom experience. Adapting to a new way of life, especially so quickly, is no easy feat. So how is she managing it?
“I had to come to a point where I accepted that things are different, and no one is expecting me to be normal. Once I had that idea, making the changes got easier.” She began with taking a day or two to do nothing and transition, before starting fresh: “I moved the furniture around in my room. I was reading in a different place, by the window where the sunlight is really nice. I needed space for a new workout routine. I needed to show myself that things are different now.”
Understanding her natural impulses also made a huge difference for her. Knowing that she is a morning person, she continues to get up at 6 a.m., making breakfast and starting her day like she would if she were going to campus. She likes her afternoon naps, so she’s treating herself to those each day as well. “I heard someone say to treat yourself like you’re recovering from surgery – be extra nice to yourself right now. Be extra nice to other people too. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Limiting her time reading the news was also a turning point for her. She explained how in the beginning, she was watching everything – following each news update as they came. But the anxiety from that just wasn’t productive. She now gives herself just 30 minutes per day to read or watch news, and then turns it off for the rest of the time. “It’s important to know what’s happening, but not to get obsessed,” she noted.
All of this time at home has given her time to be social in new ways, as well. She and her class from her undergraduate degree started getting together on a group video call on the weekends, which she says has been really fun. She also attends church digitally and even had her first virtual holy communion.
Her advice to students in the same position is to: “take time to make a routine. Just take the time to know that this is new, like when you move somewhere or start a new job. We need to just sit down and know: ‘This might last longer than I think, and I need some order in my life.’ Think about yourself and how you work effectively, and build your new routine around that. Pay attention to your spiritual and emotional needs, and save time to meet them. You can be flexible with yourself, but start with a plan. We have to know that just like every pandemic, this is going to end eventually.”