Starting my PhD in 2016, I felt accelerated by the prospect of conducting interviews across Cape Town for my anthropological Tinder study. Fortunately, these were the pre-Covid 19 days and I successfully managed to recruit participants via the app and meet up with them regularly over the course of almost two years. As I mention in the video: I’m now relatively close to submitting my thesis. That means that I have done the bulk of readings, concluded my ethnographic fieldwork and am, currently, mostly stuck behind my laptop. Some days, I can embrace that. Although sometimes frustrating, it feels rewarding to produce something that contains a lot of yourself.
Before lockdown, much of my thesis writing was done in cafés and in the company of a good friend of mine, Miriam (moral support from peers is hugely important). With the situation out there as it is, Corona-wise, I resolved to staying at home as much as possible. My vlog might suggest that, as a result of staying within the confines of my home, my life now resembles near-stillness. But that is not the case. As the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic highlights, accelerated changes have a way of nestling themselves rather quietly into routines. Even for postgraduates who cannot conduct fieldwork in a traditional way at the moment, there is more happening than meets the eye. Actually, many scholars find themselves in a curious place of rethinking the very paradigms of their field of study and that is more movement than would happen under ‘normal’ circumstances.
Depending on what you’re studying, the day in the life of your PhD might be very different to your peers, and could vary considerably day to day. You might spend more or less time reading, analysing and writing. You may be in a lab, at your desk or busy with fieldwork in a particular setting – at least once the lockdown days are behind us. Perhaps you engage more with people, with microbes or machines. In any case, your day-to-day life culminates in navigating the way towards a ‘significant contribution to our field’, as they say in the thesis evaluation process. (Side note: I always had the vision of an executioner in my mind when thinking about examiners and am currently learning to embrace the process of being evaluated. But that’s for another time).
All of that said, if you’re currently mulling over the possibility of a PhD, take this video as just one scenario and let your imagination run wild as to what it could look like for you. I find that the best thing about PhD is the freedom it offers, although, of course, within some academic confines. So it is, indeed, largely up to you what you want to do with it.