Keeping up With the Profs

So I sat down yesterday afternoon with my Swiss Professor of History and Sociology. I had heard some pretty rough stories about her. How moody she was and uncooperative with her co-workers etc. Two people told me she was f’king rude. I’d seen her around but avoided introducing myself. I wanted it on my terms. The afternoon came and I sauntered up. She was late but I was expecting that. I looked out at the rain and sang some songs to myself. I was a little nervous. She arrived, complained about the room temperature being too low and looked at me probably wondering who the hell I was, which is understandable. Even I do that sometimes.

We settled down with our tea and started going over what was to be done. She was re-writing the curriculum for her intercultural university course and that’s how I could help. They wanted it to be more internationalist or cosmopolitan. I wasn’t sure how I could help exactly but intercultural is another name for cross-cultural, one of the areas I’ve looked into. We talked about identity and gender, political nationalism and liberty. Names such as Stuart Hall, Bourdieu, Les Back and Judith Butler were mentioned. It was getting interesting.

Soon we started getting into it. Mapping out lines of thought, intersections and commonalities. As I talked about social cohesion and multiculturalism, I noticed she was making notes, smiling at my argument and logic. I had this same sinking feeling like I first got in Japan talking to the boss Martin Jones. I was being listened to by someone I was only meant to listen to. I might be on the cusp or standing at the door of a new stage.

(‘Standing at the door of English’ was a phrase I heard from a 77 year-old, 3 piece suit wearing retired Japanese man one day. I got talking to him in a cafe in Kyoto. He had long, hippy length hair and told me after retiring at 70 from his straight-jacket business job, he grew his hair, wore the suits he never could and decided to learn English. I loved this guy.)

We moved onto the problems of development and the limiting ability of NGOs to help poor countries. The troubles of NGOs even BINGOs start as soon as a situation becomes political. They simply lack the power and authority to get things done. And given that almost everything is considered political, seen as an economically exploitative or strategically interference, NGOs simply get lost. Development, real movement gets lost in the fog of political and economic battle.

By this time, it was almost 5pm and time to leave it for the day. I was tired anyway after little sleep that weekend. Of course its too early to know where this is going to go but as we wrapped up for the day, she said you know you should do a PhD. I thought and asked but in what? She replied ‘ah well that’s the most difficult part.’ So PhD or Masters of Law? I will have funding for both. I just gotta work out which to do.

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