Where do you ‘fit?’


Another day, another wavering between what it is I want to do when I finish my doctorate. Okay, I’ve got over a year and a half before I finish, but there are days when these thoughts seem to encroach more than others…

A lot of these thoughts come from the fact that my work, albeit grounded heavily in linguistics, brings together two areas that haven’t really mingled much in the past: sign languages and systemic functional linguistics (SFL). Since last posting about these two areas, I’ve learned a lot about both, and it’s ensuring that my thesis is coming together slowly but surely. So I’ve got that going for me *fires solitary party popper*.

However, the issues appear when I start to think about where it is that I want to go with this research in the future… where I ‘fit’ in terms of my specialties and research interests. So far, I can pin them down to sign linguistics and SFL as my main two, with sociolinguistics, the impact of technology, and language education as either directly or indirectly related areas.

This seems broad, of course. So what right have I to complain? There are other things to consider…

When it comes to SFL, you don’t find many universities teaching or using this model. Whereas I’ve been wholeheartedly welcomed into the SFL community (and consider myself a fellow ‘Sysflinger’), when I think about how many universities would accept this as a relevant research area, I start feeling a little uneasy.

But the biggest issue arises when it comes to my other main specialty. I’ve had to and I am continuing to fight a lot harder within the realms of sign linguistics, in order to make myself known and establish myself as a sign linguist. The overbearing reason for this, unless I’m missing something else, is my affiliation with a university that is not part of the main ‘Deaf Studies/Sign Language Studies’ universities (e.g. Gallaudet, DCAL at UCL, Herriot Watt, etc.). As such, I’ve had instances where my work and I have been dismissed at  point-blank range (whether over e-mail or in person). I even had the pleasure of being scoffed at by a clique of academics from another university when looking at my work – really reinforced a Ph.D students’ confidence. Yeah. Nice one.

Of course, there are some bloody fantastic people that I’ve met in sign linguistics, but I certainly feel a lot less welcome. As such (and for numerous other reasons), I feel like my future direction is gradually moving away from sign languages. It may seem a little early to be thinking this, and it may seem a little immature… but if your passions and interests are going to be rebuffed in an environment where you need to be known in order to progress, then it makes you wonder if your efforts can be translated into something more worthwhile and rewarding.

Perhaps there’s a bit of ‘imposter syndrome’ going on here, or maybe I’m just growing tired of the academic bitchiness that’s surfacing. Considering that academia seems to be pushing towards an open access model, alongside the fact that my data is coming up with some new and really-applicable-outside-the-realms-of-academia results, I feel like I’m trying to push treacle uphill using a piece of tracing paper and a pocket fan. But of course, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing for now.

Where will I fit in after my doctorate? I’ve got no idea… but it seems like some options are becoming far less desirable than others.

After all, it’s good to be a little more specific in your goals, is it not?


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