This personal blog aims to present my findings (and amusing experiences) in a non- academic narrative (phew!), whether they are:
- spectacular readings – usually on addiction, illegal substances and drugs, disorders, ‘excessive’ consumptions, the body…… which I know my non-phd peers would be fascinated by, but do not have the time (or jargon busting energy) to read.
- interesting VISUALS and OBJECTS – I bet I can find some toys, or public health posters, from the mid-twentieth century onwards that will shock or horrify you!
- summaries of conferences that are fascinating and can easily be applied to everyday life – ranging from steroids, facial hair to drug censorship laws!
- general advice from my personal experiences as I (very slowly) become accustomed to my new PhD lifestyle.
Perhaps, this agenda is inspired to disprove two stereotypical assumptions. First, what history students research is not always dull – our findings are not always boring and irrelevant. And secondly, PhD students are not unapproachable, socially awkward, robotically self-disciplined, and ‘boffin’ like – (as my dad would say) – I’m very ordinary – maybe too ordinary (I bet I could outmatch your Netflix binging sessions!). But, maybe this is all futile as the PhD stereotype is more relevant to science and maths researchers anyway …. (sorry current flat mates) 😉
So, this first
post — (be kind!) — will introduce what I research specifically (it is an odd topic indeed), but first what I mean when I say I study ‘the history of medicine’.
We can start right from the beginning with my personal favourite. Over a year ago, at the beginning of my MA course someone asked what I study. After hearing ‘the history of medicine’ their response was ‘WELL THAT’S BORING ISN’T IT!!!’. This was brilliant. Even better, it was on a second date and the person was their newly introduced friend. Despite squeamish side glances of embarrassment from others, I actually thought this was a refreshing response to the usual reaction, which goes something like this:
Me: ‘I study the history of medicine’
Newly introduced individual: ‘what, Medicine?’
Me: ‘No, the history of medicine’
NII: ‘So you know about medicine and study it’
Me: ‘No, the history of’
NII: ‘So you’re going to be a doctor’
Me: ‘Errrrrr, not the traditional type of doctor’
Next usual answer 1: ‘So you’re useful if anyone passes out here’
Next usual answer 2: ‘So you’re gonna be crazy rich one day?’
NII usual answer 3: ‘So you’re going to be studying forever?’
I usually just sigh and give up at this point.
This has taken place in cafes, restaurants, bars and even nightclubs. And always at family or friend’s BBQs. But what is even worse is if I state my ACTUAL research topic. The array of responses and facial expressions is just as comical … I study the history of sunbeds in England.
Now this leads to these responses….
- Shocked face person: ‘like. SUNBEDS. Sunbeds.’ (as a ‘Phd student’ they originally thought I was intelligent, the word ‘sunbed’ obliterates this – they suddenly hear the Nottingham twang in my accent).
- Confused face: ‘What is a sunbed?’ Despite several attempts to define sunbeds they continue to be baffled. I’ll swiftly change topic or it awkwardly goes quiet …. And. Then. Suddenly. They get it! ‘OHHHHHHHH, those bed things that are everywhere in towns!!!!!!’.
- Or I get a disgusted face: ‘That’s not even a soft history. It’s barely sociology.’ (I become telepathic, they squint/frown/grimace, trying to work out how on EARTH I got funding. I regularly asking this myself on bad research days).
- AND my personal favourite: the excited face: ‘OH MY GOD. I never thought about that. AMAZING’… and then they usually give me a stimulating 30 minute monologue ecstatically narrating all the exciting ways that I can do my research. Note pad at the ready, this fuels my enthusiasm. But then results in a major anxiety crash of OVERWHELM. One day I must decide which way is best to approach my topic.
Anyhow, now you have it. I would never write this in my CV (who would employ me!?). But, in 6 words, I am a historian of sunbeds.
And regardless of the reception, suggestions are ALWAYS welcome as I could write a book on it (oh, wait…).
- Posters/images/newspaper clippings/objects/toys(!) relevant to sunbeds from the 1970s onwards.
- Oral testimonies/interview participants from sunbeds users of the late 1970s onwards (parents or grandparents).
You’d be my saviour!
- Names or lists of sunbed entrepreneurs / manufactures / businesses or whatever more.
Be a darling, tell me and save my poor (and increasingly blind) eyes hours of scrolling through online databases?
Thanks for reading and the support so far! 😀