PHD Doctoral Researcher
I am an aspiring PhD student in the social sciences with intellectual interests in documentary and archival research on the British state, the sociology of technology, and contemporary networked social and political movements.
I arrived at the University of Birmingham in 2009 from New York City to study Media, Culture and Society and Philosophy – a joint honours programme mainly delivered by Birmingham Sociology. I originally applied here because Birmingham Sociology upheld the legacy of the famous Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) – something I could not have benefited from elsewhere.
I became thoroughly involved in Sociology at Birmingham very early on into my studies. Its programme was easy at times and incredibly challenging at others, but I think this depends on one’s ambitions and commitment to the subject. (As with most things, ‘the more you put in the more you get out', and I strongly encourage students to maximise this).
I especially appreciated how easy it was to mix extracurricular activities with in-depth study – ensuring I could achieve the grades required to reach my ambitions and keep professional routes both inside and outside Higher Education open to myself.
As such, throughout my undergraduate years I was able to work as a Welcome Week assistant; as a Student Ambassador – cooperating with students and University staff in the organisation of community days, applicant visit days, school visits and subject master-classes; and as an Aimhigher Associate – mentoring year 12 pupils in a local school, providing them with academic support as well as advice and guidance on securing a competitive place in Higher Education.
Besides from work experience, I was additionally able to volunteer in various positions of responsibility as a Guild Councillor, as a student representative and as the organiser of multiple events such as guest lectures, conferences and departmental parties (for example, see http://polsisconference.co.uk).
However, by far the fondest memory I have of the University of Birmingham is having had the unforgettable chance of organising Vale Fest (see https://www.facebook.com/valefestival?fref=ts) – the largest student-led music and arts festival in the UK, taking place at the Vale Village, where many of you are likely to live in your first year. Over its 10 years in existence Vale Fest has helped raise more than £300,000 for charities combatting water shortages, malaria, human trafficking and helping children in need, as well as raising awareness of environmental issues and sustainable practices. Therefore, I was extremely proud to serve as a member of the organising committee throughout the duration of my undergraduate studies in its entertainments sub-committee – scouting bands and arranging the line-up – and as its Chair in 2012.
All this made me confident enough that I would be able to find employment. Upon graduation in 2012 I decided that sociology was (and is) my passion and chose to stay on – undertaking an MA in Social and Political Theory at my alma mater, the University of Birmingham. This MA gave me an excellent grasp of social and political theory and asserted its usefulness in the production of cutting-edge research. My classmates broadened my disciplinary horizons and self-critical capacities trough stimulating debates which make my daily experience of society rich, revealing and enjoyable.
Most importantly, Birmingham Sociology has allowed me to form powerful and unorthodox ideas about the role of the social sciences in today’s civil society. For example, the University of Birmingham is blessed with a vibrant culture of activism, direct action and civil disobedience that I encourage every current and prospective student of Birmingham Sociology to seriously observe and which I found enriching as a student of the social sciences because it supplied me with much food for thought – proving essential to my academic development.
With its help I realised that social movements cannot be adequately understood in separation from their historical development – suggesting that a ‘dynamic’ approach is required to describe and explain a dynamic entity which a simple, positivistic observation – think here of a mere ‘snapshot’ – cannot afford. This ultimately enabled me to research and complete a unique thesis on the Five Star Movement (MoVimento 5 Stelle) in Italy – a young grassroots social movement that, through strong use of the Internet as a tool for political organising, was able to achieve a 25.5% result at its first General Election in 2013 – forever changing the balance of power in the stagnant Italian party system and thus presenting the world with a powerful model for reviving democracy in simultaneity with changing modes of political engagement.
All in all, having been part of Birmingham Sociology was a truly formative experience that opened up many professional opportunities for me. Today I have the chance to hold public talks on social and political issues, publish articles as a freelance or as a research assistant (for example, see http://birminghampoliticalreview.wordpress.com), participate in local campaigns as well as continue volunteering through the Green Bike Project – a community-led bicycle workshop and co-operative based on campus, with the aim of providing students, staff and members of the surrounding community with the tools and training necessary to renovate unwanted bikes at a low cost (http://www.greenbikeproject.net/).