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Use the menu above to find out more about me, my research and my writing; in this section appear thoughts on ancient history, higher education, researcher development, and whatever else wanders through my head.

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Against Classics

I republish here a post from the Women’s Classical Committee blog, in which I summarise some of the points I made in a talk to their AGM in Oxford this spring. Original publication here.

Despite all the efforts made in recent years to increase the diversity of Classicists by organisations like Classics for All and now the WCC as well as by university departments, it is no secret that our student body is still dominated by those from privileged backgrounds, that our secure and senior faculty are disproportionately male, and that BME scholars are disproportionately absent at all levels. I want to suggest here that ‘Classics’ itself is part of the problem: that we stack the odds against diversity by the way we describe and conceptualise our subject.

Classics is not after all a neutral term. For one thing, this eighteenth century coinage privileges language and literature: the “classics” concerned are Greek and Roman texts. It comes from an era when most of the available evidence was indeed textual, but it does not represent the breadth of the subject as we teach it today. It also dictates a focus on elites, on men, and on people we now at least perceive as white – not only because the writers of these texts overwhelmingly fit this description, but because the people they wrote about do too. Continue reading “Against Classics”

University Teaching: Instant Wins

One of the most enjoyable things I did in this last week of term was my department’s teaching induction session for graduate students. I was leading a session on undergraduate essay feedback, and we had a great chat about all sorts of different approaches and mechanisms, the difference between formative and summative commentary, between coaching and judging, and so on. One of the big principles that we always come back to in sessions like this is that there’s rarely a single right way to do things, and that a lot of the fun in teaching is in learning what suits you and your students. And I’m sure that this is right, but I know from my own experience that knowing that there are lots of different ways to get teaching right doesn’t take away the anxiety of simply getting it wrong, especially right at the beginning. What if I look stupid? What if I get something wrong? And, above all: What if they just won’t talk? This is where some basic rules can come in handy, some reliable foundations and simple fixes on which to build over time all our different, personal, creative, and idiosyncratic teaching strategies. Continue reading “University Teaching: Instant Wins”

How to get a(n academic) job: Career Development

Back in 2014, I wrote a couple of posts on this site with suggestions about how to approach academic job applications and interviews, especially in the Humanities. This is a sequel on the broader topic of career development for post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers: what sort of strategies can you adopt now to maximise the chances of making a competitive academic job application in the future?  Continue reading “How to get a(n academic) job: Career Development”

How to get a(n academic) job: Interviews

UPDATE: I’ve now (October 2014) posted a Storify with comments and further thoughts on this topic – please continue to share your thoughts in the comments section here or on twitter, and I’ll continue to update it. (Updated again October 2015.)

This is a sequel to my post a couple of months ago about making job applications: what happens if it works and you get an interview? Interviews are always frightening and almost always annoying. That said, there are things you can do to make the experience better, and even improve your chances of getting the job. Continue reading “How to get a(n academic) job: Interviews”

How to Get a(n academic) Job: Applications

UPDATE: I’ve posted a Storify with comments and further thoughts on this topic – please continue to share your thoughts in the comments section here or on twitter, and I’ll continue to update it. (Updated again October 2015.)

This is a post for graduate students and early career academics in the process of applying for jobs. What I want to do here is pass on useful things people have told me along the way, focussing particularly on areas of potential cultural misunderstanding when making early career applications to unfamiliar institutions or countries, and link to some good recent advice I’ve seen elsewhere.  Continue reading “How to Get a(n academic) Job: Applications”

Visa Problem

A couple of weeks ago a couple of academics from Birmingham and Liverpool organised a workshop at Oxford on “Strategies of Imperial Control in Arid and Semi-Arid Environments: The Steppe and the Sahara”. They invited as their keynote speaker Sidi-Ahmed Kerbazi, the ex-director of the Bardo Museum in Algiers and an expert on the topic. So far, so inoffensive, you might think — except that Kerbazi, who is 81 years old, had his visa refused on the grounds that there was insufficient proof that he was not planning to stay in Britain: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/28/overseas-academics-refused-uk-visas

What all British academics who work with colleagues outside the EU know is that Sidi-Ahmed Kerbazi’s case is only the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading “Visa Problem”

The Cuckow is in the higher Garden

I’m writing a book about the ancient Phoenicians. Right now, this involves sitting in the Bodleian library reading nineteenth century issues of the Journal of the Royal Institution of Cornwall. It was then widely believed – at least in Cornwall – that the Cornish were descended from intrepid Phoenician tin traders who made landfall on this cold Atlantic coast, bringing civilization, industry and the secret of clotted cream. And there are plenty of reports in the J of the RIC from local historians, politicians and businessmen about Phoenician Stuff they’ve found in Cornwall: place names, jewellery and so on. There’s also a lot about local meteorological patterns, especially rainfall, and quite a bit about pilchards. Continue reading “The Cuckow is in the higher Garden”

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