Pauline Lane BA (1986-9); PhD (1991-5)

Studying sociology at Essex was a revelation to me. Imaginative academics inspired a journey into new territories of philosophical thinking, at time when ‘modernism’ was just becoming ‘post’. The sociology lounge and the deep smell of coffee infused our intellectual debates, mended broken hearts and offered a space for creating lifelong friends. Daily tensions of motherhood and study – struggling to get a baby on the bus and into the nursery before the lectures began. I managed to startle Ken (Prof Plummer) as he supervised my undergraduate project on urban witchcraft and it was Ken who recommended that I went on to study for my PhD. Although I did not have a vision of my journey’s end, I enjoyed the bricolage of postgraduate life.

Having completed my PhD it took me into new terrains and I had the privilege of living and working with indigenous communities around the world with my memories of Essex travelling with me. For instance, I had been working on issues concerning human rights and bio-piracy with the Hagahai people who live in the highland forests of Papua New Guinea. As I flew home we had to detour and land on the Trobriand Islands (now the Kiriwina Islands). I thought about my anthropology lecturers (Drs Okely and Ennew), as the children ran across the rough runway, pointing and laughing at the odd white woman (me) who had just landed. I never thought when I was learning about the ‘Malinowski and the Kula Ring’ in the classroom at Essex that my feet would walk on that land. I have to say that over the years my sociology career has ebbed and flowed and I currently I find myself working back in academia. However, I have never had a clear sense of ‘building a career ‘and so I have found myself working in different jobs in international, national and local settings (researching, writing, and making films) but always with social justice and social inclusion at the heart of my work. As we now we find ourselves at a time where neo-liberalism permeates every aspect of our lives (yes, I am a fan of Philip Mirowski) I believe that critical sociology is still needed in the world. Sociology continues to enrich my life and I would like to say thank-you to everyone in the Sociology Department at Essex for offering me such a very unique education. Long may it continue to flourish. (1991-1995)




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