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I have been working at the Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Kobe University, Japan, since October 2010. This is my first permanent academic job after temporary positions at Tohoku and Kyoto Universities. Now, I have been promoted to professor this April, feeling very old… So, yes, in this climate, I should be really happy about my work situation. But, as you all know very well, it’s hectic and getting worse.
As an Essex sociologist, I sometimes look at STATISTICS and compare them with my own personal experiences: among many notorious figures in Japan (and I have no intention of mentioning any sexist/ultra-right-wing remarks by st*p*d politicians at all here) are the long working hours. There is a warning that beyond 60 hours a week, the rate of karo-shi, or death by work-related exhaustion/stress, increases considerably (surprise, surprise!); and among my colleagues we say, ‘60 hours? We should have died 1.5 times by now’. Yes, I am exaggerating; academics do not work so much during summer and so we don’t exceed the karo-shi line on average, except that summer ‘holidays’ are the only time we can work as researchers.
At the moment, I am very much looking forward to the end of my service as chairperson of the International Exchange Committee this autumn – anyone fancy a teaching, research or student exchange with a Japanese university?
Despite feeling overworked, I’m not giving up this job quite yet, though, because I have a mortgage for the first time in my life, too, and I still think this is the best paid job in which I can follow my research interest. I am still working on global sex work issues, very much built on my Ph.D. project. The difference now is that I do not focus only on migrant workers but also Japanese workers and increasingly leaning towards participatory action research. After coming back from Essex, I keep finding myself in situations which people in academia need to engage in in order to make certain issues, otherwise swept away as personal troubles, social. But it’s nice, seriously, to find a good use for what I enjoyed so much in the process of learning:
– Ken’s artistic lectures and creative talks, Rob’s crafted lectures and pinpoint supervisions, Paul’s interview methodology, Lucinda’s book launch, Colin’s ‘way of life that does not exist’, Pam’s hands-on ‘how to finish in three years’ class, Yasmin and Maggie O’Neil’s tough viva, departmental seminars, brown bag seminars, our little individually organised seminars and chats in the student offices, teas here and there, expensive but fine campus accommodation, the lake in rain, the smell in the library, Ph.D. conferences at Aldeburgh, mulled wine in the common room, the TESCO junction towards Wivenhoe village, the foot path, estuary, the house on Chaney Road, pints at the Rose and Crown and the list, with deep-felt thanks, never ends.
Besides, I do find the Essex brand of sociology is an excellent tool to keep reminding us that people ‘out there’ are much more knowledgeable than anyone in academia, never mind in national politics, about the issues they should have been at the centre of. It has also equipped us with theories and methodologies that distinguish sociologists from others’ ways of being useful; the awareness is with us that we need to question the theory/practice divide particularly in handling the West/East divide. The pain is that at the moment this type of sociology looks like it is losing funding and so on around the world. Let’s wait and see if our connection to the real will pay off in the end.
To be fair, life in Kobe is not bad overall. It’s a nice city with a working port, beach, mountain, hotspas, lively centre and history of modernising Asia. We will have trouble visiting all the good-looking eating-out places in a lifetime – anyone fancy Japanese dinner around here? I’m from Tokyo originally but I don’t want to go back to live there anymore. Being away from Tokyo overcrowding it’s also good that you don’t have to queue too long to see films and exhibitions (when you have time to visit them at all).
Here, I live with my partner who I met at Essex as my housemates-cum-course-mates’ friend. After struggling with a too-long-distance relationship, we decided to get a civil partnership and live together in Japan. The partnership is not recognised here but we are openly and civilisedly demanding university, municipal, sometimes state offices to give us equal welfare and legal treatment. Of course we fail every time because this is a sovereign state ruled by its own law. But never mind, this can be another participatory action research on migration, gender, sexuality, intimacy, citizenship and nationality combined anyway. Moreover, we are expecting a baby in a week’s time! Ask me about the adventure of bringing up a child in a queer family in Japan next time.
Happy days: memories of Essex Sociology
I have loved reading all the stories gathered in so far and share the affection and gratitude they exhibit. But there is one aspect of the experience that has not yet received the attention it deserves – how many ordinary happinesses there were and I am sure there still are. So here are a few of the many things that that still make me laugh or smile whenever I remember them.
Walking down to campus from Wivenhoe House.
The departmental reading room, especially when the morning rolls and coffee had just arrived.
Having to cross a picket line when I came for my interview.
Mary Girling’s huge dogs lying around the office when they were sick.
Walking past Mike Lane’s office after lunch.
Peter Townsend really meaning it when telling me that he was very pleased that the University had given me tenure despite the objections of the Department’s senior staff(himself included).
Staying overnight in George Kolankiewicz’s house in Queens Road with my first real duvet, my last outside toilet and my only Francis Bacon soon to live next door.
Stan Cohen’s greeting smile.
Dancing the ‘funky gibbon’ with Mary Mac at one of Ted and Shelley’s parties.
Numberless parties at Ken and Ev’s: great music, brilliant food and far too much drink.
Having to learn how to teach again after smoking was banned in all classrooms.
Seeing the first punk tour with Wreckless Eric, the Stranglers et al in the university ballroom.
Derrick Schwartz telling me that Harold Wolpe’s nickname amongst the graduate students was ‘killer’ because he always responded to their answers to his questions by asking them to explain why they had so answered.
Dropping in on George Kolankiewicz, Sean Nixon or Ted Benton for a chat.
The Rose and Crown.
Ted’s face when I told him at a party in the upstairs bar that my idea of communism was lying on a beach, listening to music and drinking beer.
Driving up to Colchester from London with Harold and Ernesto Laclau. They argued about Marxism all the way – never again, absolutely terrifying.
Many lifts from Harold on his own to and from London – also very fast but not quite so terrifying. I ultimately realized that he was trying to teach me how to theorize with his relentless ‘whys?’.
Being in a car going back to London wIth Jean Baudrillard – haunting.
Lifts to London with Sean, RIchard Wilson and Carlo Ruzza: life-enhancing and serene progresses.
Watching George on TV every night during the rise of Solidarity.
Harold’s poker evenings in Wivenhoe. I never played but Mike Lane, MIck Mann and colleagues from Literature did. No one ever admitted to losing anything…
The Fuller Bequest: it paid for two long trips to and around the US during the 1970s – Greyhound is probably the best way for a sociologist to travel around America, but does anyone have the time anymore?
An outdoor hot spring bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleagues on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Staying overnight at Dennis Marsden and Jean Duncombe’s, especially our breakfast chats.
Realizing that when Mary GIrling gave me a nickname it meant I was generally accepted as being a fit and proper person to be a member of the Department.
Spending time with Howard Newby in Madison when we were both exiles in America.
Maxine Molyneux when she suddenly swerved off the road and roared around a field when taking me and others back from the pub to my house in Wormingford – such is the power of Abbot Ale.
A gorgeous lunch at Mick Mann and NIcky Hart’s equally gorgeous house in Dedham.
The ‘Sociology of the USA’ class that lasted four and half hours.
David Lockwood’s amusement on suddenly realizing that we both had rather small feet.
Eating horse sashimi (and mushrooms) with HIromi Shimodaira in Matsumoto.
A lovely party at Ian Craib’s beautiful windmill in Sudbury.
Cruising (not really) in Santa Barbara and Hollywood with Harvey Molotch and Glen.
The External Examiner’s dinners.
Going with Pete Utting and Amalia Chamorro to the celebrations in Managua that marked the second anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution – ‘presente’.
Getting extremely drunk (on Sociology as well as wine) at Bryan Turner’s house one night – I think that must have been when we became frIends.
Teaching the joint seminar in Government and Sociology with Bob Jessop. Having just ridden all the way from Cambridge on his pushbike, Bob would come in and speak perfect Jessopese for the first hour without a note.
DInner in Hong Kong with Ken and Ev, Travis Kong, Raymond Chan but unfortunately not Jimmy Wong.
Getting to know John Gagnon (a little). The most sophisticated person I have ever met – ‘awesome’ as he would never say in a million years.
An outdoor hot bath with Professor Fuwa and his colleages on a Japanese mountainside when the first snowflakes of the winter started to fall.
Great chats with Lydia Morris at the French House in Soho.
Bryan suggesting to me at the Dictionary Launch in the LTB foyer that I extend my work on labour rights to human rights more generally. I replied that unfortunately I knew nothing about human rights. ‘Exactly’ said Bryan, ‘nobody in sociology does’.
Suggesting to Richard Wilson that he extend his work on truth commissions to human rights more generally. Richard replied that unfortunately he knew nothing about human rIghts. ‘Exactly’ I said.
A summer holiday in Montecastrilli with Mike and Joan – delicious and topped off with dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Joinville on the way back.
Visiting (many times) Katsu Harada’s beautiful, neo-traditional house in Kamakura and listening to jazz.
Harold’s inevitable response to any request for advice on a difficult personal matter, ‘Tony, do as you think best.’ Still good advice.
I am currently professor of Sociology and Public Health at Lancaster University. I have had similar academic appointments at University of Leeds and Salford and before that was research fellow and senior research fellow at the Institute of Education Thomas Coram Research Unit, the Independent Study Commission on the Family funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Unit for the study of Health Policy University of London. I am also chair of a major grant giving national charity the People’s health Trust which provides grants to support community groups to improve their neighbourhoods.
My research interests include: Social Determinants of Health Inequalities, community empowerment, sociology of knowledge and evaluation of policies/actions aimed at improving socio-economic conditions in low income neighbourhoods.
More names to join the ever growing list: why not add yours?
Ajay KHANDELWAL (MA, PhD,1995) has worked in a number of health and social care roles over the last twenty years across voluntary and statutory sectors. Ajay joined NESTA in 2011.
Motohiro KAWASIMA (MA PhD 2004) Assistant Professor Education and Research Support Center, Graduate School of Medicine, Gunma University 4-2 Aramaki-machi, Maebashi, Gunma, 371-8510, Japan
Richard KILMINSTER ( PhD ) lectured at Leeds University and became a specialist on the work of Norbert Elias
Dave KING (1977-1986 PhD) became a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool University
Travis KONG (1993-2000 MA, PhD) is Assistant Professor at Hong Kong University and currently editor of the journal Sexualities.
Pauline LANE (1986-89,BA; 91-95 PHD) is Reader in Mental Health at Anglia Ruskin University & South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, but about to leave.
Di LEONARD was one of the first to teach a feminist agenda in the department in the early 1970’s. After several years at Essex University, she moved to the Institute of Education where she became a professor in the 1990s. She died in 2011.
Chin Ju-LIN ( 2003, PhD ) is currently Associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Gender Studies in Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan
Ruth LISTER (1964-7) became a poverty campaigner, a social policy Professor at Loughborough University and a Dame in the House of Lords ……
Jose LOPEZ (1994-2000, MA PhD, Fellow) became associate Professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada
Terry LOVELL is now Emeritus Professor Sociology at the University of Warwick, where she taught courses in women’s studies and cultural studies
Trevor LUMIS ( 1981, PhD ) wrote many books based on “oral evidence’; he died in September 2013 ( see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/culture-obituaries/books-obituaries/10365001/Trevor-Lummis.html
Dawn LYON (2004-7 Senior Research Officer) is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Kent
Dan MAHONEY (1998-2004) is an Associate Professor with the School of Nutrition at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and is also a family sociologist with an interest in the social, cultural and health-related aspects of interpersonal relationships. Dan teaches and conducts research in the areas of health, research methods, sexuality, and family studies. His methodological interests in family-based research include interpretive ethnography, self-reflexive storytelling, and thematic and narrative analysis.
Jane MARCEAU (lecturer 1967-70) Professor Jane Marceau was formerly Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research), University of Western Sydney
John MARSHALL (1976-82) became editor of Gay Times for ten years. After this, he left academic and gay politics to become a librarian.
Gordon MARSHALL (1978- 1990) became Chief Executive of the ESRC, Vice Chancellor of Reading University(2003-11), Director of the Leverhulme Foundation and awarded FBA and CBE.
Susan MASON (1978-2001, MA, Ph ) is now retired and lives in Ipswich.
Hannah MASON-BISH ( 2009, PhD ) is Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Sussex
Ken MENZIES (1973, PhD) Professor of Sociology, University of Guelph, Canada.
Gareth MILLINGTON (2006, PhD ) is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Roehampton, London
Gad MIMRAN (2005-8, BA) runs an international volunteer placement organisation called Plan My Gap Year.
Siyndu MOHANATHAS (2009-12) a business support officer with NSPCC ChildLine
Go to the cumulative listing at: ROLL CALL