Return to London

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

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Yesterday I was offered a job in the UK, as a university lecturer in London. I decided to take the job, on the basis that I know that opportunities like this are extremely rare in academia today, and because I know that if I want to pursue a career in academia I need this on my CV. Term starts on October 1. I almost feel like I’m already on the flight, watching the ground beneath me recede and disappear behind heat haze and clouds.

It pains me to leave the friends I have made and the projects I have dived into in Chennai. I know that I am not leaving them for good, that friends will remain friends, and that I can continue to be involved in the projects in some way – but I also know that distance changes things, that some things cannot be continued in the same way across this distance.

At the same time, there are other reasons this shift now makes sense. One of the things I have learned and come to understand much better through my time with the activist group who call themselves the Vettiver Collective is that the dream I had, the dream of engaging in a certain type of community work, will probably remain a dream if I seek this kind of work in India. There is plenty of work I can do here, but there are also forms of community organising I can do in the UK that I cannot do in India, simply because of skin colour, passport details and language skills. And if it’s community organising I want to do, then why shouldn’t I do it in the UK rather than in India? It’s certainly not as if there is no need for such work in the UK. I know that one reason I wanted to do it in India is because I really like some of the cultures of community organising, social work and activism I have encountered in India; but that doesn’t mean I won’t like ones I am yet to encounter in the UK.

This is not a new realisation, I have known that this is the case for a long time, and yet the realisation that I should pursue this dream in the UK, not here really hit home yesterday when I listened to a story told by one of my friends in the Vettiver Collective, a story that made me realise that what she was describing was work I want to do but that I cannot do here. I feel I have learned a huge amount in my time with the Vettiver Collective that will help me in my pursuit of this dream, and that if I stayed here longer I could learn much more. But the practice I seek will be found in the UK.

With this in mind, one thing I am particularly excited about in the job I will take up is that I have been asked to teach a course conceived of as “providing a critical anthropological context for community and youth practice, emphasising race, class, and gender through themes relevant to both the ‘global north’ and ‘global south'”. The students will be taking my course as part of a Masters programme aimed at graduates interested in working in community and youth work. I am really excited about this course because I think there is so much I can do with it and so much I can learn from the course and from the students, because I can see how there will be opportunities for learning and practical organising beyond the classroom, because I can see how this course is almost perfectly suited to where I am right now.

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