Friday, 7 August 2009

PhD Grant Success for Keele Sociology graduate!

We are delighted to announce that Rachel Cason (nee Wiggett) has just been awarded a prestious ESRC Studentship for her PhD. This is a real achievement for her (and for Keele) as the Open Competition awards are extremely difficult to come by and Rachel is one of only 77 students nationally to receive one in the whole of the Social Sciences in the UK.

She is just completing her Masters in Research in Sociology, taught by many members of the School of Sociology and Criminology, and prior to that she achieved a First Class degree in Sociology and French from Keele. She also won the Neil and Gina Smith Student of the Year award (the second Sociology student to do so in 2 years!) for her all round commitment to Keele University. Rachel will be supervised by Professor Pnina Werbner and Dr Dana Rosenfeld, both from the School of Sociology and Criminology. If you would like to find out more about studying at Keele, you can find information about our Undergraduate degrees, Masters' degrees or Doctoral opportunities by clicking on the links above, or you can find out about Sociology staff supervision expertise by looking up individual research interests by clicking on staff names.
Here's what Rachel herself has to say about her background and how this led to her interest in her PhD project:

I came to Keele University having lived "full-time" in England for only three years. In fact, I was close to being listed as a foreign student (which would have been of great financial inconvenience!) unless I had completed my three years residency. I was born in Niamey, Niger Republic, West Africa to missionary parents. My father worked at a leprosy project, local market, mission treasury, and as mission director. My mother homeschooled me and my sister alongside several other missionary children, and later worked as mission pastorial director - providing support and acculturation advice to new missionaries.

We lived on an African compound away from the mission compound, and my parents dressed and, in many ways, adopted the cultural habits of their neighbors. When I was 11 years old we moved to the capital, where I was enrolled in the private mission school there. It was this melange of cultures and countries that developed in me a over-whelming curiousity in how societies "worked".

Keele University was not threatened by my questions, nor did it let me get away with stereotypying or cliched "answers". Now, in my fifth year here, I have been granted the amazing opportunity to study more about people who, like me, are constantly re-defining and re-living their identities in ways that cross occupational, national, gender, race, and local boundaries. I am a Third Culture Kid but this ESRC grant will allow me to theorise this personal experience in way that is meaningful across the sociological and anthropological disciplines. I feel very blessed and challenged by this unique opportunity.

The PhD proposal: Third Culture Kids

Third Culture Kids (TCKs) are people who have spent “a significant part of their developmental years outside their parents’ culture” (Pollock and van Recken 2001). They are the children of expatriates employed by international organisations as, inter alia, development experts, diplomats, missionaries, journalists, international NGO and humanitarian aid workers, or UN representatives. The ‘third culture’ they possess is the temporary, nomadic multicultural space they inhabited as children, within an expatriate community and international school. It is distinct from their parents’ homeland culture (the first culture) and from that of the country in which they spend their formative years but of which they are not native members (the second culture). The “third culture” they claim for themselves does not unite their first and second cultures but comprises a space for their unstable integration (Knorr 2005), although how and when this is achieved remains an open question, despite some preliminary research on this group.

TCKs are situated ambiguously in current transnational and identity theory, falling outside conventional sociological and anthropological paradigms. They thus provide an opportunity to expand the relevant literatures’ current theorisation of the deterritorialisation of identity (Debrix 1998; 14, 18) the relation of identity to place (Appadurai 1990 and 1996) and the ‘new’ cosmopolitanism (Werbner 2008). The formative experiences of those who have matured outside of their country of origin are likely to shape how they negotiate their identity, roots and social relations across the life course, nationally and transnationally. For some TCKs, the only ‘home’ to which they can return is that of an expatriate itinerant. Much remains to be understood about identity formation and development as our traditional reference points of national borders begin to dissipate and citizenship becomes increasingly flexible (Ong 1999). The life histories, social relations, and identities of TCKs can thus allow for a critical expansion of current theories of diaspora and transnationalism, and of ideas surrounding double-rootedness, identity and ways of belonging in navigating cultural worlds (Werbner 2002; Levitt and Glick-Schiller 2004). The project will explore the McLachlan’s (McLachlan 2005) argument that the adaptability, perseverance and multilingualism typically developed in TCKs contribute to a cosmopolitan sensibility and therefore demonstrate TCK's growing significance to a global society.

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