I should do a squat every day
My yoga teacher tells me
While I am perched awkwardly on my mat
Breathing through the pain
I’m not supposed to be feeling
Every day just do a squat
And a plank
And a downward facing dog.
It’s just a little effort and you’ll feel so much better.
Like many other young academics I remember feeling an acute sense of relief the first time I was told about impostor syndrome. Giving my underlying feelings of inadequacy a name and defining them as a syndrome made them manageable, made it slightly less likely that I was the only one who really didn’t know how to be a researcher.
If you put impostor syndrome into google you will find countless guides on how to overcome it. In the style of cognitive behavioural therapy we are encouraged to work on ourselves, in order to not let our erroneous beliefs limit us. I’m don’t necessarily disagree with this. impostor syndrome affects us individually and it therefore might be helpful for us to develop some strategies to deal with it on an individual level. But what troubles me about these approaches is that they tend to treat it as a matter of personal pathology and thereby individualising it. Impostor syndrome is something that is wrong about me.
Rather, we need to understand impostor syndrome as a form of social sufferingg, as a symptom, not of something wrong with us, but with the world we live and work in. In this short article I will explore impostor syndrome in terms of how it reflects on our sense of belonging and the conflicting values we are faced as academics and how it shows us the paradoxical nature of neoliberal agency.
Last week, voters in the UK chose to re-elect the Conservatives to rule Britain another five years. Because of this decision tens of thousands of people will needlessly suffer. Some will die. It is really that simple. Britain’s current austerity politics have been linked to widespread social harm, and we have been promised that there will be much more austerity to come.
The Tories’ election manifesto includes the promise of more measures aimed at saving £12 billion in welfare. These 12 billion will come out of the money we have put aside to protect the weakest among us. Those least able to defend themselves are going to be hit hardest.
An undeniable advantage of being a criminologist is that it sounds cool. Granted, the coolness factor of saying, ‘I’m a criminologist’ wears off quickly, usually when you admit that you cannot solve crime, are not a profiler and know little about psychopaths. But criminology is still one of the flashier branches of sociology.
Critical criminology is especially cool. We fight the system and question cultural hegemony. We investigate the criminal justice system and modes of surveillance. We challenge definitions of crime. We like hanging out with drug dealers, refugees, prostitutes or anyone, really, who is perceived as deviant by mainstream society.
There are many different schools of thought within critical criminology. We may have our differences, but we can all agree on who we are not like: financial analysts and bankers, clean-cut, serious people in suits who have starting salaries tenured professors can only dream of – those people we all know who sit in steel and glass towers and play with highly complex mathematical models, who can make millions at the wink of an eye. We criminologists may work with concepts like capitalism, neo-liberalism or consumer culture. But we mostly look at how they affect people at the bottom of the social ladder. Rarely do we look at those prospering from our current financial system. Continue reading →
Having leveled my palace, don’t erect a hovel and complacently admire your own charity in giving me that for a home. – Emily Bronte
How I stifled a revolution
The first time I heard someone say that social work played a distinct role in maintaining social inequality on oppressive political systems I got really angry. I felt personally insulted by the suggestion that social work could be seen as a form of control – as part of the force that keeps those who suffer worst from social injustice in check. “Why don’t you go piss someone off who deserves it?” I thought. “We’re only trying to help.”
That night I had a shift in the homeless shelter I worked. I worked with homeless men with drug abuse issues. People who are often considered the ‘underbelly of society’. As I settled down in my office one of the residents came in. He was obviously upset and angry about a visit to the local Job Centre that day. He had had an appointment with his caseworker and felt he had been treated disrespectfully. ”She treated me like scum.” He said. “If she talks to me like that again I will take her fucking computer screen and bash it in her face”. I talked to him for a while. I told him I understood how he felt. That I knew how unfair it was. But that this was just the way it was. And that he would just have to suck up to her and smile and nod, or he would be even worse off. He seemed calmer after we talked and went to bed after assuring me that he was not going to physically attack anyone. As I watched him walk away it dawned on me that I had just successfully stifled someone’s plan to resist being a victim of oppression.
This experience is not untypical. By sticking band aids onto the gaping wounds of social injustice we alleviate some of the most obvious symptoms of a systemic violence in our society. We become part of the problem while trying to be part of the solution. This conflict is made all the more difficult by the fact that we can’t just choose not to do what we do. I can’t pretend I believe I should have not tried to dissuade that young man from acting out his frustration by physically harming someone who was just as stuck in the system as he was. I can’t claim that I think homeless shelters shouldn’t exist because people who are at the bottom of the social ladder should be made to feel even worse than they already do so that they will start fighting back. But this episode does keeps bothering me.