Back! A summary of the last 18 months

This is my first post since November 2014. I feel guilty for having neglected my blog but I’m not going to apologize to avoid contributing to the genre of ‘internet apologia.’   Another post will explore the collective psychology of this bizarre form of guilt. To whom is one apologizing? Does anyone even notice or care?

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New York Public Library Digital Collection Public Domain

Much has changed in my life during the past 18 months. In addition to freelancing for innovation and design agencies and conducting anthropological research trainings  publicly –such as at the London Design Festival and the Design School of the University of Leeds– and in-house for agencies, I dedicated a couple of months to revising my manuscript prior to submitting it to the publisher.

The revision process was more emotionally laden than I had anticipated. I was revising a book whose initial draft was my doctoral dissertation. This meant that I found myself mentally and emotionally going back to the period of writing the PhD. That time conjures up a  particular image: hours of sitting in front of my laptop, at the dining table of my dark living room in my tiny, ground floor 1-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam.

I don’t know if writing is always isolating or if writing a PhD, or an anthropological PhD, is particularly so. My doctoral advisor told me once that being a good anthropologist meant that you have ‘a crooked soul.’ I didn’t know or understand what he meant until I was knee deep in writing.

I overcame my resistance by enlisting the help of an editor. I asked my friend Heiba,  a member of Oomk, a very cool handcrafted and creative women’s magazine, to read each chapter and feedback on clarity of ideas and language. In addition to being an intelligent and skilled writer/ editor, I sought out Heiba’s perspective because of her youth, her critical perspective, and distance from the subject matter.  Working together, the revision process became a dialogue with someone who I trusted and whose opinions I valued. Dread became enthusiasm and engagement, resulting in a completed manuscript  submitted on time.

After submitting the manuscript, my life drastically changed again. I started a full time job working as Head of Insights at an innovation consultancy in Central London. Despite working full time,  I was still busy with the art and academic elements of my practice. I re-designed the sitcom website with Anja Groten , a sweet ending to the sitcom project which had been in my life for nearly 5 years!

Going back to my position as Head of Insights, I worked at an agency that specializes in the hospitality industry, so I found myself doing ethnographic research around the world in…. luxury hotels.  At one point,  my assignment was to experience room service in a 5 star hotel in Chicago. Really. Quite a contrast from being evicted from a squat.

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During this past year, I found myself becoming the frequent business traveler who I was researching. In the span of a few months, I went to Atlanta, Chicago, Washington D.C, Barcelona, Boston, Portland (Maine), New York, and Shanghai. All while, technically, residing in London. After a year of ethnographic research in the luxury hospitality sector, serious jet lag, and racking up air miles, I’m now moving onto a new phase, leading the research function at a global design agency.

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One thought on “Back! A summary of the last 18 months

  1. Nice write….something thoughtful you mentioned “..Writing for me is both” some times isolating when you need to reflect,discover and analyse things from diverse view points. Other times its easier around company. I’d like to connect with you to learn some of your insights…I did my report in Social work and field work on Medical Anthropology. Have a major in Sociology and Anthropology,but love Anthropology more. I just created a group Medical Anthropology on google and Voicing social issues is the other.pls connect with me on linkedIn or gmail:zowecharis@gmail.com Would like to learn some of your insights and possibly on cross-cultural issues.

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