Developing an identity as a new academic through a PhD.

So, before embarking on this new adventure it occurred to me who or what am I? With my role as a senior leader in education, it was easy to say “I’m the Director of Quality”….I had an identity. I think I knew who I was.

However, how do I introduce myself to different people now — other academics, family, new acquaintances—and talk about my work. Am I a ‘PhD researcher’, a ‘PhD candidate’ or a ‘PhD student’? I would argue that this matters, because words can signify power relations, either empowering or subjectifying, words can define ones identity and hence the actions that you do or do not take.

A researcher can be defined as “someone whose job is to study a subject carefully, especially in order to discover new information or understand the subject better“. Well, I intend to study my subject carefully, possibly discover something new and will understand it better. But that’s not it. I want to make a difference, make others think, go out of my (and others) comfort zone. ‘Researcher’ implies little influence.

A ‘candidate’? Putting myself up in front of others for examination. At some point yes I’m sure, but this is too narrow and I don’t want to be deselected! A ‘student’? I’ve worked with them for 23 years, I don’t want to be one thanks. Being a student implies a lower status than say ‘an academic’ and puts one under the control of ‘superiors’ who can decide what you can or cannot do.

In the hope then of causing some academics to blow a gasket, and piss of the thought police, I’m going to define myself and use a new word – at least one that doesn’t give any Google search results – governmentalist. This reflects the influence of Foucault’s work on my own studies and also the effect of my time working within the confines of the ‘conduct of conduct’ as a senior leader. Throughout my critique and reflexive approach I follow Dean (1999)…

…we govern others and ourselves according to what we take to be true about who we are, what aspects of our existence should be worked upon, how, with what means, and to what ends. …the ways in which we govern and conduct ourselves give rise to different ways of producing truth. (1999, p.18).

Dean, M. (1999) Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society. London: Sage.

There we have it, based on what I believe myself to be I will govern myself (and possibly others) to find ways to produce the “truth” about education differently. I am a Governmentalist writing myself into existence. Are there any more of us out there?

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