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An update on my attempt at online accountability: Falling at the first hurdle

Hi folks,

Time another update. I fell at the first hurdle of may amazing timetable to full thesis draft. I didn’t get my data analysis completed by 2 June. That is no great surprise given that I was in Northern Ireland visiting family and attending a conference for a full week in the middle of that period, and given the fact that analyzing data is incredibly monotonous. But a there a few positives to come out of this… first of all, my supervisor is awesome and completely understood the situation, particularly given the other projects I have been boxing off of late. We were able to revise my schedule and things should hopefully stay on track. Secondly, my workrate has been improving day by day as I get into the groove of working like a normal human being… this has been greatly helped by listening to the back catalogue of Kiss on Spotify… God most definitely gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to me!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1yvQV7J47o]

So, here is my revised schedule as it currently stands… additions in bold, changes scored through. You’ll notice that I have been accepted to attend an intensive 3 day writing workshop at Lancaster which will help me enormously in getting these chapters off the ground.

  • 2 June 2015: Complete Data Analysis. (4 June Supervision). MISSED DEADLINE… but Kim and I had a very useful discussion.
  • 15 June 2015: Additional Meeting to Discuss Data Analysis.
  • 24 June 2015: Draft Chapter 5. Written descriptions of key discourses, plan Chapters 5 and 6 (26 June Supervision).
  • 1–3 July 2015: Lancaster University Writing Retreat .
  • 13 July 2015: Draft Chapter 6. Drafts of Chapters 5 and 6 (15 July Supervision).
  • 5 August 2015: Re-worked Chapters 5 and 6. Structures for 2 IAHR papers (and potentially BASR paper). (7 August Supervision).
  • 23 August 2015: Completed IAHR Papers. (Supervision/Meeting during conference in Erfurt, 23-29 August).
  • 23 September 2015: Draft Chapter 7. (25 September Supervision).

And, in case any of you are interested in my bizarre motivational tools… here is how my data analysis chart is currently looking…

IMG_20150612_225224

I’m not even going to attempt to explain it, but once both of those pages are coloured in, I am DONE!

Finally, I’ve also been rehearsing for what is shaping up to be an excellent concert of very challenging music. Saturday 20 June 2015, Old Saint Paul’s, Edinburgh… do come along if you can:

Summer2015.2

My writing schedule – an exercise in online accountability

Hi folks,

As ever, it’s been too long. Today I finally submitted an overdue chapter for (fingers crossed) publication in a book resulting from the workshop I attended in Frankfurt last November on “religious indifference”. The chapter is titled “A Discursive Approach to ‘Religious Indifference’: Critical Reflections from Edinburgh’s Southside.” I’ll update you as and when I have more news.

In other academic news, it looks like David and I will be formally submitting the manuscript for our edited volume After World Religions to Routledge in the next few days. Just a few niggly points on a marketing questionnaire to go. Again, more information when I have it.

I’ll save “non-academic” life updates for another post… the main purpose of this post is to publish my writing schedule for the coming months. This has resulted from me getting through my third (and hopefully final) annual review at Lancaster University, and I am posting it a) to let you all have a flavour of what it is that I am doing, and b) perhaps most importantly to provide some form of accountability. My reasoning is that if I publish this in some form, and keep posting occasional writing updates, there will be more pressure on me to actually meet my targets – even if no one reads the posts. Keep reading over the next few months to see how things are going… For now, here is my thesis title, chapter headings, and list of deadlines. I currently have completed drafts of chapters 2, 3 and 4.


Non-Religion, Non-Religions, Non-Religious: Discourses on (Non-)Religion in Edinburgh’s Southside

  1. Introduction
  2. Building a Theoretical Case for the Discursive Study of Non-Religion
  3. There is Method to this Madness: Edinburgh’s Southside as Container for Religion-Related Discourse
  4. Religion-Related Discourses in the Peoples of Edinburgh Project (PEP)
  5. Religion-Related Discourses in Edinburgh’s Southside: 2014 (and 2011)
  6. (Non-)Religious Discourses of Moderation, Tolerance, and Indifference
  7. Non-Religion, Discourse, and Locality: Methodological Gains and (Theoretical) Conclusions
  8. Conclusion

Deadlines

  • 2 June 2015: Complete Data Analysis. (4 June Supervision).
  • 24 June 2015: Draft Chapter 5. (26 June Supervision).
  • 13 July 2015: Draft Chapter 6. (15 July Supervision).
  •  5 August 2015: Re-worked Chapters 5 and 6. Structures for 2 IAHR papers (and potentially BASR paper). (7 August Supervision).
  • 23 August 2015: Completed IAHR Papers. (Supervision/Meeting during conference in Erfurt, 23-29 August).
  • 23 September 2015: Draft Chapter 7. (25 September Supervision).

Some video evidence of me singing

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege and pleasure of singing the part of “Nanki Poo” in a concert performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”.

A video of the Act 1 Finale has emerged as if by magic… and I post it below for you to do with as you please.

(Hint: I’m the bald one…)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLwzb7EFZD8&t=802]

A Brief (Life) Update: Discourses on (Non-)Religion in Edinburgh’s Southside

I was recently asked to submit a short, interdisciplinary research brief for an event that I am attending on Urban Super-Diversity next month. In the interests of updating you all on what I am up to – particularly given that this blog has not been updated in a horrendously long time – I have posted this information below as an image. You can also download it as a PDF.

I hope to get back to blogging more regularly at some point in the future…

Taking a leaf out of my pal David’s blogging book, I guess I should update you all on what’s been happening.

Academically, among other things…

In my ‘real life’…

Ciao for now.

A-Cad Cotter

Why I am voting YES to Scottish Independence

A few days ago I was asked to answer three questions by the Bogata Post – my cousin works there – regarding my stance as a “Yes” voter in the upcoming referendum on Scottish Independence. The piece hasn’t appeared yet, but I thought I might as well post what I wrote just to some of my views into the mix. Here it is…

twibbonI’ve been trying to put all of this in some form of elegant prose for quite a bit of the evening, but I figure I had better just get on with saying my piece in as concise a manner as possible, and leave the rest for you to judge. Before I answer the three questions, I feel that I should first state that I am not Scottish, but was born in Northern Ireland and have lived in Scotland for 10 years. This background makes me naturally quite jumpy when the issue of nationalism comes up – whether we are talking about Irish Nationalism, UK Nationalism or Scottish Nationalism. I deplore politics that is based upon “helping our own first”, or “defending what my grandparents fought for” and other such tropes. It took A LOT for me to come round to the idea of Scottish Independence. With this in mind, I’ll now quickly turn to the three questions posed.

  1. Why are you pro-independence?

I am voting for Indpendence because I see this as an amazing opportunity to effect change that could be immensely positive for every person living in the British Isles, and to a lesser extent those beyond this small group of islands.

Recently I bought into the #YesBecause hashtag on Twitter and posted two tweets which pretty much sum up my attitude:

“I’m #YesBecause UK politics is broken, and Independence provides the only real opportunity for actual change for everyone on these islands.”

“I’m #YesBecause both Scotland & rUK need to leave Empire behind once and for all and look to a peaceful, sustainable future of co-operation.”

To expand further on these soundbites, the future that I want for Scotland and the rest of the British Isles is one where we no longer try to play at the ‘big boys table’, where we have the courage to leave nuclear weapons behind us, where we prioritise welfare and helping those most in need, where we open our borders to those in need across the world and where we are willing to accept a much less comfortable standard of living in order to make real change for the better for everyone on the planet. The future I want is one where we care for the environment, promote equality across society, and participate fully in wonderful boundary-breaking and peace-building institutions such as the EU, rather than consistently and beligerently sitting on the sidelines refusing to compromise or change.

I am under no illusions that Independence will bring the idealistic future that I want overnight, or at all… but I do know that if Scotland votes for Independence from the United Kingdom it will force the United Kingdom to re-assess its identity, values and priorities, and provide the people of Scotland with an unprecendented opportunity to start the democratic experiment afresh in the twenty-first century, with the benefit of hundreds of years of hindsight. It might fail… but if we don’t take the opportunity we will never know. I know that this idealistic vision invites the response “yes, but how can you effect all this change if the country has no money?” And to that I would simply say a) money isn’t everything b) money hasn’t exactly helped the UK, as far as my priorities are concerned.

  1. What has the atmosphere been like in the run-up to the vote- any tensions between the two sides etc?

This answer will be much shorter, I promise. In terms of the political ‘debate’ – if we can call it that – the atmosphere has been particularly ghastly. Both sides simply shout at each other. Both demand factual answers to questions that cannot be answered in a situation where neither side will admit that a) their position might not win b) they might have to negotiate with the other ‘side’ even if they do win. The Facebook pages of both campaigns are some of the worst cesspools of the internet, attracting the kind of abusive comments that one would expect… on most websites, to be honest.

In terms of the way things have been portrayed in the media, I am utterly frustrated by this. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT THE ECONOMY, FOLKS. In particular, IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT “THE CURRENCY QUESTION”. As far as I am concerned, and as far as most folk that I speak to on both sides of the debate seem to be concerned, the currency issue is far down on our list of concerns… yet the media has decided that this is what the debate hangs upon, and thus reports everything within that light. It also doesn’t help that the UK media is part of the UK status quo, and like any businesses which have UK-wide markets, they understandably want to avoid unpredictability and maintain things the way they are. Understandable, perhaps… but not great for unbiased reporting.

In terms of things on the ground, apart from a few clear exceptions I would say that the ‘debate’ has been pretty good-natured… except that in my opinion no one is really going to change their views. Everyone has differing priorities, and thus we all tend to talk past each other. I have, of course, seen/heard plenty of friends make comments that they are fed up of the debate, or that they feel that the debate is ugly, causing division and forcing them to choose sides etc. To that I can only say that I imagine people would feel the same way if ‘we’ got so worked up about ‘normal’ elections. I think there is a tendency on these islands to not like being confronted with ‘opinions’, or being seen to hold ‘opinions’… and perhaps this is a problem that we will need to address come the UK General Election in 2015.

  1. What do you honestly think the outcome will be?

Honestly, I think that the vote will be a “No”. I think that people are far more likely to “bottle it” than to say “oh, what the hell” when they make it to the polling booth. And I think that most people will vote “No” for potentially very understandable reasons… worries about their job, their family, their mortgage. All I will be able to say in that case is that I voted for what I thought was right, that I tried for once in my life to not be as selfish as I normally am, and that I will try to keep this level of political engagement going forward into the coming decades and try my hardest to effect the sorts of changes I would like to see occurring in Scotland, the British Isles, Europe and beyond. But I also think that the vote will be close… and that whatever happens, there will be a high enough percentage of votes for “Yes” to cause some serious questioning and reflection for politicians going forward. And maybe… maybe… I will be pleasantly surprised.

Railway Navigation and Incarceration

I have recently finished the arduous task of reading Michel de Certeau’s The Practice of Everyday Life. Whilst much of this was incredibly dense social theory that went over my head, occasional passages have proved/shall prove incredibly useful for my research. The following excerpts come from a very short (4 page) chapter entitled “Railway Navigation and Incarceration” which particularly struck me in terms of its beauty and simple insights.

The chapter begins as follows…

A travelling incarceration. Immobile inside the train, seeing immobile things slip by. What is happening? Nothing is moving inside or outside the train.

The unchanging traveller is pigeonholed, numbered, and regulated in the grid of the railway car, which is a perfect actualization of the rational utopia. Control and food move from pigeonhole to pigeonhole: “Tickets please…” “Sandwiches? Beer? Coffee?…” Only the restrooms offer an escape from the closed system. They are a lovers’ phantasm, a way out for the ill, an escapade for children (“Wee-wee!”) – a little space of irrationality, like love affairs and sewers in the Utopias of earlier times. Except for this lapse given over to excesses, everything has its place in a gridwork. Only a rationalized cell travels. A bubble of panoptic and classifying power, a module of imprisonment that makes possible the production of an order, a closed and autonomous insularity – that is what can traverse space and make itself independent of local roots.

And concludes with:

Everyone goes back to work at the place he has been given, in the office or the workshop. The incarceration-vacation is over. For the beautiful abstraction of the prison are substituted the compromises, opacities and dependencies of the workplace. Hand-to-hand combat begins again with a reality that dislodges the spectator without rails or window-panes. There comes to an end the Robinson Crusoe adventure of the travelling noble soul that could belief itself intact because it was surrounded by glass and iron.

The author, and his translator, certainly had a way with words. I would heartily recommend reading this short chapter. As for the book? Don’t bother with the first two parts unless you want your brain to hurt. But there is a lot of good stuff hidden in there. You can access the whole book as a clunky PDF here.

Excerpts from pages 111 and 114 of

De Certeau, Michel. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Translated by Steven F. Rendall. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Review of Les Miserables

Finally saw the film of Les Miserables. Really enjoyed it (if enjoyed is ever the right word for such a depressing show). A lot of the dull bits from the show seemed significantly less dull with the magic of cinema, and despite a Tom Hooper’s real fetish for close up shots which were quite disorienting, it looked stunning. The majority of performances were very good – Anne Hathaway in particular. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were a bit disappointing – they didn’t really add anything special to their roles – and I actually felt myself wanting to get back to the depressing main characters every moment that they were on screen. As for Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe… Jackman did VERY well, and sounded pretty good, but I don’t think he sounded as amazing as many people are saying. And to all those Russell Crowe ‘haters’ out there… I think he played the role with just the right amount of stoicism, and although his singing wasn’t up to booming bass-baritone standards, he sang all the right notes in a perfectly acceptable manner for the context. Eddie Redmayne, however… hideous. You would never get away with that amount of flappy-jawed vibrato in an amateur production – why on earth would a director obsessed with close-up shots not nip this in the bud from the word go? Anyway, a solid 8/10 film that will be added to the DVD shelf and watched for years to come.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 25,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

In Memoriam: William George Kingston, 1985-2012

Those of you who know me well will know that this past few months have been particularly turbulent in terms of my personal life. Back in June, my world was turned upside down when my dear friend Will died tragically and unexpectedly. I had known Will from the start of high school, and since then we had both moved over from Northern Ireland to Edinburgh at the same time, where we maintained frequent contact for the next eight years. I was going through one of my suit pockets the other day and discovered the short tribute that I read at Will’s cremation, and thought that it was about time that I shared it with the world, in some sort of attempt at a memorial. No doubt, it will not compare with the lovely piece that is residing on his departmental website at the University of Edinburgh, written by his PhD supervisor. I don’t personally believe in life after death in any sort of spiritual or religious sense, but I believe that we all leave our mark on the world and in the memories and lives of those who knew and loved us. Will shall certainly never be forgotten.

In October, a group of Will’s friends did a 5km run in his memory, and raised over £2000 for PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self Harm) Newry & Mourne, and I believe that my JustGiving page is still functional, should you want to donate anything.

What follows are the scans of my tribute, and some pictures of Will and his friends. This is not intended in any way to be self-indulgent… it just seemed in some way appropriate.

Atheism and Nonreligion

A Conference Report on a panel session from this year’s SOCREL Conference, on Atheism and Nonreligion.Written by my friend Spence, and featuring some of my work…