Autumn Update 2014

It’s autumn and the three of us have colds. I’m sitting here listening to my coughing almost-six-month old through the baby monitor, amazed at how extraordinarily different my life was just a few months ago. I’m looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead, like showing him the aquarium or putting him on the front of my bicycle while we cycle to daycare. The first few months were truly difficult, perhaps partly because I’m not used to *not* getting at least a couple of things done each day. The thing that began to make it better – besides of course the slow disappearance of what was supposedly colic and sleeping more than 3 hours at night – was a conversation with another new academic mother who introduced me to the term “mothering worker” (as opposed to working mother) from Gabrielle Hosein’s excellent blog, Diary of a Mothering Worker. It fits, it feels right. I have the routine down now, we go to daycare together in the morning and I hop on my bike and head to the office. Reverse the procedure on the way home. But the poor thing is now ill, so I guess that’s it for the routine for the time being. But we’re all learning, and the term “kinderziektes” (childhood illnesses/teething) makes sense…

…in two senses. In July, our department moved to a new building. We used to be in the Spinhuis, a 16th century correction house for women who would spin as part of their rehabilitation process. Someone once told me that they were convinced that the building was haunted, which reminded me of Avery Gordon’s work, Ghostly Matters, which deals sociologically with the lingering of ghosts and disappearances; “to be haunted is to be tied to social and historical effects” (Gordon 2008: 190). Sure, I miss the old tiled staircases and the student common room (now squatted and still running as a collective). But in the new building, I am learning to balance childcare with work, save for the small hiccups, growing pains, teething – the kinderziektes – such as when I couldn’t get into the nursing room at the beginning or loud drilling during lectures. But it has its plusses. I can work well in my office. It’s quiet for the most part. The social sciences are all in the same building. I have had more productive coffee-machine conversations with colleagues in the past two months than in a year. And the coffee isn’t bad.

In other, less personal news, we’ve just put together the program for our next Asian Borderlands conference, which should prove once again to be a fantastic group of papers and roundtables. I am looking forward to Hong Kong, the conference, and the discussions. I suppose I’m biased, but it truly is one of my favorite conferences. Plus, an idea to do a quick follow-up round of research is sparking again, now that one of the issues that I wrote about – the extension of the Lhasa railway down to Yatung/gro mo – has the green light. I have a fun pile of aeromobility related books in my office that I am excited about, and in a related vein, I also have just purchased Deb Cowen’s Deadly Life of Logistics. Now, to find the time to sit and read…

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