• Kat Gupta’s research blog

    caution: may contain corpus linguistics, feminism, activism, LGB, queer and trans stuff, parrots, London

Religion, Youth and Sexuality

Today I went to the Religion, Youth and Sexuality conference at the University of Nottingham. I’ve been closely involved with a the project but not as a researcher – as a participant. I answered a questionnaire which was followed up with an interview, then they deemed me sufficiently interesting to keep a video diary for a week. It was a really interesting opportunity – firstly, as a researcher, it was a valuable experience seeing how other people in a different field and with a different theoretical and methodological background conducted research. Secondly, and somewhat unexpectedly, it was valuable as a participant. I went into the project thinking that I’d do some people a favour – they needed people to fill out their questionnaire and as a researcher, I like helping other people out with their research. Part of this is blatant and unfettered curiosity, part of this is the acknowledgement that research often depends on people willing to fill out questionnaires and one day, I might be soliciting data in that way. Part of my special interest in this project was the chance to get some representation; I do not see people like me represented in papers or magazines or… Continue reading

Activist linguistics

Activist linguistics, as I see it, does not mean that the researcher skew her or his findings to support one group or one ideology or another. Nor does it mean that a famous linguist use her or his fame to support causes. Rather, an activist linguistics calls for researchers to remain connected to the communities in which they research, returning to those settings to apply the knowledge they have generated for the good of the community and to deepen the research through expansion or focus. O’Connor, P. E. (2003). “Activist Sociolinguistics in a Critical Discourse Analysis Perspective”. In G. Weiss and R. Wodak (Eds) Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity. Basingstoke: Paulsgrave Macmillan This is something I’ve been thinking about. In some ways, my PhD research area is a deeply personal thing. It might be about a social movement and people and events a hundred years ago, but it encompasses areas that I care deeply about: gender equality, the theory and practice of protest, marginalised and disenfranchised groups, the interaction between ideology and practical legislative change. The photo is one of the more visible acts of protest I’ve done recently – it was taken on a cold winter’s morning before… Continue reading

Kat vs ebrary

Still ill, much to my annoyance. The only productive thing here has been my cough (ba-dum-tish!) Anyway, today I tried to do some work chasing up a reference. The library had it (yay!) but only through ebrary (boo!). Every so often I wonder if my resistance to ebrary is because I’m being a luddite and refusing to use something that will make my life much easier. Then I actually have to use ebrary and realise that no, I’m entirely justified in this. The above screenshot shows what it looks like on my monitor. I am deeply puzzled as to why the contents page needs to take up so much of the screen, leaving the text itself cramped to one side.To me this seems counter-intuitive – after all, I want to read the text – but what do I know, I’m only a researcher. I am also puzzled as to why their top menubar doesn’t move as you scroll down the page: You either have the choice of making the text bigger and easier to read OR having to scroll up every time you want to turn the page. It’s tedious. In conclusion, I don’t think it’s reading a book through… Continue reading

My tools

Recently I’ve been going to bike maintenance workshops. It’s been an interesting and often satisfying experience. There’s the comfort of knowing how to check your own bike for damage, how to mend punctures and how to be a more self-sufficient cyclist. There’s also a sense of satisfaction about doing something that has physical results, something that gets you covered in bike grease and dirt, something that requires you to work with your hands as well as your mind. There seem to be a few books out discussing the issue of working with one’s hands and the dangers of office work. It’s hard to write about this without romanticising manual work from a smug, clean fingernailed, academic stance, from the privileged stance of this being a choice for me, of this being as unnatural for me as Marie Antoinette playing milkmaid at her hameau. However, for me at least, there’s also a sense of responsibility; if I use something every day I should be able to understand how some aspects of it work, be able to fix some problems, know when I’m out of my depth. It gives me a better understanding of my tool’s capabilities and limitations. Does it make… Continue reading

Obligatory pet post

I am aware that the internet likes cats, so here’s hoping that it also likes rats. I am led to believe that Pebble dictates posts to an obliging Knotrune, but my rats, in true academic style, are unable to reach consensus on anything (except possibly that yoghurt drops are worth squabbling over and sundried tomato is foul, evil and proof that no one loves them). Anyway, today I had a productive day of sitting around looking helpful at the LGBT History Month display, attending a workshop on procrastination (ready for the inevitable comment of “no, I wasn’t putting it off”? Good), being interviewed by Andy Coverdale and coming to the conclusion that I really need to get one of these things commonly known as “a life”. Upon my return, I found that the darling ratcreatures had also been busy… What you see there is a nice, new hammock made by Fuzzbutt Cage Comforts. At some point today, the rats chewed a hole in the fleece, then proceeded to fill the hammock up with cardboard bedding. Just…why? The way the cage is set up means there’s clambering and jumping involved to get into the hammock, the hammock is quite full of… Continue reading

A footnote

LGBT History Month starts tomorrow, and perhaps fittingly I read this footnote a few days ago. Rosen 1974, footnote on page 209 regarding Christabel Pankhurst’s sexual and emotional relationships: Christabel may well have been a Lesbian, but the evidence is circumstantial rather than explicit: she never married, and the copious documents relating to her life and career do not allude to any heterosexual involvements. All the available evidence indicates she had stronger emotional attachments to women than to men, and the markedly dominant/submissive character of her relationships with Mrs Tuke and Annie Kenney certainly seems to resemble the psychology of many Lesbian relationships. There is, however, no reason to believe that Christabel’s affection for Mrs Tuke and Annie Kenney ever involved conscious sensuality, and as far as the history of the WSPU is concerned the exact nature of Christabel’s sex-life is less significant than the fact that by 1913 she had grown into a state of mind in which she was completely adverse to any form of co-operation with men. I find it an interesting footnote for several reasons: the first and perhaps most immediately obvious reason is the speculation as to the dynamics of lesbian relationships. Without further information… Continue reading

Queering the Museum

LGBT History month is coming up in February, and, in need of a bit of inspiration, I decided to see this exhibition at Birmingham Museum. I’m a bit of a museum geek and part of what interests me about them is who decides and how they decide what goes on display and how these objects are arranged. Some museums try to tell you a chronological story, leading you through different time periods and artistic movements. Some, notably Cairo museum, group similar objects together: sarcophagi there, canoptic jars here, animal mummies down the corridor there. However, curation is not a neutral act; it can support and/or create hetero- and gender normative interpretations of history, art and artefacts. In this exhibition, artist Matt Smith aims to disrupt these readings. The museum’s description of the event states: What happens when we stop thinking the world is straight? Through omission and careful arrangement of facts it is easy to assume that the objects held in museums have nothing to do with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. In a bold new project, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, in conjunction with ShOUT! Festival, has allowed artist and curator Matt Smith access to their collections… Continue reading

creating a history

I don’t remember where I first came across the suffragettes. I was an avid reader as a child, the sort whose parents attempted to ban reading at the table because their beloved offspring would become so engrossed in a book they’d forget to eat, and the sort whose parents were thwarted in this ban when their beloved offspring would read sauce bottles and milk cartons and cereal packets pointedly and out loud. I had certainly come across them by secondary school, and I remember being frustrated when my GCSE history textbook contained a few pages on the suffrage campaign but it wasn’t on the syllabus. The textbook had the sort of information you’d expect – women chaining themselves to the railings, suffragettes, an image of a poster of a large, evil-eyed cat with the limp, helpless body of a long-skirted woman in its month, photographs and a short case study of Emily Wilding Davison at the 1913 Derby. It wasn’t much, but I was fascinated. Some ten years later and I found myself actually researching the suffrage movement. In some ways, not studying the movement as presented by my GCSE textbook was perhaps beneficial; it meant I had fewer preconceived… Continue reading

swearing with Google ngrams

Back, after an unwelcome hiatus. I’ve learnt my lesson though, and will be backing my wordpress database up. Regularly. Anyway, being a linguist of the sweary variety, I was intrigued to see someone on twitter use Google lab’s ngram viewer to look at cunt and express surprise and delight that cunt was being used so frequently rather earlier than expected. I thought the graph looked interesting.  The frequency of cunt was rather erratic: an isolated big peak in around 1625-35; an isolated smaller peak in around 1675; peaks in 1690ish and 1705ish; a rather spiky presence between 1705 and 1800; then fairly consistently low frequency until around 1950 when its frequency increases again. This seemed puzzling – rather than being fairly low-level but present, there were these huge spikes in the 17th century.  I decided to have a look at the texts themselves.  These turned out to be in Latin, and the following image rather neatly illustrates the two different meanings at work here: The books themselves seem to be religious texts written in Latin, even if Google’s ever-helpful advertising algorithm seems to interpret things rather differently. As you can see in the first image, I selected texts from the… Continue reading

Arson and unresolutions

Happy New Year! I’ve started the new year with a bit of arson. Not mine, I hasten to add. I’ve been kind of struggling to find a good record of suffrage actions; part of the problem of interdisciplinary research is that if you’re basically teaching yourself a subject, there are almost certainly going to be resources well-known to ‘natives’ (for want of a better term) of the field but which you’re blissfully unaware of. It feels a bit rude to keep bothering historians with what must be rather inane questions, but happily I’ve found Andrew Rosen’s Rise Up, Women! The Militant Campaign of the Women’s Social and Political Union 1903-1914 and that’s doing rather nicely to flesh out the spring and early summer for me. He calculates that the WSPU caused an estimated £145,025 of damage between March and August; out of curiosity I looked for a way of converting this into current values and to my joy, found not only a huge list of resources but an online converter. It gives two figures depending on which dates you plug in: In 1910, £145,025 0s 0d would have the same spending worth of today’s £8,275,126.50 In 1915, £145,025 0s 0d… Continue reading