• Kat Gupta’s research blog

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

Some blog love

I’ve been ridiculously busy lately (teaching! training! seeing Jen Gupta perform as part of Manchester Science Festival and London Bright Club! linguistics reading group! oh yeah, that thesis thing I’m writing! trying to get my boiler fixed!) so not really had time to think of interesting posts, so here’s a few links to blogs I read: Bad Reputation is a collective of writers on a “feminist pop culture adventure”. In the interests of transparency I should declare that they have plied me with cake, but I’d like them anyway because they’re incisive, intelligent and pretty awesome. I particularly like their series of Revolting Women because it contains not one, not two, but THREE posts about the suffrage movement: the Ju-Jutsuffragettes, Dora Thewlis, Teenage Working Class Suffragette and Joan of Arc, Rosie the Riveter, and the Feminist Protest Icon. They also write about films, comics, music and computer games in an interesting, thought-provoking and entertaining way. I actually LOLed at Markgraf’s illustrated review of The Three Musketeers and don’t feel the cinematic experience can begin to compare their final analogy involving pick-and-mix and “an enraged muskrat”. Robert Lawson is a sociolinguist and brave soul who’s blogged about John Locke’s Duels and… Continue reading

Privilege in an occupation

So, there seem to be a few occupations going on, including my local Occupy Nottingham. One of this things I’ve found interesting is the language that’s emerging. This post examines the language of the “we are the 99% tumblr. Meanwhile, Tiger Beatdown has some interesting analysis of who exactly is the 1% and an insightful, moving essay about the range of experiences of wealth, poverty and class found within the 99%. I’ve also been thinking about who an occupation excludes. I’d define an occupation as a radical reclamation of space where alternatives to mainstream society can be explored – things like communal living, consensus decision making, and sharing the work needed to sustain a community. However, the fact remains that we are products of this mainstream society and have internalised some of its toxic elements – sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism to name a handful. In a social justice context, not having to encounter these things are often described as ‘privileges’. There’s lots of material out there on privilege but I particularly like this primer on privilege and what we can do about it. It’s important to note that, while these can be manifested in individual interactions, they’re also… Continue reading

Issues in trans language

Earlier this month I, along with two other committee members, spoke to Nottingham Lesbian and Gay Switchboard about the trans social and support group we run. One of the things that came up was the complexity of trans terminology. As someone with some knowledge of the community, as someone who is, in a small way, a trans activist, and as someone with a linguistic background I’m intrigued by the words we use and the way we try to create our stories of flux and change out of these words. Words have immense power in this community; often simply knowing the word for something is an act of empowerment, a realisation that there are others like you and there is a place for you in the world. Words can summon identities into being; words can make manifest inchoate feelings of difference and not fitting in. Words are brilliant. However, I’ve not read a great deal on linguistics and trans issues. I have an interest in language and gender but all too often I find there’s a disconnect between the linguistic research and what I know as an activist. For example, while reading Benwell and Stokoe’s 2006 Discourse and Identity I came… Continue reading

Research Practices 2.0

I, along with some fellow PhD researchers and social media nerds, will be running workshops at this event. We’re currently in the process of designing the introductory workshops and, because we practise what we preach, we’re collaborating though a shared google doc. Places are filling up fast, so if you would like to attend, please book your place as soon as possible. Research Practices 2.0 Social and Participatory Media in Academic Life Saturday 29th October 2011 9.30am-4.00pm Business School South, Jubilee Campus, University of Nottingham This one-day event will be an opportunity for you to come and experience a variety of discussions on the use of social media in research. Social media (such as blogs, social networks and Twitter) provide new opportunities for researchers to source information, network, collaborate and disseminate their research. The effective use of social and participatory media (web 2.0) is increasingly seen as a key requirement in 21st Century academic practice. This free one-day event will provide an informal and interactive environment to learn about social media. It is an opportunity to share experiences and good practices, and develop informed and critical approaches to adopting and using social media in your studies/research. This event has been… Continue reading

Sorry Delicious; it’s not you, it’s m…oh, what am I saying? It is you

A few months ago, it looked like Yahoo were going to close Delicious down. Lots of people were happy when it got bought by AVOS rather than simply having the plug pulled on it. In the past week, they relaunched Delicious, but the relaunch seems to have lost a lot of functionality. People are not happy about it, particularly those in fandom (comparison of old and new Delicious; hacks using the API to see what you have; this amusing stack). Fandom promptly began searching for an alternative, and when asked by Maciej on twitter how Pinboard could be made more fandom-friendly, duly produced a 60 page collaborative spec and feature request (see also the Organization for Transformative Works, Archive Of Our Own and Dreamwidth for fan-led/friendly projects). As Maciej put it, “[b]y 2008 a whole suite of theoretical ideas about folksonomy, crowdsourcing, faceted infomation retrieval, collaborative editing and emergent ontology had been implemented by a bunch of friendly people so that they could read about Kirk drilling Spock”. Anyway, I have a pinboard account now: mixosaurus. Not because I’m fannish, but because I believe in supporting collaboration, engagement, innovation, crowdsourcing, folksonomies and grassroots, user-driven sites. I don’t like being forced… Continue reading

Reminiscing

The other day I bumped into a friend on campus and ended up eating lunch with him and a couple of other friends. Perhaps inevitably, our talk turned to Freshers’ Week – not, perhaps, tales of drunken debauchery but the question of whether any of us had actually enjoyed ours. Later, I read this piece by a professor in a US university about move-in weekend and found myself nodding along. Marykmac tweeted about a discussion she’d had with colleagues where they’d all hated Freshers’ Week for different reasons. Personally, I found Freshers’ Week weird. I found the general over-excitement about bar crawls and going out slightly inexplicable, I found the commercialisation at the Freshers’ Fair uncomfortable, I was dismayed by the misogyny and pretty alarmed by the inter-hall rivalries that were already springing up despite us moving in mere days ago. There was a doggedness about having “fun” – that if anyone paused for a moment in the pursuit of fun, they might realise that they weren’t having such a good time after all. Privately, I questioned whether I wanted to be at university at all, whether it was actually right for me or if I had made a terrible… Continue reading

Why I’m not keeping calm

A confession: I am nursing an instinctive, visceral dislike of Keep Calm and Carry On posters and merchandise. It contains some of the things I like least – the smug nationalism, the invocation of “our finest hour” of WWII, the assertion that “keeping calm” is a morally superior reaction and that there is no point in getting angry. The image it summons is one of plucky Brits doing their best to carry on as normal among the bombs and the rubble. That war merely gives British resilience and stoicism to shine through, rather than being devastating. I cannot help but notice that this poster has flourished in these days of the coalition government. When courts are being kept open 24 hours a day to deal with those involved with riots, but the Prime Minister can be involved with phone hacking and no one seems to question his suitability as PM. When ATOS mounts legal threats against online patient groups and forums. When our centres of higher education are being marketised. When councils are trying to evict tenants whose children may have been involved in rioting and a government petition for stopping their benefits reaches the crucial 100,000 signatures, as if… Continue reading

(Yet) another move

Something I thought about, as I once again carefully packed my books into boxes and less carefully stuffed my clothes into bags, is the instability of PhD life. I’m told that some people do their entire PhD at one university, in one department, even while living in one place. I am not that person. In the almost exactly three years I’ve been working on my PhD, I’ve been at two different universities, been based in three different departments and so far, lived in four different houses. Weirdly, for something that is in a constant state of development and change, my thesis has been one of the few constants in my life. The other, somewhat worryingly, is my supervisor. Not sure how I feel about that! In a way it’s made me a more independent researcher and that’s a good and positive thing, but sometimes I wish I could relax and be at least somewhat confident that I won’t have to move again for at least another nine months. I have Thoughts on how it’s affected my research, my friendships and collaboration with other PhD researchers and on me as a researcher, but that can wait for another day – I… Continue reading

How to erase identities and make everyone bad guys

A couple of months ago, I posted about the politics of representation. I found the observation that representation in the media can involve “crushing difference in favour of identities constructed by those in positions of power” particularly striking. What you see here is me trying to work out the process of how it happened in the suffrage movement. Here’s an admittedly simplistic table of differences between suffragists and suffragettes. Of course, it’s not that simple – see Sandra Holton (1986) for more – but for the purposes of this argument, let’s run with this. Suffragists Suffragettes considered the more inclusive term members of a militant organisation constitutionalists challenged the constitutionalist approach campaigned by lobbying Parliament prepared to engage in direct action However, what I’ve found in the texts I’m working with looks a bit more like this: Suffragists members of a militant organisation prepared to engage in direct action I found that suffragette and suffragettes were comparatively low frequency terms and didn’t have many words associated with them. Instead, there were lots of words associated with suffragist and suffragists – even the direct action words like disturbance*, disorder, outrage*, violence and crime* which I then focused on. This seemed out… Continue reading

Pride is a….something

Yesterday I went to my second Pride. It was better than last year for a couple of reasons – we started marching from Market Square to Forest Fields so got plenty of visibility (as opposed to the extended tour of Nottingham’s back streets of last year) and this time I was at a stall, watched the acoustic stage, had the good sense to leave before I got irritable and wasn’t subjected to the Cheeky Girls. I was marching with Recreation, the local group I help out with, and that made it a good experience. One of the group members remarked that he felt he belonged, and it was good to meet new people who’d been looking for a group like ours. It’s why I call my involvement in this group activism – I might not be on the streets with a loudhailer, but for me, making this space possible, acknowledging the diversity of people’s identities, and offering solace and support is activism. It’s telling people they are not alone and that in itself is a powerful thing. Marching through the city centre actually felt meaningful – not quite confrontational, but both unexpected enough and big enough to take people by… Continue reading