Cogs and Wheels: The material culture of revolutionary China

March 27, 2008

It’s time I got serious…

Filed under: My research, Writing — amyjaneb @ 10:57 am

…with this PhD thing.  My recent lack of activity has been deplorable.  My anticipated end-date of September is quickly slipping from view.  So, I have made a few resolutions in an attempt to kick-start my brain:

1.  I will be at my desk and ready to work at 10am each weekday morning (I’ve already failed miserably!)

2.  Each morning will start with a 20min ‘free-writing’ exercise (this is it!)

3.  I will achieve at least three things from my ‘to do’ list each day, with a minimum of two being from the ‘pressing/high priority’ list, as opposed to the ‘low priority/ongoing’ list).

4.  I will work a minimum of four hours a day exclusively on PhD stuff (reading, writing, researching), finishing by 6pm each day.

To keep myself on the straight and narrow I have instigated a treat system.  For each day I achieve resolutions 2-4, I will put a £1 aside to spend in Primark.  😉

Will it work?  Only time will tell.


December 10, 2007

Writing up – argh!

Filed under: My research — amyjaneb @ 3:38 pm

One of the reasons why I’ve been so quiet recently, is because I’ve been trying, desperately, to get some of this thesis written up.  And, in brilliant timing, I came across the following book, thanks to Mary’s recommendation:

Patrick Dunleavy.  2003.  Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation.  Palgrave MacMillan.

What a godsend!  It’s absolutely brilliant (clearly all the reviewers on Amazon think so too!).  Thanks to Prof. Dunleavy I now have the words to describe the methodological thrust of my written-up research;  my thesis going to take an analytic, plus descriptive approach.   To fully appreciate what that means, you’ll have to read the book.  But, suffice to say, it’s going to take a little bit of work to turn my current purely descriptive chapters into something a little more ‘analytic’. 

Actually,the plan for my thesis has always been to start with case studies and open out in a broader narrative, weaving in some theory and historical stuff – I just didn’t know how I was going to achieve it.  But this book really does give clear advice about how to ‘author’ a thesis to best show off your original research.  I think it could, over the next six months or so, become my bible!

November 3, 2007


The BM is stealing my ideas!!!  😉 

Seriously, could be an absolutely fascinating exhibition if it comes off.

September 1, 2007

The East is Red…as a study tool

I’ve decided it is about time I tackled this blinking thesis.  So, in an attempt to promote an appropriate frame of mind, this afternoon I have been listening to The East is Red.  Loud, ambitious and unstintingly bombastic, not to mention really quite barmy, it’s done the trick.  I managed to brain storm section 2 of my thesis.  Hurrah for choirs and cymbals and China for bringing forth a Mao Zedong (the latter said with a tinge of irony, of course)!  You can download the whole shebang – all two hours worth – from emusic.

July 13, 2007

I have returned

Filed under: Blog notices, My research — amyjaneb @ 9:26 am

At least virtually.  I won’t be back in Leicester until next Friday.  Anyway, I’ve done a lot of thinking (and reading) and, of course, I want to complete my PhD.  I’m nothing if not stubborn.  I may decide to take a slightly different direction post-doctorally.  But, I needn’t think about that yet.  I have a thesis to write!

However, WordPress is a nightmare when using a dial-up connection, so I won’t be blogging regularly (at least not here – I’m trying to keep on top of The Attic) until I’m back in Leicester.  Never fear, I have lots and LOTS to talk about.  I’ve got enough ‘material’ to keep me going for weeks!  😉

June 15, 2007

Where have I been?

Filed under: Blog notices, My research — amyjaneb @ 8:28 pm

Okay, I’m not blogging at the moment.  A couple of weeks ago I had a nasty and distressing experience which – coming on top of a family bereavement, and generally stressful year – has left me having a bit of a ‘wobble’.  And I’m not quite sure where I’m going with my PhD from this point forward.  The current lack of a reliable Internet connection also makes it a little difficult to blog regularly.  So, all in all, things are a bit ‘on hold’ at the moment.  I’m hoping that once I’ve got my brain back into gear, the rest of my life – including my research – will fall into place pretty quickly.  Here’s hoping…

May 23, 2007

A temporary hiatus

Filed under: My research — amyjaneb @ 10:01 pm

I’ve been a bit quiet recently.  That’s mainly because I’ve been really busy the last few days.  It’s the Department’s PhD Research Week and I seem to have been out and about for at least 10 hours each day since Monday!  So, I haven’t had much time for anything else.  I presented a paper about one of my case studies on Monday, a summary of which will appear on The Attic – along with reviews of other sessions – over the next few days.

But, in addition to that, I’m helping to organise a conference here in Leicester in June, which is taking up a lot of my time too.  Not to mention the Museological Review.  Phew!  I don’t know how I pack it all in.  I have recently resigned as PhD Student Rep, however, so that should afford me a little more time to spend on my research – afterall, that’s what I’m here to do!

Normal service should resume shortly.  🙂

May 13, 2007

Doing a PhD: Self-indulgent, or what?

Filed under: My research — amyjaneb @ 8:30 pm

That’s a question that’s been lingering in the back of my mind for a while.  I recognise that a lot of PhDs will make a difference, maybe even change the world, but I have serious doubts that my thesis will ever have such a positive effect.  So am I just being a little bit selfish and indulgent?  Could my time (and money) be spent more proactively in another way?  My old job – in Student Support – wasn’t exactly my chosen career, but it wasn’t horrible.  And I enjoyed making a difference to peoples’ lives, if only in a small way.  I think I might actually be missing that – having a social purpose, contributing to something larger than myself.  This PhD thing can be a jolly insular experience.  Perhaps I’m just thinking too much.  Hey, that’s my job, in a way.  Thinking and analysing and obsessing about stuff!

May 6, 2007

Transcribing interviews: Argh! What a nightmare!

Filed under: Interviews, Methodologies, My research, Web resources — amyjaneb @ 3:06 pm

I’ve just completed transcribing the recording of an interview which lasted 29 minutes.  It’s taken me about four hours over the past three days.  Still, I musn’t complain, because all the other interviews I’ve done so far have been by email, plus my interviewee gave me lots of useful info and new leads.  And , I guess transcribing it would have been a considerably more painful experience without my trusty transcription software.  I’ve been using this.

It works pretty well; you can rewind and slow down recordings using the function keys or the ‘dashboard’ controls, and best of all, it’s completely free!

I am so pleased my research doesn’t require me to do many, long interviews.  I have every sympathy and respect for my poor colleagues who have hours upon hours of recordings to transcribe and make sense of.  :S

May 4, 2007

Review: Asia in Western Fiction

Filed under: China, Images, My research, Publications, Reading — amyjaneb @ 12:15 pm

Asia in Western Fiction
Robin W. Winks and James R. Rush (eds.)
Honolulu:  University of Hawaii Press, 1990

So, I’ve just finished reading and making notes on the above, which is a useful survey of western literature which deals with Asia.  The particular sections I was interested in were Jonathan Spence’s ‘Chinese Fictions’ and C. Mary Turnbull’s ‘Hong Kong:  Fragrant harbour, city of sin and death’.  Both chapters deal predominantly with fiction from the early twentieth century.

The basis of Spence’s paper are six genres of western fiction dealing with China, which he identifies as:

  • The Chinese in China, i.e. works like Buck’s The Good Earth
  • Westerners in China
  • Overseas Chinese, which included characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan
  • China as a focus for a political statement, i.e. literature that uses China as a mirror upon which to reflect the ills of western society – a continuation of a theme which has existed since the Enlightenment in western Europe.
  • Scholars of China
  • Internal Chinas

In this article Spence contributes little more than that already covered in The Chan’s Great Continent (in fact this paper predates the later and, perhaps, represents the initial phase of research that culminated in his book).  But he offers a useful way of thinking about western image-making of China in the first half of the twentieth century;  each genre appears to correlate with discrete sets of images of China.

Turnbull’s chapter focuses on Hong Kong, and particularly literature that takes as its theme ‘Westerners in China’, to coin one of Spence’s genre descriptors.  Inevitably, images of China act as a foil for Britain and the foreign inhabitants of the colony.  She argues that during the twentieth century, Hong Kong (which is, to be fair, out of the scope of my thesis for a range of reasons) was largely utilised as a trope for debauchery, crime and espionage.   Nationalist and later Communist China exists as a spectre of ‘otherness’ on the horizon.  Incidentally, Turnbull discusses W. Somerset Maugham’s The Painted Veil, an adaptation of which is currently screening in cinemas (and on my ‘to watch’ list).

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at