Katja May is studying for a PhD in English. Her project is titled ‘The Politics of Needlework: Stitching, Writing and Social Transformation’.
Why did you choose to study at Kent?
I came to Kent as an undergraduate student, stayed for a taught MA and then the PhD. What makes Kent special for me is the amazingly supportive staff, as well as the great facilities. I also feel that my School, in particular, is open to less conservative and more ‘out of the box’ research which I think is fantastic.
Can you describe your research project?
Through a series of case studies, I am researching the relationship between text and textile. I am interested in how ‘textuality’ can function as a form of politics in feminist activism.
Recent years have seen a rise in the popularity of needlework, both generally and in relation to feminist activism – for example, at the recent Women’s Marches where people wore so-called ‘pussyhats’. Yet, historically, needlework has often been discussed in terms of binaries – traditional or subversive, art or craft, alternative methods of production versus mass production, to name a few.
My research hopes to move away from a binary classification of needlework as ‘either-or’ and to theorise it as something that is 'always in the making' and, as such, a form of radical politics.
What aspects of research do you find most rewarding?
It’s those moments when everything somehow clicks into place or when I’m reading a text and I find myself cheering for the argument because it’s so brilliant.
How have you found the supervision process?
My supervisors are brilliant. They are very supportive of everything I do and their feedback is invaluable.
What other support do you receive as a research student?
There are a variety of workshops on offer from the Graduate School; I’ve been on a lot and each one has been helpful in one way or another. I’ve also enjoyed meeting research students from others disciplines at the workshops and have been able to make some new friends.
The financial support I receive from my School in order to attend conferences or external trainings is invaluable. And I appreciate the support from library staff, as I need to order in a lot of books.
How have you funded your studies?
I have a 50thAnniversary Vice Chancellor research scholarship and, as part of this, I am also working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.
What are your plans for a future career?
I am still in my first year of study, so right now the goal is, of course, to finish the PhD. After that, I’d like to pursue a career in academia. At Kent I can participate in a big research community – giving presentations to various audiences, teaching, organising conferences and other events, as well as publishing – and I’m sure these experiences will be invaluable to my future career.
Katya May blogs on subjects related to her research at kamaquilts.blogspot.co.uk