Doctoral study + inspiration

by K.M.

For my very first blog post, I thought I would start off with something that is often talked about casually over drinks with fellow PhD students, but that very rarely explicitly comes up in a more formal context: how did you become interested in your thesis topic?

As I suspect with many others, mine was a combination of a deep curiousity in the general areas of my research (policy making, European Union, cultural policy) combined with a personal aspect. When I decided to do a PhD, I was living in Germany. I was there, legally, on my British passport (I am a dual Canadian/British citizen). During the course of the two years that I lived there, I began to think a lot about cultural identity and the relationship between a legal document and the “feelings” that go with it: although I held the passport in my hand and was able to live and work freely around Europe because of it, I did not really feel British.

From there I began to think about the complexity of identity and how that complexity translates into cultural policy, which is so often closely linked with cultural identity. In this context I began to think about Europe, the EU, and culture at the EU-level: how on earth do 28 Member States come together and discuss culture, when it is so intrinsically linked to the national (or even sub-national or local) “level” of governance?

These are all thoughts that were going through my mind in the fall of 2011 as I was preparing my proposal and applications. My topic has changed quite a bit since then: it’s become more about institutions, more about structure, and less about grand questions about cultural identity. But the basic idea is still there — I am fascinated by how cultural identity manifests itself in policy, particularly at the supranational level.