September 22, 2011

This liminal space – by Bernie

"While in the liminal state, human beings... are in between the social structure, temporarily fallen through the cracks, so to speak, and it is in these carcks, in the interstices of social structure, that they are most aware of themselves. Yet liminality is a midpoint between a starting point and an ending point, and as such it is a temporary state that ends when the initiate is reincorporated into the social structure" (La Shure, 2005)

And so I find myself at the beginning of my third and final year of the PhD life. There will be no fourth year, and as one of my supervisors so eloquently (!) put it last week, in a year's time I will need to find a job in order to feed my family. I feel somewhat overwhelmed as I contemplate the task before me - the work of making all these thoughts and ideas (my own and others') into a beautiful, honest, coherent whole - but I know it can be done. And I certainly relish the challenge of making it so!

In a conversation with my other academic supervisor last week, he talked with me about my future direction. I expressed my fear of academia, which is based on several elements: not wanting to be like my lovely, kind, heart-of-gold, but ultimately other-wordly mother; not wanting to lose my credibility as a midwife; and the fear of just not being clever enough. For goodness sake, my Business School supervisor still says things that I DO NOT UNDERSTAND. AT ALL.

But equally, I can't go back to my former state - what is the point of a midwife with a PhD if I just go back to where I was, frustrated, tired, and constantly ILL? I would have achieved nothing. And let's not forget, there would be no acknowledgement of my PhD status - you don't get a promotion for such things in the NHS.

So here I am in my liminal space. Do I move forwards of backwards? Can I bridge the gap? Can I be a midwife in academia without losing my midwife identity? Can I be an academic in midwifery and learn to be proud of my academic identity? My supervisor is of the opinion that I should be in academia, as I can make a difference there, and I feel quite drawn to the idea of teaching things like research methods to student midwives and convincing them that it really is EXCITING and RELEVANT.

And here's my last point: have I really been in this liminal space for two whole years? Wow. I think that's quite an achievement! I never really left midwifery, but I've yet to properly embrace academia. There's a beautiful symmetry with my midwife interviewees here - they go through a similar liminal process in the transition from practitioner to leader/manager. Maybe I'll just watch and learn from them...

And now, back to the attempts to make my thoughts into a beautiful THING!

liminal space


- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Kylie Budge

    A beautifully written post! Your thoughts on this topic remind me of a similar dilemma that artists who do PhDs face. Once done, and especially if they move into academia, how do they retain their identity as artists? It seems to be an issue for several groups. Best of luck for sorting out your next move.

    22 Sep 2011, 23:14

  2. M-H

    You’ve hit on something important here – in fact it’s my entire PhD! My title is: “Living in Liminal Space: A journey in accidental pedagogy” and the subject is the experience of doing a PhD. Thanks for your reflections.

    23 Sep 2011, 02:46

  3. Hello Kylie, that’s very kind of you! I think this idea of transition to new things or places is significant in lots of fields. For my study, it seems a really interesting element to look at – the idea of a liminal space as a positive point in the transition process from midwifery practitioner to midwife leader, and how leadership development programmes fit in with that in terms of a ritual. I’m really enjoying exploring the idea, can you tell?! And yes, I think I saw art mentioned quite a lot in my searches for web articles on liminal space and liminality…

    23 Sep 2011, 07:25

  4. Hello, M-H, that sounds interesting. I’m assuming you’re taking an autoethnographic stance here? I must say (and if you read my many blogs, you’ll work this out pretty quickly), I’ve found the whole PhD process a brilliantly interesting process, and I’m so glad to have hit on the idea of liminality just at this point! I’d love to keep up with your PhD – do you blog, at all?

    23 Sep 2011, 07:27


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