ESR 1 Blog July 2021: Gabor Erlich

At the end of my last entry, I finished with a vague statement referring to the political turmoil of my home country- a situation that has been influencing my ‘everydays’ greatly (the last paragraph was added to this entry a week after I wrote the text- some updates on the situation in Hungary). This is why I think it’s important to speak about the issue which, I believe, affects not only the eleven FEINART ESRs, but all those who pursue academic careers far from their original habitat. My personal experience is that it is paralysing to follow social/political struggles from afar in two ways. Not being able to be on the spot is one problem, but refreshing the news sites and social media accounts every other minute, is another, hijacking my attention from my work – which cannot ever be a satisfactory state of mind.

It was especially bothersome last month since I was preparing my colloquium presentation, an important milestone of my academic career.

I asked a couple of people – all in a similar situation- to share their tactics in dealing with this issue. The realisation that it is a widespread problem came from the diverse and detailed responses I received, for which I am more than grateful. I decided to spend as much time offline as possible as a first step. Although it is, for sure, the best way to stop hitting F5 all the time, working on the computer still felt too much like a temptation. I went analogue, or better yet, I went back to analogue.
There we were, me, the notepad, the fountain pen. What a liberatory team. The company was, in fact, more than familiar from the time when I was training to become an artist – I just had to find the best way to use these tools for my academic pursuits. Writing down whole paragraphs soon proved to be an uncanny experience, given that digital word-processing tools are just way better in my opinion. So, I started to use the notepad to first think through the research process, get the main connections clear, and as such try to set a proper direction from which to begin the structure of the thesis. I started making large-scale charts and ended up with a map of my intellectual endeavour.

Using these processes made it easier to open the computer and start writing without getting lost in the abundance of information, because I already had my focus set on the very topic I need to be working on.

Nevertheless, I still had stage-fever delivering my presentation, but I think it went well, especially considering how preoccupied I was just a couple of weeks before that day. This is the place to pay all due respects to comrade Fabiola who presented on the same day and whose material was not only way more organised but also so much more improved then mine. It is a pleasure and an honour to have colleagues like her. I also think that for my case it was perfect timing to do the presentation, four months after starting the programme. It has made me organise my thoughts on the vast amount of literature I have been familiarising myself with, reflect on the conversations I have had with my supervisors and, overall, set an agenda for the upcoming year. The fruitful discussion that followed the presentations that day further reassures me that, although there is much to be learned and to be properly articulated, I am in the best place for receiving the professional guidance and support to be able to make my research project a unique contribution to the field. With all that, I am not saying that I won’t have stage-fever next time – that is just part of the game – but that this was an opportunity to develop my skills in public and share thoughts in an articulate way with my peers. In a sense this is a ‘thank you’ for all who were there, and for their attention and for those who commented: be sure that I took notes and am looking into all the suggestions

What a thing this blog-writing is, I could not have imagined sharing so many personal stories just a short while ago!

I wrote this text right after my colloquium presentation, and today, right before the blog deadline (of course), I thought I would add a short paragraph to share with you that, regardless of the hate-propaganda of the government of Hungary, Budapest Pride did happen yesterday. More than ten thousand people walked peacefully, happily and freely through Budapest to show that hate cannot win over love. Despite the counter-revolutionary arsenal of post-fascist groups (the current government of the country is shamefully part of these groups) and their presence around the march’s route, the people who came out yesterday made a strong statement and most importantly are keeping the hope alive in many others who did not feel safe joining this time.

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