About Rebecca Jones

Rebecca Jones is a Lecturer in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology, University of Birmingham. She is currently writing a monograph on Yoruba- and English-language travel writing in Nigeria from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

On being an ‘expert’ away from home

Anyone undertaking a PhD will be told at some point – with the understated smugness that only academics can muster – that “by the time you finish your PhD, you’re going to be the world expert in your field”. We are expected to be gratified by this; after all, isn’t this what researching your field solidly for three or four years is all about? Indeed, the excellent PhD advice and discussion blog the Thesis Whisperer cites the moment where you realise you know more about your subject than your supervisor as one of the key landmarks on the journey to PhD-hood.

Every year, as I have progressed further into the depths of academia, I have sworn that this will be the last stage I will reach before I leave and do something else. And yet, I keep crawling back to idea of the academic career: the comfortable, book-lined office, years spent researching my fascinating field, the interesting conversations and the excitement of new places, new people, new discoveries.

Why am I so torn between the easy attractions of staying (were it even possible to get an academic job, which is a whole other question), and the nagging feeling that I need to get out?

Continue reading