My newest research article will be appearing in a beautiful special issue of Ethnography and Education, edited by the brilliant and supportive Debbie Albon and Christina Huf. Debbie and Christina and I met at the Ethnography and Education conference at New College, Oxford, held each …
Dr. Marie Pierre Moreau and I have perpetrated a delicious graphic installation piece of comics-based/arts-based research focusing on the experiences of carers in higher education. This project has been generously supported by an AdvanceHE Good Practice Grant. We hope to bring the exhibit to locations …
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a horror for the vast majority of us, however it has been particularly nasty for girls and women, who bear the brunt of the social, emotional and economic impacts of the pandemic. This goes doubly for teenage girls. As a mother of teenagers, I can attest that the grind has been nothing short of brutal. However, as a scholar in gender diverse childhoods it has been gutting to watch the miseries unfold for transgender girls and young women who, isolated from face to face support and hold up in new pandemic closets, have struggled to be seen and aided in sense-making, even by the most supportive parents. The phantasmic reality of living under covid has yielded to an even more difficult to pin down discomfort, a deep unease, that afflicts gender diverse girls. With help from my research participants—generous, kind young women and their families–I have told a story in CBR format here.
Even if you are not yourself a gender diverse or transgender girl, know that what Lily experiences in this story may resonate with you. The ghosts, as we all know, are absolutely everywhere. No wonder we feel by turns terrified, out of sorts, unwell, uneasy and even hopeful in the midst of our horror. It goes on.
Galman, S. C. (2020). Ghostly presences out there: Transgender girls and their families in the time of COVID. Girlhood Studies, 13 (3) 79-97. https://doi.org/10.3167/ghs.2020.130307
As a scholar in childhood, one of the things I struggle with is how after spending so much time with young children and their families, much of the research writing I produce is for a different audience– usually research journals. And let’s face it, most …
I wrote a piece recently about comics, and art, and method, and disrupting and questioning and hopefully growing the work that we do in the academy. Remember those little capsules that you put in water and they suddenly expand and become a huge sponge dinosaur? …
A few years ago I wrote a rough, raw little comic called “Research in Pain.” It was so popular it was reprinted in a book called Through the Lens of Cultural Anthropology. Today I got an email from the editor from someone who read the comic and found hope there.
“I hope this email finds you well! You may not remember me, but my name is *** and I’m the one who needed your help figuring out if I was trans, back in January. I’ve since figured it out and have been medically and socially transitioning for the past couple months, and I know that none of it would’ve happened without your advice. I’ve been meaning to write this email to express my gratitude for weeks now, but I could never find the right way to word it so I kept putting it off. But while I trying to cope with the news of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death, I once again found myself thinking about that comic in your textbook, “Research in Pain”, and felt that now would be a good a time as any to write one.
In the past few months, I’ve often thought back to that comic because it helps calm down the anxiety I feel towards the future (which, these days, tends to be a lot). And every time I do, I come to appreciate more and more how much you’ve helped me understand the world and come to terms with things, even to this day.”
In the midst of the pandemic, the coldest September in years, our descent into fascism, environmental collapse and global despair, I am reminded that words of hope and love have power, still.
This week’s Helpers cartoon focuses on the fearless chickadee.
I used to live in a little house on a remote dirt road. At that house, there was a wooden post cover in the center of the yard that had a perfect little round hole in the top and a sheltered space within. As I watched from inside the house, I noticed that a chickadee was flying in and out of that little chickadee-sized hole carrying bugs and bits of straw and all kinds of little fluffy things. Turns out, he had his baby chickadees nesting in there, as was shortly confirmed with a quick trip out to peer carefully into the hole at the little fluffy heads and hungry mouths, silently and sweetly bunched together. In and out Father and Mother Chickadee went, while the four little fluffs waited inside. For a moment upon each departure, they would stand straddling the entrance, giving the world one furious once-over, as if to say, I’m going to be right back so don’t even think about it. And nothing did.
I have always loved the Chickadee (and imagine my delight upon discovering that it is our state bird here in Massachusetts). I love her winsomeness, her scrappy black cap and tiny fury, but most of all I love her fearlessness. I once went for a walk in the woods with a naturalist friend and was amazed at how chickadees would land on our outstretched hands to eat seeds from our palms. These were wild birds, not tame– and I can’t imagine a tame chickadee, anyway. It was certainly magical thinking but during some of the more difficult times– alone at home and isolated with my little children, powering through my painful divorce, beset with worry over life and money and academic careers and — now– disease and disaster– I go back out into the woods and hold out my hands. Without fail, if I wait long enough, the chickadees come. I want to believe that they are reminding me that, as our own blessed Emily Dickinson said, “hope is the thing with feathers.”
And hope and fearlessness are related. They call this little bird the Fearless Chickadee not because she embodies a kind of sense-deaf bravado we might associate with some stripes of human “fearlessness”, but because she is ferocious in her hope. Shakespeare would have said that, “though she be but little, she is fierce” and I would say she embodies Atticus Finch’s admonition that to be fearless is to have courage, and that can be the courage of hope, the courage of tenacity, the courage of humility, and of carrying on even when the world seems to be a very dark place. He said, “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” Chickadees know that they are small and vulnerable and the winter is long and dark but they carry on, full stop. To be an overwintering creature made of feathers and air weighing scarcely 12 grams is the epitome of “knowing you’re licked before you begin” but she lands on my hand anyway. Chickadees aren’t stupid: Some of nature’s smartest birds, they are known to have excellent memories— outwitting snakes and other predators, cleverly hiding their food stores–they can remember thousands upon thousands of hiding places–and building their burrows in such a way that only they can enter. Linguistically complex, even other unrelated species of birds listen to and understand their alarm calls. Everyone heeds the Chickadee. They know what must be done and they do it, even though the odds seem stacked against them.
So, remember the Chickadee and persevere. Be brave. Have courage. Even as we are surrounded and led by cowardice, venality, and wickedness, good people continue to do good and brighter days are coming. Tyrants are brought down. Kindness is power. Small is mighty. Hope is the thing with feathers. We can do this. Get it done.