July 31, 2007

Doing a PhD is the equivalent of someone giving you carte blanche to convene your perfect dinner party. There’s nothing like picking up the phone to complete strangers whose work you’ve admired; telling them you are doing a PhD and inviting them into a conversation for them to say “yes”. In fact, nobody I have called has said “no” – people have given very generously of their time and expertise and I’m hoping our discussions have been as interesting to them as they have been to me. So the question then arises as to why it’s taken me this long to find an “excuse” to have extraordinary conversations around a topic of interest to me. Do I really need an “excuse” or would an invitation to explore something in common have been enough?
Of course this is about authority – and the way in which we authorise and de-authorise ourselves when it comes to taking a step into the unknown. If we hang around waiting for someone else to make the suggestion then chances are it’s not going to happen. So now I’m in the process of having the ideal dinner party conversation for real in my head. Who are the next 6 people I would love to be in a room with to talk about my topic of research? What kinds of conversations would keep me awake at night; head processing the discussion and generating all kinds of fascinating connections?
If you were to authorise yourself to make those calls – who would you want to talk with?