Introducing UofG Sociology Reads, a new feature on the UofG Sociology blog that highlights what those of us in Sociology are reading. Whether it’s purely work related, just for fun, or somewhere in the middle, we want to explore what books are shaping the research and perspectives that are so unique to the University of Glasgow Sociology community.
This week we’ll be introducing ourselves, Meg Lambert and Andreea Bocioaga, the new caretakers of the Sociology blog. We’re kicking things off with Meg, a PhD candidate in Criminology with the Trafficking Culture project. Meg’s research focuses on crimes and social harms of the powerful in educational institutions like museums and universities, particularly as they relate to the illicit, illegal, or unethical collection of cultural objects. She blogs sporadically at giveandtakesociology.com.
What are you reading right now?
M Train, by Patti Smith, the godmother of punk.
What’s it about?
Technically it’s a memoir, but in no particular order. It meanders from the present moment to the past as the events of her life in 2012-2013 offer gateways for memories, particularly from her marriage to the late musician Fred “Sonic” Smith. She covers a myriad of topics, from concepts of memory, aging, and home, to her obsession with Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, to her passion for crime dramas like The Killing, and, at the center of it all, her love for cafes and ritual. All in all, it’s an ode to coffee, working creatively, and finding lost things through memory.
Why did you pick it up?
This is actually the 5th time I’ve read it since November. It had been on my “To read” list since it came out, so I bought it while on a book buying spree in the US.
Is this book directly related to your research?
Cool beans! Is it inspiring your work, challenging your perspective, or affecting your identity as a researcher anyway?
Actually, yes. In terms of technique, it’s a constant source of learning and inspiration for me when I’m writing. As an academic, I do worry about falling into the trap of overwrought passages and unnecessarily arcane vocabulary. A half hour with Patti puts all that into check and helps me get in the right frame of mind before writing for any audience.
More personally, it’s full of small but powerful affirmations that help me put my life into perspective, particularly when I’m questioning my role in academia. Despite being a rock star, most famous for her album Horses, Patti doesn’t define herself as a musician. Performing is just something she does and can do, along with photography, painting, and writing. Her creative life is built from a lot of different moving parts, in much the same way as my own in terms of academic responsibilities and creative ambitions. After spending so much time battling the should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-stay-in-academia question, it’s encouraging to see how someone can make a life of doing numerous things without getting caught up in a competitive haze of being the absolute best at all of them. She just follows her curiosity and does her best with what emerges from it, which, as you know if you know Patti Smith, leads to a lot of uniquely authentic and moving work.
Would you recommend it to other people?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
What else is on your bookshelf right now?
Counter-Colonial Criminology: A Critique of Imperialist Reason by Biko Agozino, Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon, and The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön.