Here I sit at another desk in another country. I am being hosted by Professor Judith Pringle at AUT and have a desk with a wonderful view of the rain. Auckland is as I remember it and I still love it. I have the most amazing flat overlooking the city and am being looked after so well. This morning I gave a talk on feminist action in universities. A great group of women and men listened to me talk about myself – not hard to do for me, harder for them. I also met some people who will be at the EDI conference in July which is great as it means more familiar faces.
I am here to do research as well of course. I arrived in Wellington on the 15th after two days in Melbourne. I did two brilliant interviews there and met up with a friend. I wasn’t overly enamoured with Melbourne – it has a European look but feels like a generic city. If there had been time for more adventuring I might have liked it more. However, it was great to catch up with Emma and the interviews I did were really insightful. Interviewing can be a strange process at times, sometimes it’s awkward, most of the time it’s fine and then there are the interviewees you hit it off with. The nature of this work is that it reflects on my own experiences as an academic. It’s hard not to share my own experiences, although sometimes I do that at the end, after the machine is off. I only do it if the interviewee says they don’t think anyone else feels the way they do, but I do wonder about the ethics of that.
Wellington (the middle of middle earth) is a city of such loveliness – the art deco buildings, the harbour, the green. I interviewed two academics there and did a joint seminar with Elaine Swan on being a feminist academic. Elaine and I were hosted by Dr Deborah Jones who showed us the Wellington and all its delights. We drove past where the penguins live and where Peter Jackson lives, and the LoTRs and Hobbit Studios. I got quite excited at seeing the large green screen. The Hobbit is being filmed in Wellington at the moment, but I didn’t see anyone I recognised!
We had a gorgeous little flat and availed ourselves of the wine – which NZ is very good at. Monday saw me fly to Auckland with an interview yesterday and then dinner at the harbour again. So far the interviews with ‘Kiwi’ academics have been very different. Racism hasn’t featured in the same way as in Aus. I think British and other Euro academics may acclimatise quicker to NZ than those from other countries, but can’t really generalise. I am again struck by the friendliness of people and the warmth of people here. I do feel a long way from home though – the time difference is even greater than Aus and affects keeping in touch. The migrants from the ‘north’ I have spoken to (rather than interviewed) have reflected on this and the importance of being able to go to conferences. One migrant also said to me that he thinks migrants experience many of the issues faced by women and feminist academics. This reinforces my idea of migrant status destabilising masculinity. I am being encouraged to write about whiteness as well, so this is an area I need to learn more about. I see a lot of reading in my future!
Many of the issues that affect us in the UK are felt here. The shift of politics to the right, employability agendas and the under-representation of women. As one woman said to me today – the myths of NZ need to be countered. Despite leading the way on women’s suffrage, Kiwi women experience many of the same things. Of course ‘kiwi’ usually means white European/Anglo New Zealander. I’d like to learn more about Maori and Pacific Islander women in NZ and their experiences in the academy.
Tomorrow is two more interviews and then back to Sydney. I am going to Canberra next week and then have 5 more interviews in Sydney. Then the Blue Mountains for my birthday. Then home to Blighty. I already know I will miss it here. People asking me to come back – just have to find the time and the money!