tl;dr: I have withdrawn from my PhD and will start a Master of Information Management in February 2020.
From mid-2017 to mid-2018, I was enrolled in a PhD at the University of Divinity, on the topic of queer Christian autobiographies as expressions of practical theology. At the time, it felt like synchronicity. In mid-2017 Australia was in the throes of the marriage equality postal survey and the diversity of Christian perspectives on sexuality was finally becoming more widely known. I still believe that what faithful Christians (and members of other faiths) need to hear is more stories of the lives and experiences of real queer people – including queer people of faith – rather than more dogmatic arguments based on abstract philosophy and ancient texts, as that ground has been covered well in forty years of queer theology. I hoped to foreground contemporary use of autobiography and memoir as spiritual practice in order to help re-orient the way we talk about sexuality and religion.
However, queer theology is a small niche, and an even smaller niche within a niche in Australia, where advanced, rigorous theological study and research is a tiny market; the country’s only specialist university for Christian theology has extremely limited financial resources to support research students; and most churches’ practical and financial support for theological study stops at ministerial formation. (Not that I would expect my church to support research in queer theology in any case.) In a global contemporary environment that has been gradually devaluing research in the humanities, it is hard to justify PhD study just as a labour of love. With no financial support available and no significant improvement to my employability to look forward to, I could not justify continuing to pour time and effort and forgo income for another three to five years.
A few weeks ago I withdrew from my PhD and applied to two universities to study information management, which will give me the professional recognition to work as a librarian and/or archivist, or in some other role in this rapidly evolving field. I was pleased to be offered places at both institutions, and have accepted the offer from RMIT, which also gave me advanced standing for previous study. Because, like so many of my life and career changes, this is a variation on a theme that has been playing for most of my life. Not only was I a nerdy book-lover from the age of six1, my first job that lasted more than a few months was as a library officer in my local library network, and I started the same qualification at RMIT twenty years ago, before personal circumstances led me to put a long pause on this path. In the meantime, my experience in data management, web development, and digital humanities mean that I now have a lot more to bring to a profession that has to adapt to changes brought about by technology.
I start (hopefully full-time) study in six months; in the meantime, I hope to build up my savings with consulting work, and begin reading and learning about the contemporary GLAM landscape. I have joined newCardigan and plan to start attending cardiParties soon. I would welcome any suggested reading or any other resources that could help me update my theoretical knowledge of libraries and archives – feel free to DM or email me.
Really, I was a nerd. My first appearance in a national newspaper was a story about my collection of over a hundred books at the age of six. One of my childhood pastimes was cataloguing my personal collection and pasting checkout slips in the back of books. ↩︎