Image: Beyond the Belljar literarture workshops, Bombay Review 5 Country World Tour
I hold a first class degree in visual culture theory from Central Saint Martins, an Mst. in History of Art and Visual Culture from Oxford University and am currently a PhD student at Central Saint Martins researching trauma narratives in digital spaces under an ANHRC scholarship. I have presented my work at Brighton University, Oxford University and Bath Spa and have taught undergraduate classes for Central Saint Martins undertaking the Culture, Criticsm and Curation BA course.
My research interests include trauma theory, literature theory, mental health narratives, disability studies, digital spaces, the history of childhood and visual culture and postcolonial theory.
I also work more broadly in arts and literary education through tutoring, academic mentoring, youth work and classroom teaching.
A small selection of my academic writing and public speaking transcripts:
Chapters and Journal Articles
To approach the contentious space of child sexual abuse (CSA) one must
be mindful of the political contexts that underpin such engagements. CSA is understandably a phrase that carries great weight, for all three terms in this phrase, ‘child’, ‘sexual’ and ‘abuse’ are moveable, and rooted in the ideas of acceptability in the cultures we inhabit (Hacking 1991, 1995). They exist not simply as words, but as constantly shifting manifestations of the moral sensibilities of the popular imagination.
Comedy, after all, is about power; the comic can gain power through trickery, and assert power through humour within social insider groups. But comedy is also about relinquishing power, by momentarily positioning yourself as the abused child, and disrupting power, by switching roles between adult and child. Thus, the joke teller and listener can be both survivor and abuser, because a joke can travel in multiple directions. The anti-cute Animal Comedy of Ted and Pedobear reflects the struggles of an individual growing up, deciding whether to occupy childhood, adulthood or adolescent, and struggling against the limited meanings of these age categories through play. This play, as Paul theorises, constitutes not just an individual exploration, but a larger struggle against the concept of adulthood, and the symbolic and structural powers these roles possess.
“It is said that God created man in his own image. Yet, when comparing one’s own reflection to the angelic figures of runway catwalks and movie posters, you can’t help but draw the conclusion that God is either very cruel or rather ugly. This is the dead space between ‘should look like’ and ‘actually looks like’, which can be identified in the profound sense of loss that undercuts the act of getting dressed. It is the gap between the item we want (the designer dress) and the item we can afford (the high street knock off), the physical body (how we are perceived) and the dream body (how we wish we were perceived), the clothes on the hanger and the clothes on the ‘ordinary’ person, the clothes on the ‘ordinary’ person and the clothes on the model.”
One of the reason I became drawn to humor was through the act of nervous laughter, I effectively got ‘told off’ in therapy as I nervously laughed when describing an traumatic event. I was told that I was not taking my childhood sexual abuse background seriously enough! Like what the fuck does that mean? What’s the correct way of dealing with such a difficult thing?I love comedy and humour because I hate the politics of respectability that tells us there’s one ‘right’ way, one ‘respectable’ way to address such a deeply personal issue.
Typography and Trauma: Conversations on Doll Hospital Journal, Writefest 2017
In many ways capitalism has not just simply worsened mental health but created a new model of mental suffering. This applies to both employment and unemployment, so much of the groundwork for Doll Hospital was created when I was unemployed so the latter is particularly on my mind. You only need to look at the relationship between long term unemployment and suicide to realise the reality of this.
However, when we talk about capitalism we need to open up our understanding of oppression to consider not just mental illness, but other experiences impacted by ableism such as chronic illness and physical and developmental disability.
Capitalism is designed for the able bodied and able minded but considering poor working conditions even if a person enters in this ‘abled’ state, in all reality they are not going to exit it like this, poor working conditions are destructive both physically and mentally.
“The sensational story telling of xoJane, and the overwhelming disdain for the internet model of ‘oversharing’ one’s troubles, so often dismissed as a reflection of everything that is ‘wrong’ with the millennial generation, can easily cloud critical thought on this complex subject, provoking knee jerk reactions of outrage and disgust. However, I believe if we closely examine the historical context in which these digital stories are situated, focusing particularly on the enduring capitalist interest in the survivor’s story, and the construction of ‘authentic’ suffering, we can truly unpack why we continue to circle around these stories of abuse and use this knowledge to create a kinder space of creativity for survivors to navigate their narratives.”
“To write about mental health and trauma is to write from a place of uncertainty, uncertainty that we ‘should’ be talking about something so stigmatized in the first place, uncertainty of what the consequences will be of speaking this struggle into a reality beyond ourselves, uncertainty that our experience is ‘bad’ enough to merit documenting at all, uncertainity that we’re the ‘right’ person to be writing about this, if we should perhaps wait for someone smarter, more established to take the mic and finally, in a culture of gaslighting towards trauma survivors and the mentally ill, uncertainty that what we so desperately need to speak about even happened in the first place.”
“Because I guess what all this comes down to is that to speak of your struggles is not a privilege; it is a right. We need to challenge the idea that in order to speak authoritatively on ‘mental health’ you need to be university educated, middle class and white. In opening up the borders of who can speak, and in what way, I believe we can foster more inclusive, honest, conversations for women of colour, and, yes, white women too. Because we can’t go on like this. We need to do better.”
Earlier Academic Research-
“The mask is the wearing of existing individuals so you may become more of your own individual. The mask counters the fear of failure, the fear of creating something that is not ‘genius’ (and therefore interrupting the seamless self and diminishing one’s godliness) by creating your own author (your own genius) from many other authors (many other geniuses). Here nothing is lost because nothing is created. The implied faces of the authors: evoked in their names stacked horizontal on your bookshelf saving you from mediocrity, from femininity.”
“But what makes the white girl grotesque? She is grotesque because she is white, and therefore powerful. She is grotesque because she is a girl, and therefore powerless. She is ambiguous, and therefore unpleasant, a living illustration of Julia Kristeva’s argument that abjection lies in uncertainty.”
“The child is possessed so the adult may be possessed by the child. For the ideological medium of the child is, in so many cases, created for and by adults. Consider William Friedkin’s horror film ‘The Exorcist’ (1973) which tells the story of a twelve-year old girl who becomes literally possessed by a Satanic demon. It is no coincidence that this film is regarded as ‘the scariest film of all time’. For the film acts as an enduring portrait of the unbridled terror felt towards any ideology that is not one’s own. For the Otherness of a ‘foreign’ ideology, whether religious or political, is regarded as nothing less than Satanic possession. The green bile the possessed girl vomits over the priest character of Father Lankester Merrin acts as a colourful illustration of this idea, presenting the abjection felt when that beloved medium of ideology, the child, is defiled by alien hands.”