Lauren began her AHRC CDP in September 2014 at the V&A and RCA.
Lauren Fried finished her MA in the History of Design at the V&A and RCA in 2013. She then worked as a nanny, a private medical secretary and as a nursery teacher, before beginning her AHRC CDP, ‘A Material History of Trans* identities in UK Performance (1967-1990)’, at the V&A and RCA in September 2014.
What attracted you to doing your PhD as part of the AHRC CDP scheme?
I had wanted to do a PhD since finishing the MA, as I knew it was necessary with the career path I intended to pursue. I initially considered applying for funding from the AHRC for a project on trans* histories and material culture, but ended up applying for a project already in place with AHRC funding that was run between the History of Design programme at the RCA and the V&A’s Theatre and Performance department – coincidentally, the project was very similar to my original idea. I ended up applying, and I was awarded the position. I suppose I wanted to do a PhD that felt strongly connected to museum work, and that had a perhaps broader outreach than a purely academic PhD would do, and it seemed like a CDP was the best way to go about this.
What are the challenges of doing a collaborative PhD?
One of the challenges has been to feel fully connected and integrated with one institution and research community, as oftentimes as a PhD student you flit between both institutions. Integration within each institution can be difficult, and you need to be aware of what each institution has put in place for you before starting out, so try to establish this before term begins: from the most basic needs, which may be a desk or a space to write in, extending to the larger needs of your project, in terms of working out firm guidance on what is expected of you during the three years you are with the non-educational institution, and what form of contribution you will be making, in order to make this project feel worthwhile.
What aspect of your research do you find most exciting?
I love archive work, and coming across new material about trans* histories in archives that have not been documented elsewhere is incredibly satisfying and exciting. I also love the teaching that I have been doing alongside the PhD – I find that teaching cements knowledge I already had, and creates a dynamic environment where a community constantly buy accutane in canada questions and prods at new areas of knowledge to create and inspire diverse connections and thoughts about your subject not previously imagined. I suppose the most surprising thing I have found out so far is that there is more of a disconnect between the three areas of popular performance, legislative changes and everyday experiences for trans* people than the original brief of the PhD had put forward.
What other activities have you been involved in?
I presented my work at three conferences last year: at Tate as part of their ‘Olympicopolis’ event; at a History of the Body conference; and at a conference that addressed the burgeoning field of Histories of Sexuality. Through funding opportunities, I was able to spend two months in the Transgender Archives in Canada in the summer of 2015, and then to attend the University of Victoria’s ‘Moving Trans* Histories Forward’ Conference in March 2016. In November of this year, I am heading to Minnesota to look at their LGBTQ collections and to present a paper as part of a working group at the American Society for Theatre Research annual conference, which this year is on the theme of ‘Trans’ performance, which fits my PhD project down to the ground! I am also writing up a journal article based on my original Masters work on the early history of trans* medical http://premier-pharmacy.com/ treatment, to submit in the New Year.
Do you have any advice for prospective applicants? Is there anything you wish you’d known before applying for your CDP?
This is difficult to answer. Doing a PhD is such an enormous undertaking, and it often changes shape in quite radical and varying ways throughout the three years of study, so that each student will face distinct challenges specific to their work. As a student you should be aware that these three (plus) years will often feel very lonely, as your research topic can inevitably become rather niche. I suppose keeping external work active is good to fight against this isolationism and academic hermeneutic tendencies, such as HE teaching and conference attendance and participation. I would suggest being proactive in engaging other researchers in your institution to connect, and to form support networks with each other – critiquing work, presenting papers, fleshing out ideas in informal settings can all really help your ideas flourish, and sounding out your thoughts in a safe and supportive space will always be beneficial.