Leanne Stevenson – TASA 2015 Postgraduate Conference Scholarship Report

TASA 2015 Postgraduate Conference Scholarship Awarded to Leanne Stevenson, University of Sydney:

I was extremely delighted and honoured to receive a postgraduate scholarship in 2015. The scholarship very generously allowed me to attend my first large academic conference, in the gorgeous setting of Cairns, and I had a blast!

Even before arriving at the conference, the chance to have my TASA paper peer-reviewed was of enormous benefit to my research. The detailed advice that was given by the reviewers about the amendments to make and the clear support for my conceptual argument regarding the status of mothers in neoliberal labour markets gave me encouragement and clarity that was much appreciated in re-drafting the paper.

Attending the postgraduate day was invaluable. The presentations from a diversity of speakers offered insights into academic writing, referencing, and different avenues to pursue academia dispelled some of the myths of working in the academy, and also revealed career pathways outside the academy. A particular standout was Dr Liz Tynan’s presentation on the well-written thesis. Dr Tynan laid out very clearly some hard and fast guidelines of thesis writing that I have been able to carry forward with at least some success.

I am also very grateful for the attention to detail paid in organising my session in the thematic group of Families, Relationships and Gender. My paper was purely theoretical; I argued that contemporary governance of mothers was transforming classed relations of social reproduction through concepts such as the entrepreneurial self, the phenomenon of intensive mothering and the commodification of motherhood. Fortunately, my paper spoke to several other papers on the panel sparking an ongoing conversation that we engaged in during breaks over the coming days. I very much admired the standard of work these colleagues presented and look forward to seeing them again and being updated of their work at TASA 2016.

Being my first large conference, the temptation to take in as much as possible won out. Beside my own thematic group, I attended sessions in cultural sociology, health, migration and the sociology of emotion and affect. It was particularly inspiring to hear so much wonderful qualitative research being undertaken. I was awestruck by the breadth of sociological research being done in Australia, and impassioned by the seriousness of keynote speakers of the political responsibilities we share as social scientists. The sheer generosity of esteemed scholars offering support to PhD candidates also made lunchtime a bit of a hoot as my friends and I ran around proclaiming, ‘you’ll never guess who I just spoke to…’

The opportunity to speak about research or theory, or even better, research and theory, for three days straight was a rare space for me to be in and I absolutely loved it. I felt incredibly encouraged and supported by the TASA community, which revitalised my energy for my thesis and the mountain of work still to do. And, not least, I was able to make the most of my down time outside the conference with friends from the University of Sydney simply by being in the tropics. My conference experience didn’t end at the Shangri-La, as I was approached by a friendly woman at Cairns airport with a ‘hey – I recognise you’ and we were able to extend the sociology chatter while we waited for our plane.

If anyone needs the financial assistance of this scholarship for any reason – make a note of the application date for 2016 and apply. Do not let the nerves or fears of meeting new people stop you, the TASA conference is too good to miss!

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