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  • Writer's pictureCharlie Rumsby

On becoming the Sociological Review Fellow

Let me tell you a story.

It was 2am. Kneeling down uncomfortably in a trash-filled entry, we were surrounded by the typical things you’d expect to find in such a scene: old, stained mattress, rubbish bags, a stale smell. I looked at your face; you looked like the elephant man. His punches had obviously landed with great precision. It wasn't the first time I’d witnessed the fruits of a jealous partner. Looking at you, my heart broke. You raised your finger to your lips and told me to “Shhhh!” I couldn't hear a thing and well, we were as still as still could be. Fear no doubt heightened your senses. You had just escaped out of the house. I had waited for over an hour for your opportunity to present itself. At the age of 15 I really thought somehow I could save you. You were 30. I admired you. Your power as a woman. Your independence. The respect you received from all those on the 'illegitimate ladder of opportunity'. Yet, in that moment, I knew my efforts were futile. I needed to change. I needed to take a different road. This could be me. It was more than likely. I had seen this violence time and time again.

The next morning, I declared to my Mum and Dad that I would be committing myself to education and I would change the trajectory of my life. It was going to be my golden ticket. I don't blame them for not believing me (although, once I showed some commitment they absolutely did). I hadn't sat my mock exams for my GCSEs. Some teachers had advised me to go to college. Finish my education there. It looked as though I was in a sorry situation. Thankfully, I was not.

I arrived at Cardinal Wiseman Roman Catholic School in Coventry and sat down with my teachers and explained to them I was sorry. I was sorry for not putting in my best. I asked quite plainly for another shot. I was given love, forgiveness, and support from those teachers. I would need to stay behind after school for some months to catch up, but they were willing to work with me. Fast forward a year or so and I opened my GCSE results with just enough to go to Caludon Castle Sixth Form. Well, if I got through the interview process.

Sitting across the table from Mr Fielder (R.I.P) he asked, “why do you want to come to Sixth Form? Your predicted grades, based on your GCSEs for the subjects you have chosen, are U.E.E.” I asked for a chance and told him I would try my best and we agreed to review my progress mid-way through. Again, I had managed to get teachers to see I was serious. Again they had offered me another chance. Again, I was grateful for an opportunity.

Sitting in Sociology A-Level, Mrs Fitzpatrick was teaching the class about the potency of “self-fulling prophecies” for good or ill. I loved Sociology, especially how she taught it. Much of what Mrs Fitzpatrick taught made sense to me. I looked at estate life, violence against women and the struggles of the working class with a new lens. I understood how I was at the bottom of the pile socially; the system was not set up for people “like me” to progress. I would need a shed-load of social and cultural capital to do that, and I was already starting in the negative. At least when it came to the currency of privilege.

Then, Mrs Fitzpatrick turned to me and said, “Charlene,” (that’s my full name by the way, not Charlotte) “you are predicted a U for this subject.” “Yes,” I sheepishly replied. “Why don’t we try the self-fulling prophecy out on you then?” Everyone was looking at me. “You,” she continued, “will get an A in Sociology this year.” That’s what she prophesied: that is what happened.

In some ways, my life has been marked by that prophecy. Believe me, this snippet from my life is only a small part of my story. Why do I tell it? Because now I am living out Mrs Fitzpatrick’s prophecy in a way that back then I could never have imagined.

I love sociology and have found my study of anthropology to have been an intimate friend of the discipline throughout my university years. When I applied for the Sociological Review Fellowship, it was a pivotal moment in my academic career. A crossroads. I knew, as someone who retuned to academia after working a first career in public health, that I was in essence a mature student. Even at the tender age of 35.

I had my first child mid-way through my PhD and the “work all hours God sends” approach was behind me (although I have been guilty of that). Yet I knew, looking at my workload over the past two years, that I wouldn’t be able to write my monograph without dedicated writing time.

So, again, through the Sociological Review Fellowship I have been presented with a golden ticket. I look forward to writing my monograph and updating you along the way. You might be asking what my book will be about? The pages of this website hint at the themes that will be covered. Go on, have a gander.

I will be working with mentors Professor Deirdre McKay and Dr Wes Lin on this journey. I am excited to be connected to a journal committed to a sociological imagination that is rigorous, critical, engaged and accountable. I am dedicated to advancing the public understandings of the subject of sociology. I hope you will journey with me!

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