It’s quite incredible how it’s been 6 months, half a year gone by, since I last recorded an update on this blog. I counted a few times with fingers on both hands just to be certain. Still, the norm is being cooped up in my room for the most part—save for trips into town for groceries and to check my pigeonhole at college, the occasional walks and catch-up with friends. Such is the reality of doing a DPhil, of living and surviving, in a pandemic world. In that time, the flimsy apple tree outside my room has ridded itself of leaves and fruits, been cloaked with snow, and now has begun to sprout flowers and leaves once more. 6 months is not just linear time charging ahead, it is a cycle too: rebirth, renewal, resurgence. And that is cause for hope.

I have mostly been quite active elsewhere, namely on Twitter. But over these past few days I have felt the rare itch to write a blogpost. There is an urge to dust off this platform and reflect on the DPhil. Enough thoughts have coalesced into something worth stringing together. So here I am.

The DPhil itself as a document—a culmination of thinking, researching and analysing—is slowly taking shape. Analysis has taken much longer than I expected; as I begin writing-up findings I am still analysing. The process is in turns dizzying and exciting. It is also littered with nostalgia for the field, which strengthens and at the same time, paralyses. No one quite understands the specific contours of the inner work in the analytical process, nor do I know how to articulate it as any kind of clear-cut methodology. I turn inwards into that solitude, reading Rilke in Malay for assurance. I allow for the rhythm of time to take its course, make peace with its currents. Is such methodology fully rational? Of course not. Is it expected to be? Well…

–harapan saya agar saudara menemui dalam diri cukup kesabaran untuk bertahan dan cukup kesederhanaan untuk menaruh keyakinan; agar saudara tambah yakin terhadap apa yang sukar dan kesunyian saudara di kalangan orang lain. Yang selebihnya, biarkan kehidupan mengalir. Percayalah: kehidupan sentiasa betul.

Surat Kepada Penyair Muda, Rainer Maria Rilke (Terjemahan oleh Pauline Fan)

Speaking of methodology*, as the DPhil slowly drips into being, I have sought refuge in teaching. In my past experiences I have always enjoyed occasional opportunities in this spirit, and in my professional life colleagues would joke that I was a cikgu (teacher). This academic year, working with a wonderful bunch of Masters students in my field, discussing research philosophy and methods, has been a profound joy, an enrichment. I often hesitate to offer prescriptions, right answers and single truths, but uncertainty too is a zone of potency. In many ways we are wading through the waters of knowledge-making together, its eddies and currents shifting at every turn. We are changed in the encounter.

Teaching is a performative act. And it is that aspect of our work that offers the space for change, invention, spontaneous shifts, that can serve as a catalyst drawing out the unique elements in each classroom. To embrace the performative aspect of teaching we are compelled to engage “audiences,” to consider issues of reciprocity. Teachers are not performers in the traditional sense of the word in that our work is not meant to be a spectacle. Yet it is meant to serve as a catalyst that calls everyone to become more and more engaged, to become active participants in learning.

Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks

This stint has opened up new frontiers in my academic identity and further validated my decision a few years ago to return to graduate school. As I look ahead into an academic landscape that may or may not have a place for me, I am certain teaching and working with students will be a dimension I seek out and turn to for energy and sustenance. What comes next beyond the DPhil life? I have been slowly thinking about this, making notes of potential opportunities and ideas, but it is a topic perhaps for a few more months down the line…

Presents from the wonderful group of students I’ve had the privilege of working with this academic year.

In the meantime, publication joys and writing projects abound! The book chapter I have mentioned a few times on this blog over the course (years!) of its writing and editing is finally out in the world. One of the joys of the doctoral experience is to find a community to write, think, imagine and make knowledge with. Over the past few years, Arzhia and Olga have been learning companions in this life of the mind, and of the heart. For that I am very very grateful; I look forward to continue our academic adventures wherever they take us. A journal article written with my supervisor & teacher Maia has also been recently published, based on my MSc dissertation completed in 2018. The twitter thread summarising the paper is linked below:

The drawn-out process of this publication was protracted by the pandemic, no doubt, but I am happy to see it finally bear fruit. Patience and publications are inseparable twins, this is a lesson I continue to learn. I’ve since updated my list of publications. A few more writing projects are in the pipeline, including a book chapter for the CIE in Malaysia project with my good friend Pravin. I am also working on a creative writing project that for the first time dialogues with my academic interests, for a digital exhibition later in the year. The academic identity continues to evolve at the confluence of the personal and professional…

The next few months will be coloured by DPhil writing and a smattering of (virtual) conferences and workshops, leading up to my Confirmation of Status (CoS) examination in late June. Until I write again; it will maybe take a few more months…

Take care!

*Note: Also speaking of methodology, I’ve contributed a book chapter for an upcoming volume related to the messiness of methods in education policy research. Looking forward to seeing this in print!


hooks, b. (1994). Teaching To Transgress: Education as a the Practice of Freedom. Routledge.

Rilke, R. M. (2020). Surat Kepada Penyair Muda (P. Fan, Trans). Institut Buku Darul Ehsan.

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