21 September, 2020.
This day should have been the most important day in my life. Today I am formally starting my PhD journey. Yet this day is nothing like I ever imagined.
I am sitting in my study room in Dhaka. I am not where I thought I would be. I am not ‘really’ attending the programmes I dreamed I would. For a person who knew she would do a PhD since she was 9 or 10, this is exceptionally hard to concede. I still don’t know if my goals would be attained, if my dreams would be fulfilled. The uncertainties have been unparalleled.
I haven’t really slept in last 3 months. Ever since I received my offer from the University of Bristol, there have been many thoughts storming through my mind. Covid, my family, my parents, my field work which would take me to some quite dangerous quarters of Bangladeshi orthodox religious leaders, future prospects and not the least my newness to UK academia. I knew that I would get into Bristol, as Prof Dave Cowan, a leading sociolegal researcher in the field of Legal Consciousness, was impressed after our first skype interview during the admission process.
People have been more anxious than myself about my PhD. At my promotion board, somebody asked why I wasn’t starting my PhD. I was at that time about to win my battle against 10-year-depression. I knew I would undertake a serious study only after I was fit and healthy. But I didn’t disclose that, rarely people appreciate mental health challenges in BD. When I said for family reasons, I was told that as an independent woman, I must not follow my husband but make my own way.
I find it funny that people always ask where someone is studying for PhD and never WHAT they are studying. My PhD hunt has been extraordinarily tough because I am blending sociology, religion, public psychology, and postcolonial south asian legal history. I am the first person in Bangladeshi legal academia to work on postcolonial *legal consciousness*. This is not a law topic. It’s a blend of sociolegal studies (known as Law and Society studies in the USA) and legal anthropology. The field I am entering into, if all goes well, should have significant policy implications including legal design (another emerging field in Law).