The Big News

Well, the big news is that 2021-22, will be my last year at Queen’s University. I’m grateful to all my colleagues and students here from 2009 onwards. But just as it was in 2009, it’s time to move on!

I’m going to be 50 years old next year and I still don’t feel that I have achieved what I want to achieve and having been away from Queen’s since mid-2019 because of sabbatical and then the pandemic, I had the space and time to think, and I realised that I needed a new challenge, a new incentive to force myself to do those things I really want to do. But I didn’t want to leave the island where we live, so my options were pretty limited. I was starting to think of leaving academic, cashing in everything I had and buying a local bookshop.

But then, during that time, I happened across a job that was being advertised at the University of Ottawa. It was in the Department of Criminology, which is not my discipline at all, but then neither was Sociology, or Architecture and Planning, or Rural Economics, or anywhere else I have ever been. What was important was the title, Critical Surveillance and Security Studies, and what they wanted, someone at my level who was ready to step up to full professor and could apply for a Tier 1 CRC. But I don’t have a lot of confidence in myself, so I called someone I knew in the department, one of my favourite people in the world, as it happens, and asked them if I had any chance of getting this job, and they literally screamed down the phone. So maybe I did have a chance! I applied.

Time went by.

Then I was asked to interview. The timing was perfect because I had just realised where my research was going in more concrete ways, and was able to put together a presentation that was really exciting (even to me!). And the interview went about as well as any interview could go.

More time went by. So much time that I had actually started to forget how the presentation and interview went and started to imagine that I had no chance, again.

And then, in the middle of the summer, I came back from a week entirely offline, a week of trail running and swimming up in Algonquin, to find that I had been offered the job.

We don’t need to talk about my negotiating skills, suffice it to say that when I suggested a salary figure they laughed at me and offered me substantially more. I’ll have a suite of offices (or a lab) and I’ll be able to assemble a team to work on the big projects I have in mind, and I’ll actually be able to offer them decent RA-ships, in other words all the things I was told I would be able to do when I got to Queen’s but it turned out that none of that was in writing. It’s in writing this time.

At my age, I don’t have any illusions. There is no academic paradise, especially not in this neoliberal age. But I am excited about the work I want to do again. There will be more about that in future. Hell, I may even start blogging again after a decade…

Maybe you can see my new office from here? The Social Sciences complex at UOttawa

Moving on

Queen's University, Ontario
Queen's University, Ontario

I’ve just got back from a very productive research trip to Japan and it’s only a couple of days to go until I leave again, this time permanently, which means I should at last say something about my new job. It also means I won’t be posting here much over the next week.

From September 1st, I will be Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) Associate Professor of Surveillance Studies in the Department of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. My new boss will be a longtime colleague and one of the people I admire most in the world of surveillance studies, David Lyon.

It’s a big move and probably, for both personal and professional reasons, the last big move I will make. I have been in various parts of Newcastle University in the UK since my Masters back in 1996-7. I originally moved to the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape (APL) to work with the brilliant Professor Steve Graham who was running the innovative Centre for Urban Technology (CUT). I didn’t realise then that CUT was already on the verge of disappearing and was soon merged into the new, larger Global Urban Research Unit (GURU), and that Steve would leave to take up a Chair in Human Geography at Durham. However, that did mean that, having finished my postdoc, I could take over his teaching, which eventually led to a permanent lectureship. I’d wanted to move to Canada for a while though, and having got married to Kayo (that’s where the ‘Murakami’ comes from…), who also wanted the same things, we started looking and waiting for the right opportunities. It’s a bit odd leaving just after I’ve got the promotion I’d wanted, but you have to take the opportunities when they arise. It’s no judgement on Newcastle as a university or as a city (there isn’t a better one in England), but a life decision. My time at Newcastle has been great and there’s a number of people from the University I would like to thank in person and in public here:

Phillip Lowe from the Centre for Rural Economy, and Neil Ward (now Dean of Social Sciences at UEA) for giving me a break right at the start;

Rachel Woodward, previously of CRE and now in Geography, who was the perfect PhD supervisor;

Ella Ritchie from Politics, who gave me a job when I needed one in what was then the Department of Politics;

Steve Graham for mentoring me through a difficult period;

Geoff Vigar for being a great friend and latterly also, a most supportive Director of GURU;

and all the friends and colleagues in GURU, APL, and beyond, with whom I’ve shared both good times and intellectual stimulation over the years, in particular Alex Aurigi (who’ll soon be the new Head of the School of Architecture and Design at Plymouth), Andrew Ballantyne, Carlos Calderon, Stuart Cameron, Jon Coaffee (just appointed Chair of Spatial Planning at Birmingham!), Nathaniel Coleman, Lorna Dargan (now in the Careers Service), Anne Fry, David Haney, Jean Hillier, Marian Kyte, Rose Gilroy, Sara Gonzalez (now at Leeds Geography), Zan Gunn, Claire Haggett (now at Edinburgh Geography), Patsy Healey, Peter Kellett, Andy Law, Kim McCartney (the best administrator it has ever been my pleasure to work with), Ali Madanipour, Abid Mehmood, Frank Moulaert (now in Leuven), John Pendlebury, Neil Powe, Maggie Roe, Tim Shaw (now retired), Mark Shucksmith (OBE!), both Suzanne and Lucy Speak, Bill Tavernor, Ian Thompson, Graham Tipple, Tim Townshend, Bernadette Williams¬†and Ken Willis. There’s others who I never got to know as well as I would have liked to have got to know better but there just hasn’t been the time – in particular, both Paolas, Martyn, and Armelle and Daniel. And apologies if there’s anyone else I’ve missed.

Finally, and most importantly of all, I’d like to thank our best friends and future godparents to our baby boy who’s due in December: Andrew Donaldson and Jane Midgley. Andrew, in particular, has been the person with whom I have probably shared most since we shared an office during our PhDs, and is in no small part responsible for any intellectual and personal progress I’ve made since that time.