Early Career Researcher Highlight: Dr. Emily Baker
Name: Dr. Emily Baker
Title: Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies
Institution: Birkbeck, University of London
Field of Study: Latin American Cultural Studies
Bio: I have been a Lecturer in Latin American Cultural Studies at Birkbeck for the past year, following the completion of my PhD at Jesus College, Cambridge. My thesis which I am now editing as a monograph was about Nazism, the Second World War and the Holocaust in contemporary Latin American literature, including novels from Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. My new research project involves questions of human and post-human responsibility-towards-others and the planet, with a focus on the concept of ‘hybridity’ as way into some of these debates in theory and in culture.
What was the most difficult hurdle you had to overcome as a researcher?
The toughest thing for me was trying to write up my PhD whilst also looking for my first academic post. The experience is different for everyone but I personally found it extremely difficult to focus on my writing/finishing, when every second thought that popped into my head was ‘but what am I going to do next year’ –especially when all the things you have left to do to finish your thesis are the most difficult or the most boring bits –things that you have left until last! It is easy to get distracted at that point. Accepting uncertainty and finding a good balance between finishing and applying for things is essential at that stage.
“…I have more regrets about things I didn’t say than things I did.”
Did you feel you had enough resources at your disposal when you were crafting your research and submitting it to an academic journal?
I went to a few workshops on publishing run by editors of different journals themselves –principally the Bulletin of Latin American Research (BLAR) and the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies (JLACS), two important British journals in my field. One of these was held as part of my PhD training programme, and another was at a postgraduate conference. Submitting to journals will always feel like a bit of a tough and lonely process, but everyone has to do it. It is important to keep raising conversations about it with colleagues and peers, and making sure that there are provisions such as the workshops described above available to early-career researchers.
What advice would you offer the early career Humanities researcher?
I would say it is important to project confidence, even though inside you might feel inexperienced and like an imposter. The Higher Education landscape is changing all the time so the ability to function and adapt is valuable. Feelings of uncertainty, I imagine, never really go away but if you do your best and stay positive—whether at conferences, over email, face-to-face with colleagues and peers etc.—your interactions will bear fruit in the long run (I hope).
Another thing I have found when I am processing events, interactions, meetings etc. is that I have more regrets about things I didn’t say than things I did; so I try to remind myself of that when something comes to mind but I feel nervous or unqualified to speak out.
“…it is important to project confidence, even though inside you might feel inexperienced and like an imposter.”
What do you wish someone “in the know” would have told you earlier in your career about the publishing process?
I would say to definitely pay attention to where your peers and colleagues, and other early career researchers in your field have published and aim for that amongst your first submissions. My first publication was in a U.S. journal, which I hadn’t directly heard of anyone publishing in before. I am happy that I did it but it took a long time and might not be as ‘expected’ when people see it on my CV. I think it would be great if people “in the know” just opened up the opportunity for honest conversations about publishing with early career researchers more frequently. It feels like a competitive thing, but it isn’t because everyone’s work and experiences will be different, but it really helps to share with other people in the process.