Doing a PhD: Perspectives from a recent graduate

Doing a PhD is not for the faint-hearted.  Do you want to hear from someone who has just finished this long journey? 

Melody Wachsmuth wrote:

Time and perspective can be strange—in one sense it feels as if I have been traversing toward an unending horizon on my seven-year research journey.  On the other hand, I cannot believe my time has finished at OCMS—that I will no longer have the pleasure of studying in the beautiful Bodleian or interacting with students from around the world.  I am definitely a different researcher and thinker from when I began this journey—the irony is that the journey would have been easier knowing what I now know, but the only way to obtain that wisdom was to experience the process of the PhD! I am grateful for the faculty and administration at OCMS, for their help, wisdom and support.  Spending time with other OCMS students while I was in Oxford was truly one of my highlights—everyone says the research journey is often lonely, but when others are traveling with you there is space for humor and encouragement.

Life rarely goes as anticipated. As all of us know, COVID—19 destroyed everyone’s expectations for 2020, as well as increasing hardship and suffering across the globe. In light of this perspective, I am quite grateful that there was opportunity to have an online Viva.  However, I must also confess that an online Viva can be somewhat anti-climactic.  I had always anticipated being in Oxford and thus being able to celebrate with other students.  When I clicked the ‘Leave Meeting’ on the Zoom call, I sat in momentary stunned silence alone in my apartment, in a surreal moment between two phases of life.  Guichun Jun and Usha Reifsnider, however, offered almost immediate congratulations through emails and messages, and this helped bring the moment fully into reality—and the celebrating commenced!

Thank you to the faculty and students of OCMS!


Title of Melody’s thesis: Understanding Identity and Social Change through Narrative: With Special Reference to Roma Pentecostalism in Croatia and Serbia

Summary: Grounded in anthropological studies of Christianity, this ethnography utilizes a narrative epistemology to investigate two old-Romanian-speaking Roma communities—populations referred to as Bayash amongst the scientific community. Making use of life stories, participant-observation, and extensive fieldwork, this research is conducted from the positionality of being in a leadership role in one of the church communities. Through narrative analysis, this study investigates individuals’ meaning-making structures and interpretative frameworks by analysing their claimed identity in their life stories. Prominent themes of suffering, hardship, and trauma emerge from their narratives, as well as Pentecostal claims of miraculous healing and tangible experiences with God. Interacting with both theology and trauma literature within the concept of ‘rupture’, the study provides insight into how meaning-making and therefore identities can be transformed through connecting embodied experiences to re-interpretations of stories in relation to Pentecostal theology. It discusses the extent to which Pentecostal identity and theology are embodied in daily lives, and the various socio-cultural, biological, theological, and psychological factors which may impede this. This analysis thus illuminates how Pentecostalism has been localized in two discrete contexts and further, points to possible directions for future research.

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