08 October 2020

My UEA Story: Kodili Chukwuma

Name:  Kodili Henry Chukwuma 

School: Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies (PPL)

Research area: PhD in Politics 

Bio:  My name is Kodili Henry Chukwuma and I am a third-year PhD candidate and Associate Tutor in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communications. My research examines how the Nigerian federal executive speaks about and frames counter-terrorism. This has implications for security in Nigeria, and beyond. I obtained an MA degree in International Politics from the University of Hull, UK, and a BA in History and International Studies from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. 

I have won a number of awards, including UEA’s Arts and Humanities ‘Best Graduate Article Award 2020’, the University of Ilorin's ‘Prestigious Scholar Award’ from 2012-2015, the University of Ilorin, department of history and international studies ‘Best Graduating Student Award’ (Valedictorian 2015), the ‘Research in World History Award 2013’, as well as the Faculty of Arts, at the University of Ilorin, ‘Intellectual of the Year Award 2012’. I have published in high impact journals and blogs such as African Security, E-International Relations, and LSE blog. My teaching and research interests include critical security studies, critical terrorism studies, African politics, International Relations Theory, and postcolonial studies. In the future, I want to conduct research within (and beyond) these broad areas and also teach at various levels in the university.  

What is life as a postgraduate student at UEA like? Describe a typical day  

In general, doing a PhD alongside other personal commitments and relationships can be quite challenging; I presume most PhD students will say the same. But it is equally interesting and rewarding. The Coronavirus pandemic encourages me to rethink what a ‘typical’ day looks like, before and during the pandemic, and perhaps imagine what it might look like in the future.  

Before the pandemic, I kept a routine of working on my research full time during the week from my PGR workspace in the Arts building. I would also work weekends on occasion to meet deadlines, this could include a number of personal projects. During these periods, I typically took breaks to relax and refresh my mind by engaging in exercises such as running, weightlifting, cycling, and so on, as well as chatting with other PGRs. The proximity between the arts building and UEA Sportspark made this really easy. However, much of this has changed since the Coronavirus, as well as becoming a father, as I now work remotely from home. This means that I work relatively shorter hours and spend most of my time away from work with my son. However, the HUM graduate school has taken several steps to reduce the impact of the pandemic on PGR students including, organising virtual trainings for professional and personal development, circulating monthly newsletters, among others. In short, I have made significant progress with my PhD research despite some of the challenges outlined above, and this provides some food for thought going forward.      

Why did you choose UEA?  

Several factors influenced my decision to come to UEA. These include the expertise of the supervisory team, PPL’s research culture and UEA’s reputation based on different ranking metrics. And, of course, Norwich is a beautiful city.  

Any tips for choosing a project / supervisor?  

The PhD is a long, and often, isolating project. Therefore, I think a research project should be interesting enough to keep a doctoral student enthralled for those many years. But the project should also be feasible within the research period of 3-4 years and should aim to make an important and worthwhile contribution to knowledge. Apart from the research interests and specialism of the potential supervisor(s), records of their previous and current PhD supervision may reveal whether they are suitable for that particular project, and their ability to successfully supervise the project to completion. It is also important to highlight that the supervisor-supervisee relationship that develops as the project progresses, is equally significant for the successful completion of the project.   

How is postgraduate study different to undergraduate study?   

In general, postgraduate research involves a lot of individual study, although the postgraduate community and the supervisory team makes this less isolating. Unlike undergraduate study, it entails focusing on a particular project, usually through a research puzzle that requires more depth than breadth and encourages methodological rigour, over a long period of time. In other words, postgraduate study is like putting different parts of a jigsaw together, depending on the structure and number of chapters of the project, and preparing for the viva at the end of the research period. Although, I find the monthly supervisory meetings, the annual progress reviews, my interactions with fellow PGRs, and presenting at conferences helpful as these provide several opportunities to receive feedback and assess my progress.   

What’s the social side like? How do you find the Postgraduate community?  

The shared workspace, the Postgraduate common room, the scholar bar, and the Graduate School Student Forum ensures that a vibrant postgraduate community is promoted. There are lots of other activities which postgraduate students can take part in such as sports, as well as events organised by student-led societies.  

What has most surprised you about your postgraduate study at UEA?   

Postgraduate study, as a whole, open one up to new ways of thinking or to a much deeper understanding of knowledge and the ways in which it is (re)produced. This has significant implications for the student and how she/he engages with the research, and society to a large extent. The fact that I no longer take anything for granted, and often feel the need to intervene, has left a huge impression on me.    

Any highlights of your experience?  

My recent fieldwork in Abuja, Nigeria during the Coronavirus pandemic was quite significant in that it exposed me to some of the dynamics involved in carrying out field research. Also, I published my first single-authored article in a peer-reviewed journal and won the Arts & Humanities Graduate article prize at the end of my second year of Postgraduate study. 

What kind of activities you have got involved with at UEA (e.g. networks, conferences, events, outreach) that have helped your research?   

Throughout my first year, and part of my second year, I worked with the Brilliant Club as a PhD tutor. This particular role involved designing and delivering tutorials to Key-Stages 4 and 5 pupils on aspects of my PhD project. I have also been involved in outreach and helped organise conferences at UEA. I am currently part of the Decolonise UEA group, as well as other working groups at department and faculty levels around the subject of decolonising the university and education more broadly.  

What is writing your thesis or preparing for a viva like (if you’ve got there yet!)  

I am still several months, perhaps a couple years, away from finishing my thesis and preparing for my viva, but in general writing my thesis has been a steep learning curve for me. If we assume that writing a thesis is an art, then the analogy of the painter and her canvas and palette articulates my experience. Each brush stroke is especially relevant to the whole painting that will eventually emerge in the end, and therefore requires patience, attention to detail, and perhaps several repeated attempts which often leaves me with a messy canvas. But all this, I believe, adds to the rigor and of course excitement of Postgraduate study.     

What would you say to someone thinking of coming to UEA?  

The UEA is a fantastic university, with a vibrant postgraduate community, which promotes cutting-edge research in various fields of study. I hope you’ll decide to come to UEA, and I welcome you in Kiswahili, Karibu sana!  

 

School of Politics, Philosophy, Language & Communication Studies