Anette was very sweet to invite me to her dissertation defense celebrations as Sara’s plus one in June. The Swedes at JIBS sure do know how to party in style. I love that their defense/viva/quals (depending on your continent and system) are not mere standard assessments/structural necessities but also a time-honoured rite of passage with much collective effervescence and mobilizing of emotive camaraderie. I missed my little Anthropgrad community extra much that night but am very glad to be reunited with my people soon.
The day started with an intense 2-hour oral defense between Anette and her main opponent/chief examiner, and then with three co-examiners. The examiners retreated for an hour or so to deliberate, and much cake and wine and singing commenced when it was announced that Anette had successfully defended her thesis (of course!) and passed! There was even a hat wearing ceremony – a mock up of actual PhD grad gown regalia – that her supervisor, Patrik, got to put on her. “For you to have a taste of the experience before the actual ceremony months away.” I love this culture of affirmation.
The school also prepared a very adorable cake that was even designed specifically after Anette’s research topic. So much princess cake. So much sugar. So much happiness.
TBH, my favourite part of the afternoon was the constant visibility of infants, toddlers, and assorted younglings belonging to faculty and PhD students in the school. I’m only just beginning to learn about Scandinavia academia + work accommodations + work/life balance but think it is amazing that PhD students receive so much (financial + social + emotional) support to continue with other milestones in life (marriage, home-making, child-making, etc) while pursuing their PhDs. After all, your PhD is not your entire life. Really puts my struggle with chapter three (that just won’t go down, oh goodness) into perspective.
In the evening, Anette hosted a sit-down dinner for her closest friends, family, and assorted faculty/colleagues. Many speeches and vignettes of her PhD journey were shared, along with laughs and tears and wine and cake. It is always good to share cake. :)
Those fabulous looking ladies with hats? About 7-8 of them were doing their PhDs around the same period and decided to form the ‘Society of the Hat Ladies’. They wear these gorgeous headpieces to faculty functions and dissertation defense parties, trade humorous stories about their time together, and even throw in hilarious song-and-dance items. Most of them saw each other through an assortment of life milestones through the years in their network of support. Today, some are pregnant, some have infants in tow, and others have younglings running around – all while juggling amazingly established academic careers (and husbands). It is the most heartwarming thing to know they will grow old together.
Doctor Anette Johnson :) Thank you for motivating me to survive the next twelve months with much gusto! I will conquer this thesis and keep my Anthropgrad crew in my pocket forever. Sisterhood ftw.