Today’s featured member profile comes from the brilliant Enqi Weng. Take it away Enqi!
Member: Enqi Weng
My thesis (currently under examination!) studied religious changes and changing attitudes to religion in Australia through discussions on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A current affairs program. It tracked these changes through a sociological application of the concept of the sacred as a non-negotiable value expressed in religious and secular forms.
What drew you to this topic?
Religion became a topic of interest for me especially because of how it is brought into, and discussed within, the media. I view media here in a collective sense—as a complex process of engagements between news, entertainment and social media. Being born and raised in Singapore where its mainstream media is controlled for purposes of social harmony, multireligious beliefs are managed by the government through media policies. When I came to Australia in 2010, I was struck by the discourses that were circulated on Islam and Christianity and the depictions of both communities in Australian media. There was a disconnect in my perception and my lived experiences with these communities back home.
After spending some time working on my minor thesis project at the University of Melbourne then, I came to realise how understudied religion is within academia because of a dominant perspective that religion will one day disappear. Since 9/11, religion has become a topic of interest which has been approached through different disciplines, including media and communication studies.
What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?
One of the highlights is the number of opportunities I received to be introduced to amazing networks such as the Australian Association for the Study of Religion (AASR) and the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture (ISMRC). The friendships I’ve made and mentors I’ve found through these networks have been invaluable in my formation as a young media and religion scholar.
The second highlight is my involvement with the “Religion on an Ordinary Day” project. I was introduced to it as a contributor by my supervisor Professor Peter Horsfield. This is a transnational project that examined and compared representations of religion in newspapers from across four global cities. Through this project, I was able to work more closely with the methodology I applied in my thesis. I was also given the opportunity to travel to Ottawa and present at the media workshop as part of my involvement.
What do you wish you had known before you started?
Because the PhD journey (often) stretches over several years, I’ve learnt that finding a way to manage everything else in your life is pretty crucial. This juggling act often can include the project itself (that requires adaptation to one’s attention and time depending on the stage of the project), other work commitments, finances and emotions. All these factors will vary depending on the season that one’s going through as well. I went to many workshops where presenters from the front are often sending out a singular message—that you should be doing more. But this is quite simply unrealistic. As I look back, my advice to my earlier self would be to be kind to yourself. Be aware of your limitations. Don’t make somebody else’s goals and expectations yours.
What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?
There are many but here’s a few to start with! If you’re proposing your own research idea, find a supervisor who is interested. Have a conversation early with them and better yet, see if you can work out a feasible research idea together. Alternatively, find a project that you’re really interested in. It sounds like strange advice—why would you do otherwise? But if you have to stay motivated for a stretch of time, personal interest seems like a good starting point. Also think about why a PhD will benefit your career direction and why you want to invest 3-5 years doing it. Have a rough idea what the light at the end of the tunnel would look like for you.
What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?
I care deeply about environmental issues and am part of a community initiative that sets up and manages compost bins around my local suburb. I also enjoy gardening and fussing with my growing collection of succulents. Often, I find myself watching one too many crime television show (the Nordic selection on SBS is great!). On the weekends, I like to try out new recipes that remind me of home.
Thanks Enqi! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org