Fan Podcasting Your PhD with Dr. Parinita Shetty
Amplified is an audio blog series about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. This month, we sit down with Dr. Parinita Shetty, the freshly minted Doctor of Education behind Marginally Fannish, a podcast and PhD thesis exploring intersectionality in online fandom. We talk about imposter syndrome, decentering the university in research, and explore how fan podcasts act as sites of public pedagogy by providing a social learning context in informal digital spaces.
Stacey Copeland: [00:00:00] [Intro music] Welcome to Amplified, a podcast about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. I’m your host, Stacey Copeland.
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Stacey Copeland: [00:00:16] Scholarly podcasts seem to be everywhere these days, don’t they? And graduate students, like many other scholars, are interested in what the form might offer to their research. But pitching and producing a podcast as an alternate to the traditional written thesis comes with its own unique challenges. This month on Amplified, I sit down with Dr. Parinita Shetty, the freshly minted Doctor behind Marginally Fannish, a podcast and PhD thesis exploring intersectionality in online fandom. [music up and out]
Stacey Copeland: [00:01:06] I will definitely, of course, put the link to Marginally Fannish, so people can check out the website because it is chock full of a bunch of your research and the writing that goes with the podcast as well, which is great and transcripts, which was awesome to see and little gifs in your transcripts [laughs].
Parinita Shetty: [00:01:23] Yeah, I read a little bit about going and like creating the transcripts. I looked at fanart, looked at- just made it much more time consuming than it already was [laughs].
Stacey Copeland: [00:01:34] It’s great because it really speaks to the form and genre of fan media and fan podcasts in particular, in the way that you’ve brought in some of those elements, right? So I appreciate that like nod to the community that you’re researching and are a part of.
Parinita Shetty: [00:01:51] Hi, my name is Parinita Shetty and I guess technically past my Ph.D., but I don’t consider myself a doctor yet [laughs], you know, university bureaucracy and stuff. I also work with children’s books and young people back home in India. I’m from India, currently living in the UK. I also am a fan, so I was very much a participant in my research as well as a researcher.
Stacey Copeland: [00:02:19] One of the questions that I was really struck by in listening to your first pilot episode and you open that episode with talking about how you feel like you’re living two separate lives at the same time, which I think a lot of graduate students, especially international graduate students, can relate to that feeling of living – for you, your one Indian life at one point, and then that’s your real life versus your UK maybe student life as your temporary or ‘fake life’ is what you say. And this really stuck out to me as a very provocative way to open the series. And I guess in listening to that first episode, which is as we were talking about what some people might call more of a chat cast style of the fan podcast with two of your friends and fellow fan culture enthusiasts from India, Sanjana and Aparna. And in particular, I’m wondering if you could talk a bit more about what role making this podcast as part of your research played in reconciling or grappling with or even just further exploring that lived experience of feeling like you’re living two separate lives as part of your graduate student experience.
Parinita Shetty: [00:03:32] So what I realised when I had said that and this I only realised when I revisited the episode, you know, while I was transcribing as well as when I was analysing all the podcast episodes, was that I think what I meant when I was dividing myself into these two real and fake lives is that my experiences in the UK have only been around higher education, around post-graduate education. So I moved here for my Master’s and then again I came back for my PhD and I think that I have this really – which I’m sure a lot of graduate students can recognise – imposter syndrome in academia. I didn’t consider myself as a real academic and you know, these were ideas that I’m still struggling to unlearn about what I’d said before, like what kind of knowledge, you know, counts in an academic setting. And I’ve grown up in online fan communities. So I’ve been a part of like the online Harry Potter fan community, I think, since I was 13. So that was yeah, many years ago. And like I’ve sort of grown up with it as well and I’ve always considered myself a fan-ish person. But more importantly, I think a lot of my knowledge and education has come from online sort of communities and online conversations because my formal, secondary and university education really left me pretty under stimulated, which is why I feel so passionate about online fandom communities in general. But now more recently fan podcasts specifically. The popular media is a great way to bring people together, like within the context of Marginally Fannish and the fan podcast, but it’s the conversations and interpretations that are happening in these spaces is what’s really interesting because you’re sort of using this fictional framework to learn about so many different experiences and identities in the real world, and it can differ based on who’s the one who’s chatting. So this framework I think is really interesting.
Parinita Shetty: [00:05:35] And then I think the other thing that I really loved throughout the podcasting process is this sort of collective process of decolonisation that was happening in our own imaginations, especially when it came to our identities, is Asian fans or Indian fans. And there were fans from other parts of Asia as well, because I think there are not as many spaces in opportunities where you come together and you know, you analyse, and discuss, and sort of geek out about as well, these things, in a way they are critically and collectively analysing, but it’s also born of love. You know, you love this, you’re invested in it, but you can also critique it. Not all fans do this, so it was like, you know, us unpacking these things that we previously taken for granted and not questioned. But the space that the podcast offered, it was a chat. It was, of course the structured conversation. There was still like two people or three people coming together to talk. And then also when it came to other identities that we didn’t inhabit, the research that we did, where we listen to first person perspectives and other fan podcasts or essays, ideas and cultures that we never would have sort of come across otherwise. So yeah, I think that throughout the podcasting process, these two things were really important for me. I think as a person, as dramatic as that sounds.
Stacey Copeland: [00:06:59] You know, I think what really struck me about what you just said was bringing up the importance of centring the university in knowledge sharing and the way that, you know, sharing knowledge, learning happens in all sorts of different spaces is a really important reminder.
Parinita Shetty: [00:07:17] Absolutely.
Stacey Copeland: [00:07:18] That actually reminded me of I think it’s your the first episode or the second episode, where you’re talking about intersectionality and asking, you know, Sanjana and Aparna, had you learned this elsewhere? Are you were you familiar with this term before we had this conversation and prepped for this episode? And, you know, they were like, ‘yeah, I had heard about it before. It’s something that’s circulating out in fan culture’ [PS: mhm] and those are really important reminders of the way that there is a lot of overlap in some of the conversation that’s happening in academic spaces and fan culture spaces in really interesting ways. And so I really appreciated that about your podcast too, that it’s trying to break down some of those walls and constantly remind us, you know, yes, this is a PhD project, but it’s also just my life and how I am interested in talking about these things and that other people in fan culture are interested in talking about these things. So I wanted to see if you could speak a little bit more to that. Like your decision around your approach to the podcast.
Parinita Shetty: [00:08:25] You know, this collective intelligence, it’s become like my passion project now, just inviting different perspectives in. I was really inspired from existing fan podcasts, actually. So, you know, the sort of methodology that I had for my own research project was cobbled together. It was super hybrid. So, you know, Drew an existing fan podcasts as well as like public pedagogy scholarship, fan studies scholarship, my own interests and like what the kind of things that I like to listen to as a fan. And what I knew from the outset is that I didn’t want to be the only person talking. Conversations were a huge part of the way that I engage with knowledge like this collaborative, again, this collective intelligence. But also I found it most interesting to listen to fan podcasts where either the co-hosts or the solo hosts invited a lot of guests and was able to learn and share from these different experiences. And in my podcast in Marginally Fannish, I really was uncomfortable with the interview format because my overarching framework, well, one of them was intersectionality, so I did want to recruit as diverse a cohort of co-participants as possible. Two reasons I think I was really uncomfortable with an interview was that I thought my questions would frame and guide the conversation a little too much. They’d control it a little too much, and that wasn’t something that I wanted. And also in terms of identities and backgrounds and cultures that I wasn’t familiar with.
Parinita Shetty: [00:09:59] So what we also ended up doing is before we met for the episode recording, we would exchange fan texts and media recommendations with each other based on the team we were going to be discussing. And that’s really helped because we got an insight into each other’s perspective. And then we met like we had the short meeting before we recorded to discuss what themes we wanted to focus on based on what we’d exchanged and the structure of the episodes, the stuff that we were okay with – like overlooking stuff that we definitely wanted to cover. So it did, I think that the advantages of an interview would have been that there would have been less homework for my co participants. They wouldn’t have had to, first of all, take the time to look for things to send me and then read and listen to the things that I sent them. [right yeah] But I was really trying to sort of de-center myself, which worked sometimes and didn’t work other times.
Stacey Copeland: [00:10:53] I really appreciate that kind of reflection back on the discovery process of learning what works and what doesn’t in taking different approaches to your research. I. I think that’s something we don’t talk about enough in the academic world that sometimes kind of failing forwards is part of the process [PS: absolutely] of learning how you want to approach your research and trying something that maybe is outside of the box in your own discipline. To actually brings me to one of the questions. I was quite curious to talk to you more about- now that you’re through the process. And I think I am particularly interested because I’m at the doing final revisions on my dissertation stage of my PhD [both laugh]. [PS: Oh, good luck!] So I can almost taste the end. And so it’s nice to be – [PS: freedom is in sight!] Yeah it’s nice to be reminded that, you know, you do get to the other side. So thinking about that and reflecting back on the process now that Marginally Fannish is out in the world, what would you do differently, if anything, and what advice would you maybe have given to yourself looking back and saying to know Parinita a year ago, two years ago, what should you be thinking about in this process? Because I do think those kind of reflections might be useful to other graduate students interested in, you know, incorporating podcasting into their research.
Parinita Shetty: [00:12:12] What you said about failure being a part of the process. Actually, I think I have a whole chapter on that nearly. It’s called the methodology of discomfort, which is like this thing in Public Pedagogy Scholarship, Jennifer A. Sandlin and Jake Burdick, they’ve written a paper about it, which I can send you a link to as well. But basically it was talking about embracing uncertainty and mistakes and sort of discomfort as well, and learning from them and negotiating that as a part of your project. Especially when working with these non-traditional spaces and contexts. And that’s something that I really took on board while creating the podcast. So like my first episode that you mentioned was the pilot, but I was learning throughout. So what fed into the first episode, sort of what worked, what didn’t, fed into the second episode and then throughout as well. Like I made a lot of mistakes. So I think making mistakes was very much a part of my methodology. Like I knew I’d be learning from things that I’d done incorrectly or not even incorrectly, just in a way that didn’t work eventually for me. I think one of the biggest lessons, I guess, if you could call it that, like I made a bunch of mistakes and that was fine.
Parinita Shetty: [00:13:34] But I think one of the biggest ones that I had made was like, you know, you said earlier that you noticed that, you know, the sharing of power with co-participants happened. But then I did get feedback from a listener that I had when I was talking to a non-binary co-participant in one of the episodes, I had spoken a lot more than they had. They analysed the transcript of the conversation and they also sort of offered it quite graciously, like not in an accusatory way, but just in a – and they responded very well to my email response. But it just got me thinking that in a podcast or in any sort of conversation, like even if you’re doing regular research, I loved the format that I had of exchanging texts. So I guess if I had an interview, I would have spoken less naturally and my co participant would have spoken more. But I like this sort of me being a participant as well. But at the same time, like I tend to talk a lot and I tend, you know, for me, like I think there are different communicationist styles as well. Like for me, interruptions are a form of active listening and I think it’s a cultural thing and it’s like, you know, just a different thing.
Parinita Shetty: [00:14:44] Whereas for other people just naturally don’t talk as much. And especially in instances where I was talking to co-participants from marginalised identities, which most of them were in some context or the other, I was really uncomfortable asking them to share more than they were comfortable with anyway. So I think what I would do is in the methodology, find a way to share more power essentially, as in, you know, like create space for more voices or I guess participants to have more of a say in the voice, like in the decisions and things. Again, I understand this may not work for everybody because again, it’s a lot more work. But with Sanjana and Aparna, what did help with that? And I felt like I could do it with them because they were two of my friends, like good friends, is we facilitated different segments. Like we took charge of different segments of the podcast episodes that we did. So we recorded six. So then everyone got a chance to speak first and like to manage that conversation. So I think that worked really well.
Stacey Copeland: [00:15:46] So that’s great. That’s one of my favourite advice that I hear from from other folks, especially folks who have just finished a grad school degree is like, just embrace that not everything is going to go the way that you want it to. And sometimes the those failures end up being the the biggest impact. Or the biggest findings of your research too, so-
Parinita Shetty: [00:16:06] Absolutely.
Stacey Copeland: [00:16:07] Yeah I mean, thank you for taking the time to come and talk about Marginally Fannish with me. And I love your glasses, by the way. I did want to throw that in there, [PS: Thank you, (laughs)]. It’s one of the advantages of Zoom, I’m like ‘very cool glasses’. Nice yellow frames.
Parinita Shetty: [16:23] Thank you.
Stacey Copeland: [00:16:29] A big thank you to Parinita for sharing her insights into the podcast PhD journey from imposter syndrome and failure as process to fandom as an alternative knowledge space and form of collective intelligence. You can check out Marginally Fannish at marginallyfannish.org. As always, if you have comments or want to take this conversation further, please do reach out. We love hearing from other folks engaging with scholarly podcasting and alternative modes of academic publishing. Thanks for listening to Amplified, a podcast about the sounds of scholarship coming to you each month from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network.
Parinita Shetty has worked with young people and children’s books in India in various ways – as an author, a bookseller in a children’s bookshop, a reading programme developer, and a coordinator of a children’s literature festival. She completed her M.Ed in Children’s Literature and Literacies at the University of Glasgow in 2017. She passed her PhD in Education viva at the University of Leeds in June 2022. She launched a PhD podcast called Marginally Fannish to research intersectionality and public pedagogy in fan podcasts. She is passionate about co-creating knowledge, including diverse voices in her research, and making academic research as accessible as possible to non-academic audiences in creativeways. She should currently be planning Season 2 of her fan podcast but is probably watching Doctor Who.
Links and Resources
Marginally Fannish Podcast – marginallyfannish.org
Episode with intersectionality discussion mentioned: https://marginallyfannish.org/2020/01/30/episode-1-more-inclusive-the-journey-of-three-indian-fangirls/
Burdick, J., & Sandlin, J. A. (2010). Inquiry as Answerability: Toward a Methodology of Discomfort in Researching Critical Public Pedagogies. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(5), 349–360. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1077800409358878
Intro + Outro Theme Music: Pxl Cray – Blue Dot Studios (2016)
Written and produced by: Stacey Copeland