Interviews

I am not of that mindset…

Claire 27 years old, Anthropology student

What has your career path been so far ?

I am currently pursuing a PhD in anthropology, which will be ending soon. I teach pilates as part of a club and am taking dance classes. I started dancing a while ago now, but I don’t teach it any more. These 3 subjects are where I draw some of my greatest pleasure in life, so I continue to dance, teach pilates and study anthropology.

What are you avoiding by participating in so many activities?

I enjoy being active in both my body and my mind so I am not avoiding anything. It’s more as if I am continuously searching for what completes me, and that happens while I take part in these activities and with the people I meet by engaging in these 3 fields. I am not avoiding anything, on the contrary I am constantly aware and engaged with myself while I do all this! But everything I am, I am most when I encounter something, when I meet someone.

Do you feel engaged in a particular sense of purpose?

A sense of purpose comes and goes, because I love to teach: I have taught dance and I teach pilates, but I have not yet taught anthropology. I love teaching, it is part of my own learning process as well. In regards to my various activities it is not avoiding anything but it is not exactly due to a sense of purpose either. I would rather say it is a natural extension of myself, wanting to transmit what I know — and transmission is part of learning.

Where do you think you passion for anthology comes from?

Anthropology has been something I ended up working towards and feeling passionate about, but I definitely did not start with it in mind. I first started studying philosophy but I found it too boring, too abstract. Then I went to Mexico on holiday, where I discovered anthropology. Once I returned home, I decided to study it because a friend of mine spoke to me about it as well. In the end, it is thanks to the people I met in the field that inspired me, that I decided to pursue a same career.

Do you truly feel inspired by anthropology and see it as your career? Or is it rather a course of study to fill a void while you wait to figure out in which field you would like to work?

It is a bit of both. On the one hand, I continued studying because I couldn’t see myself in any specific field. But on the other hand, my studies have been a concrete way for me to move forwards professionally; by this I mean I completed my master’s degree, then I was awarded a 3 year grant to pursue my PhD and a 3 year salary to finance my research. Research is different to studies: it is no longer a matter of getting good grades or making your professors happy, it is truly a matter of meeting people, making connections, spending time with them, understanding them and figuring out how it is they operate and why. It has become a true passion of mine and I am considering making it my career more and more. I will be done with my PhD soon so this question is very relevant to me today, and I feel ready to teach this subject.

In terms of next steps, do you think you will become a professor or work in the field as an anthropologist?

You have to share what you are up to when you are a professor, the idea is that you are never just a teacher. When you are a college or university professor, you continue your research and publishing theories, and articles. Maybe fieldwork takes up less space during a PhD, but you continue to do some. The ideal is being able to do it all — which demands a lot of time.

What are some of your short-term goals?

Getting my PhD and defending my thesis on the anthropology side of things. In regards to pilates, I would like to continue teaching classes throughout the academic year, with just one scheduled hour a week — which isn’t a lot — but I would like to keep it up. And for dance, I have a few upcoming deadlines.

Could you please define ‘pilates’ for me? I think many people are unaware of this activity.

Pilates comes from Joseph Pilates, a gymnast who used his own body as a working board for exercises that would allow for the reinforcement of middle body muscles (abs and our backs) to better support our spine. It is a series of exercises that reinforce our muscles with a focus on breathing that can be done on a mat.

Are these 3 activities that you partake in a way to escape from society?

Dance, anthropology, Pilates… they are all linked. I don’t believe I am escaping, I think I am learning more and more to be within myself. For example, yesterday, when performing our dance routine, I thought of energizing the audience. In the same way that I think of explaining an idea to an anthropology student, it’s this idea of acquiring something for yourself and knowing how to transmit it — either through your body or speech. For me, is to experience these 3 activities as a whole.

What did Claire want to become as child?

She wanted to be a psychologist. I had the book Les 25 mots clés et de la psychologie et de la psychanalyse (or “The 25 key terms of psychology and psychoanalysis”), when I was just 10 years old ! It was my first professional ambition, psychology. After that I wanted to be a writer, but that phase didn’t last long. Then I wanted to be a philosophy professor, then be a professional dancer and flute player!

 

What does the word ‘freedom’ mean to you?

When I think of freedom I see a big, open space in front of me — either mountains or the ocean. For me, it is linked to the idea of movement, being free is being free to move, wether that be in your spirit or in your body, or both, it means having the space and ability to be in movement.

Do you feel free?

It depends on the moment, really, it is not something acquired. Yesterday I was speaking with my friend who said freedom was chasing what we are dependent on. I am not of that mindset. We feel free because we have chosen what we want to be associated with.

Are you politically engaged?

No, I do not belong to any political party, but I do know how to defend my ideas. I would say that I am engaged when I need to be. I am outspoken in the sense that, when I defend something, I say so and do so.

Who has influenced you the most?

Two people have influenced me in my life and given me the confidence to move: these are my Polish grandparents, it helps in life.

Are you someone who is open to listening to others?

Yes, I am.

When you are abroad, who helps you get through the difficult moments?

I listen to music, I dance… And you have to talk to someone because often when we keep our thoughts to ourselves , problems seem bigger and more serious. But when we share our concerns with someone, even a stranger, they seem more manageable.

 

Do you travel a lot?

I love anthropology because it has me travel, more so in Europe. From a young age we often went on holiday to Poland, by car, then often by bus, and then — much later, by plane. These trips to Poland gave me a taste for more travels and meeting new people.

What are the countries you have traveled to?

Poland, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico and France.

Doing all these trips, more or less far away, have you ever been inconvenienced by or discriminated against for being biracial, or has it rather been well received? 

It has been more of an advantage because I physically fit in to a lot of different countries. For example, I have traveled to countries in Latin America: Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, and while I was there everyone thought I was a local! It turns out I am still very intrigued by Latin America.

So are you not at home here?

I belong in Latin America… (laughs) It’s true, why not? When I think about it though, there were perhaps a few times in Poland where I was uncomfortable, 2 to 3 comments… In Poland there were some ignorant people, who had never traveled outside the country and there isn’t much of a biracial culture there, so there were a few verbal remarks, but I was never faced with physical aggression.

After all these trips, what is the city or country that resembles you the most?

Mexico. Especially the city Tepoztlán.

What do you expect to happen in the 2018 world cup final in Russia?

I saw a terrific piece on TV on Mbappé yesterday, I didn’t know who he was, I don’t follow soccer at all. I will cheer for whoever wins. For the finals, I predict Senegal playing Morocco.

What do you think of social media and all these different platforms?

These social media platforms are all two-faced: they have allowed for a lot of important information to circulate very quickly, they have allowed people to get better organized. But at the same time our private lives are invaded, your data or information is stolen and distributed everywhere, and they are taking up so much of everyone’s time… Today it requires a lot of time to be properly informed, compared to 10 or 20 years ago. With more access and more information circulating, we need more time to get informed and process what we learn with each login, each new account.

Is media important to you?

There is one media that is very important in the world that we aren’t appreciating at the moment, but that is very dear to me: the radio — I love listening to the voices. There is also a lot of YouTube in my life. But radio, that is my favorite media.

What is your secret for a listing couple?

Communication. Not trying to predict what the other might do. Better to say what we’re thinking, saying it without fear.

What do you remember from the first time you fell in love?

I think it was when I was 10 years old, on holiday at a family center; someone who maybe never even saw me, who didn’t speak to me. All fantasies happen this way! The best way to fall in love when you’re 10 is to not speak to the person and make sure they never notice you. That was my first love, falling in love with someone who didn’t know I existed.

What are your feelings when you’re living alone?

A short lived sense of freedom, because it was in a 9 square-meter studio apartment for 3 years.

You were imprisoned, then?

Yes, a little. It was an old psychiatric hospital in the 16th (arrondissement in Paris), which is called the Foyer des Lycéennes (or “women’s high schoolers home”). It used to be a psychiatric hospital, so the rooms technically were young women’s’ cells at the time!

How did you feel when you earned your first month’s salary?

I felt power and relief, because my parents have helped me out a lot in life, in every possible way, and I was happy to relieve them of the financial pressure of helping me.

Who is Claire today?

Your questions is not as simple as it seems…(laughs) I would say a confident person with qualities and faults; whoever is better able to recognize their faults today is more at ease.

What are the traps to avoid in the field of anthropology?

As in all fields, human relationships are very important. It is important to establish a framework from the get-go of a relationship, because in your professional life, if you are too generous, some people will take notice and look to abuse your generosity. The best advice I give myself, because I know what I am like, is to establish limits and guidelines and to not give too much, to maintain a good balance in all my relationships.

Comment vous voyez-vous dans 10 ans ?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years I will be 37 years old, I still see myself dancing (laughs), in a spacious home thats bigger 9 m², with as much energy as I have now to dance with the kids I’ll have, I hope — I would like to have a few…

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