oresund

Looking north from the narrows of the Øresund. Helsingør felt like an opening out.

These days we’ve spent travelling have, together with memories of the sporadic excursions over the past few years, reminded me of how rich Denmark is. Not in the monetary sense, but in the variety of the landscape, the ever-changing relationship with the sea, the changing sound of the language from west to east, the history behind it all. This not only makes for a happier and more fulfilling depth of experience with which to leave than the laments about darkness and rain that have been so frequent in Odense. It also got me thinking, again, about the discourse of mobility that brought me here in the first place.

Being mobile must be one of the big ideas behind the Marie Curie programme. So it is all the more surprising, and disappointing, that it figures so little in the practicalities when one has actually got the grant. There seems to be no recognition in the framework for the experience of coming to a new country and discovering new surroundings, a new language, a new culture. This strikes me as part of a depersonalization that’s also reflected in the studied ignorance of the personal costs of peripatetic, insecure research careers.

Maybe I am more sensitive to this because of the field in which I work. This was not, for me, just about coming to do some research in an office on a relatively generic corridor in a relatively generic out-of-town campus. It was, beyond personal values such as curiosity or reaching out by learning the language I hear around me, about doing a project that was grounded in a sense of place. In Denmark. The personal enrichment that comes out of that is not tangible and it is not quantifiable, but it ought to be respected in any humane, kind funding programme. As it is, the final communication from the H2020 team was, like the final departmental remark about the Marie Curie programme, about money.

Does it need to be that way? No. At the start of my previous postdoctoral fellowship, I received a parcel from the Humboldt Foundation with a Baedecker guide and a dictionary. During the fellowship, there were several events that allowed us to explore the country we had made our temporary home. And at its end, there came a gift – a biography of the international scholar after whom the programme was named. If that is possible for a German funding agency on a German scale, why not for a European funding agency on a European scale?