March 9, 2012, by Amber Martin

A day in the life of a Geographer … Amber Martin

As a PhD student in the Geography department at the University of Nottingham, this week has been a rather unusual one as I’ve just returned from The Association of American Geographer’s (AAG) Conference in New York where I presented a paper. The AAG is a massive annual conference held in the states which attracts lots of excited Geographers from across the globe.

I was lucky enough to have a paper accepted in a session called ‘Erotic Cities: Geographies of the Sexual Economy’ which had papers focusing on strip clubs, sex shops, brothels and all manner of exciting topics! My PhD is focusing on the transition of sex shops in England from dark and seedy back street shops of disrepute towards stylish, light and bright shops on the high streets, and this formed the focus of my presentation.

Central Park

I was first up to speak and my nerves were holding out well until the power point projector in the conference room decided it did not want to play ball. After ten rather tense minutes of watching several high profile geography academics battling with various laptops and cables, the machine was up and running and I was good to go. After all the presentations I was able to chat with all the other presenters where we discussed our work. It was great to be able to speak with academics working on similar topics as when you study sex shops the world of academia can sometimes be a rather lonely place.

After my talk was over I could thoroughly relax and enjoy the rest of the conference. I listened to some fascinating presentations on things including geographies of love, the body, dress, plastic surgery, prostitution, reality tv and designer fashion, to name but a few. I also found myself being overcome by waves of silliness and shyness brought upon by seeing and meeting some ‘big name’ geography celebrities (well celebs in my eyes anyway – possibly not to the non-geographer though). I had to physically contain myself from asking some of them for their autographs.

The New York Stock Exchange

I of course have to mention that the conference was in central Manhattan so naturally the lures of the big city sometimes won out over 6pm conference sessions. My non-academic adventures in New York included trips up the Empire State Building and Rockefeller centre, visits to the Metropolitan, Natural History and Modern Art museums, a boat ride to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, jaunts around central park, window shopping on Fifth Avenue, a trip to see Carrie’s house from Sex and the City (yes I am that cool), seeing Avenue Q on Broadway, and consuming my own weight in pizza, bagels, burgers and fries.

Breakfast at Tiffany's (minus the breakfast)

Sadly my days spent working on my PhD in the Sir Clive Granger Building aren’t quite as glamorous as those spent conferencing in Manhattan. Aside from detoxing, I spent Wednesday afternoon sorting out my expenses from the conference and trawling the hundred or so emails that had jammed my inbox while I was away. In the morning I was demonstrating on the first year undergraduate students statistics module, however I was not at my statistical best as I only had 4 hours of sleep the night before due to stupid jet lag.

Thursday was rather more productive as I was continuing to write one of the empirical chapters of my thesis. I spent the day writing about the origins of the sex shop industry in Soho and the proliferation of sex shops throughout the rest of England in the 1960s and 1970s. This morning, after an essential early morning visit to Costa, I firstly allocated myself the very important task of finding fonts I like for my thesis and working out the formatting so that word will magically create me a contents page. Now I’ve made the crucial decision of opting for Calibri 11, I’ve been carrying on with writing empirical chapter 1. Today the topic is England’s sex shop licensing system. Never a dull moment as a PhD Geography student at Nottingham.

Important New York landmarks

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