Staying in foreign countries is always something special to anyone. And in my case, this six-months stay in Swansea turned out to be a tremendous life-changing experience.
I stayed in Swansea from the end of September 2016 to the end of March 2017 and was doing my research as a visiting fellow at CREW in Swansea University. The main aim of my research was to explore the Welsh dimension of Raymond Williams. Though I had written a book on Raymond Williams which concerned Williams’s lifelong project as a socialist intellectual, I did not mention anything about Williams’s Welsh identity or his understanding of Welsh experience in that book. I had recognized the necessity to fill this gap in my knowledge and doing research in Swansea seemed to be a perfect opportunity.
No sooner had I started my research I realized that my task was far from simple. Not only was the Welsh context which I had to grasp in order to understand Williams’s writings on Wales extremely complicated, it became also clear that his Welshness and his thought on Wales formed a greater part of his whole work than I had expected. I had thought that I could do research as an extension of my previous work before I arrived at Swansea. However it appeared that I had to reconsider my whole perspective.
My research ground to a halt as I realized how much I did not know, and to make matters worse, Swansea City AFC, which I had been supporting even before coming to Wales, were playing really badly! It felt as though the reasons for my stay were slipping through my hands.
I have to add quickly that while I was in trouble with my project, CREW members were always supportive. Professor Daniel G. Williams has been endlessly helpful and considerate. He gave me a lot of useful advice. I sat in on the MA course on Welsh Identities which offered me a chance to read and discuss the central issues regarding Wales and Welshness. The insightful lecture given by Professor M. Wynn Thomas was so stimulating. Wynn also gave me a lot of useful information about modern Welsh history. The chat with Professor Dai Smith gave me an encouragement. Some of the PhD students, who shared the CREW room with me were kind and considerate as well. Actually a paper on Marxism and Williams’s Welshness written by Daniel Robert Gerke, who kindly gave me that copy, was crucial for me to get out of my impasse.
Thanks to all this help, I finally found the key concept which was “History”. Though there are few writings by Williams where he engages with the concept of history itself, his interest in historical change throughout his career is so obvious, and the period when he began to write about Wales and Welshness is the same period when he was writing a lot about working class history. I also found that he had actually become aware of his Welshness through the reading of Welsh history in 1950s It is quite possible that he had been influenced by contemporary Welsh historians throughout all those years. Thus it was that I came across a new project – Williams and (Welsh) History.
I was given an opportunity to talk about this new project at a CREW meeting at the end of my stay. Of course this project is still going on. It is quite likely that I will visit Swansea again to accomplish my project and I am looking forward to coming back. I am really grateful to everyone in Swansea who made me feel like this.