Beck Lowe is a PhD student at the University of Worcester, UK. Her work focuses on the reciprocal relationship between individual psychological wellbeing and dominant philosophical beliefs, and political issues that are formed in the process. Priding herself on an eclectic career background, Beck graduated with a first in Drama & Performance Studies (University of Worcester) in 2013 and completed her Masters in Psychology with distinction in 2022. In between that, she co-wrote and managed an award-winning educational theatre piece that was showcased to over 50 schools across the UK, managed prestigious corporate events, wrote for a queer arts and culture zine, Unicorn, and performed original, radio-played music under the stage name ‘Becky Rose.’ Beck is now pursuing a long-term academic career while continuing to work full-time to fund it, starting her PhD fresh off the heels of an award-wining presentation at the XIII Biennial ISCHP Conference.
Can you tell us a bit about your role and experiences in ISCHP?
The XIII Biennial ISCHP Conference in July 2023 was my first experience of being involved with ISCHP, and what a great way to kick that relationship off! It was the first conference I encountered that really resonated with me with regards to its values and its focus. I plan to be a long-term society member going forward and will be first in line to book onto the next conference when it comes around.
How did you embark on an academic career? What prompted this path?
As a non-binary, autistic absurdist, I have always been fascinated with the many complexities, curiosities and contradictions that come with being human. I am drawn to the far-reaching philosophical issues and how they are both driven by and driving psychological constructs at an individual level.
It wasn’t until 2017, however, that I would find my calling in Psychology. Prior to that, I was a drama graduate working in a high-octane corporate job while performing live music on the side. After many years of ruminating on what makes people tick, I realised I could put my thoughts to better use. I began my MSc in Psychology part-time while continuing to work full-time, finally completing it with distinction in 2022.
It is my masters dissertation about transgender and non-binary perspectives on the period positive movement that has given my fledgling Psychology career some momentum. The feedback was incredibly encouraging and affirming, giving me the confidence to move on to a PhD and write academic papers, while continuing to work full-time.
In some respects, my meandering journey into Psychology has benefitted me. It has allowed my ideas to percolate, and enabled me to experience the absurd consequences of our Western, neoliberalist culture first-hand. It is this ‘mixed’ approach to an academic career that may well have inspired my passion for transdisciplinary studies.
What have been the highlights of your career so far?
The ISCHP 2023 conference, for sure! The conference took place just a day after I had received some tragic news in my immediate family, but my family had been so excited that I was presenting that I was compelled to give it everything I had, for them, for me and for ISCHP.
When it came to my turn to present (about 10pm UK time), I was extremely nervous, but channelled my inner drama graduate and tried, rightly or wrongly, to deliver a performance. It was over so fast! While I was proud of myself for giving it my all, I was nevertheless shocked when I was listening into the awards section of the conference only to hear my name called out for the “Feminism & Psychology best student presenter award”. I’ll never forget that moment.
Can you tell us about any career challenges and how you have tackled these?
While I think it’s too early to have experienced the toughest of challenges, being a fledgling academic with an eclectic career history is a challenge in itself. As I am a decade late to the ‘PhD party,’ I feel I have a lot to catch up on when it comes to credentials and publications. My career journey is also the perfect breeding ground for impostor syndrome; I’m never truly confident where I fit. Nevertheless, I’m in a position now where I am choosing to lean into this as a strength. I hope to bring a fresh pair of eyes and an absurdist spin to the world of Psychology.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on two publications, one of which is in alignment with my research on transgender and non-binary perspectives on the period positive movement, the other is currently under wraps as it’s a collaborative project. In October 2023, I begin my PhD, which will keep me busy for 6 years. During that time I hope to do more public speaking, publishing and lecturing, and have fun in the process!
Who/what inspires you and why?
The late Mark Fisher has been an enormous inspiration for me. He was a philosopher, cultural and political theorist, teacher, and music critic. His books Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (2009) and Ghosts of my Life (2014) are self-aware, sobering, multi-sensory experiences if you read them while listening to the music he used to enjoy at the time of writing them. His questions around the connections between capitalism and poor mental health inspired me to look at our current cultural and political climate in an entirely different way.
What would you like to accomplish as an academic?
I would like to merge philosophy with psychology and bring to the foreground socio-political issues that interfere with our mental health. Inspired by Mark Fisher, I want to discuss psychological matters from a philosophical viewpoint so that we can observe capitalist and neoliberalist behaviours from the outside in. With that I hope to take the responsibility off the individual for the difficulties they encounter, while empowering the individual to challenge the cultural norms that prevent them from feeling authentic and secure. Taking into account other cultures, I want to open up discussions around what constitutes ‘normal behaviour’ and ‘good mental health’.
More specifically, I want to share this perspective in the form of a PhD (or multiple PhDs), publications, conference presentations and lectures. Further, I want to publish my theories and research to non-academic audiences, so that those who would truly benefit from the findings can easily access them.