Sitting With Failure


  • Michelle Jamieson Macquarie University


Last year, a student of mine asked if I would share some of my experiences of the PhD at the NewMac Postgraduate Humanities Symposium. Thinking back to my time as a student, I realised that among the most formative and character-building moments of the dissertation process were those that involved some form of failure. For me, the periods when the research and writing progressed smoothly didn’t stand out as much as points when things weren’t going to plan and the process felt out of my control. Failure is an important topic in the university context, especially for those new to the crafts of research and writing. However, it is rarely formally discussed as an important aspect of the research experience. This is because it is typically understood as being the opposite of, or an obstacle to, success.

Author Biography

Michelle Jamieson, Macquarie University

Michelle Jamieson holds a PhD in Sociology and works as HDR Learning Advisor for the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University, Sydney. She provides research training to Masters and PhD students in the humanities, including writing courses, workshops and thesis writing groups. As a researcher, Michelle moves between sociology, feminist science studies and the medical humanities. Her research critically engages the division between mind and body, sociality and biology, especially in relation to illness and medicine. Publications include ‘The Politics of Immunity’ (2015), Body and Society, and ‘Imagining Reactivity: Allergy Within the History of Immunology’ (2010), Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. She is currently co-editing a special issue of the philosophy journal Parallax on the theme ‘autoimmunities.’


How to Cite

Jamieson, M. (2016). Sitting With Failure. Humanity, 67–75. Retrieved from



Reflective Essay