Swati Parashar, Elizabeth Olsson, and Dustin Johnson | 6 November 2020
Our dear friend, colleague, and all-around wonderful human, Johannes Theodor Aalders, defended his Ph.D. thesis, Ghostlines: Movements, Anticipations, and Drawings of the LAPSSET Development Corridor in Kenya, today. While the editorial team at Blogal Studies typically does not mark such milestones with blog posts, Theo is one of our own. He and Swati founded this blog in May 2018, inspiring an entire department of academics to share their incredible research and insights with the world. On this momentous day, each of us on the editorial team would like to thank Theo for his vision, enthusiasm, wit, energy, and drive, not to mention his technical skills, which kickstarted the blog in the first place.
That conversation in the SGS lunchroom is still fresh in my memory. I had suggested the idea of a blog to a bunch of people (most were enthusiastic but did not want to put in the necessary work). Then, out of nowhere, Theo appeared. We chatted for a while about how to make it work. Very soon, we had another meeting about layout, format, and, most importantly, the name of the blog, and it was clear that Theo’s technical knowledge about website and format was the kind of knowledge we desperately needed. It fell into place as if we had always been working together. Delmore Schwartz’s ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’, always comes to mind when I think of our initial work on the blog.
Theo convinced Elizabeth, and later they both convinced Dustin to join the team. Since then, we have moved from strength to strength. This blog would not have happened without his technical competence, his editorial support, his passion for alternative ways of producing knowledge (cartoons, comics, blogs included) but above all, his people skills.
As we shall celebrate Dr. Theo today, it is a timely reminder amidst the terrible times we live in that people matter, and communities are built over time. Theo’s energy and inclusivity built a vibrant Ph.D. community at SGS and created a fantastic space for the blog. His incredible generosity, insights, and gentle approach to people and issues is something that will stay with me forever. He will always remain an important member of this blog, and we cannot wait to see where his post-Ph.D. intellectual journey will take him. Of course, we’re also looking forward to reading him in this space.
I joined Theo and Swati on the editorial team shortly after they launched Blogal Studies. Like many in the department, I initially saw the blog as a time-consuming side project with minimal potential impact. I was wrong. Not only has this project made a significant impact on readers across the world, but it has also brought our department together. Everyone at the School of Global Studies knows that this is our blog, a place to communicate our research, anxieties, and victories. While not everyone in the department has published a post, most of our colleagues have a piece simmering in the corners of their minds. We have Theo to thank for that. It may seem like a small accomplishment, but getting a group of opinionated, strong-willed academics to devote their precious time to a blog is a major feat, and Theo was a driving force behind it.
On a personal note, I want to thank Theo for all of the corridor conversations about the blog, U.S. politics, being vegan, the ups and downs of Ph.D. life, creative academic writing, and so much more. I cannot imagine life without you at SGS or in academic space, for that matter. I will not say goodbye, but I will say thank you, and I cannot wait to see you again soon.
Upon arriving at SGS, it did not take long for Theo, Elizabeth, and Swati to rope me into helping out on the blog. I do not remember the exact sequence of events. However, they cornered me at a reception after a Ph.D. defense and convinced me to come on board to help with the technical side of things as Theo was becoming too busy with the side project of finishing his thesis. Since that fateful day, it has been a delight to work with Theo on the blog, two writing retreats near Gothenburg, and a writer’s workshop on citation management software. Whether it is on Twitter, about trains, or in his thesis, Theo is a talented writer and academic, and his presence on the Blogal Studies team and at SGS will be missed!
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Dustin Johnson is a doctoral student in peace and development research at the University of Gothenburg’s School of Global Studies, with a project on gender and the practices of child protection in UN peacekeeping. You can find him on Twitter at @WarAndCoffee.
Elizabeth Olsson is a doctoral student in peace and development research at the University of Gothenburg’s School of Global Studies. She researches constructive conflict and pays close attention to U.S. politics.
Swati Parashar is Director of the Gothenburg Centre for Globalisation and Development (GCGD) and Associate Professor in Peace and Development at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg. She tweets at @swatipash.