My PhD is in philosophy (Staffordshire) and my MA is in anthropology (Durham). I started my life in research as an anthropologist, travelling to the University of Pattimura in Ambon, Indonesia, in 1994 on a research project under the auspices of LIPI, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences. I was in Indonesia to study the work of contemporary sculptors. My book Stealing With the Eyes: Imaginings and Incantations in Indonesia is a portrait of three of these sculptors, a travel memoir, and a reflection on the uneasy enterprise that is anthropology.
My PhD thesis (“Naive Phenomenology: Thinking Ethics Through Stories”, Staffordshire University 2007) was an attempt to think about storytelling as a kind of phenomenology, using the spinning of tales as a philosophical method that might provide a way of thinking through ethics without thinking in terms of foundations. This led eventually to two books. The first, Finding Our Sea-Legs: Ethics, Experience and the Ocean of Stories (Kingston University Press, 2009) developed the storytelling strand. It is a curious kind of philosophy book, crammed full of talking fish, woodpeckers, drunken Indonesian gods and other such unphilosophical beings. The second book, Levinas, Storytelling and Anti-Storytelling was more respectable, and used storytelling as a method for deconstructing the work of Emmanuel Levinas, whilst also holding this same method to account in terms of Levinas’s ethics.
Since finishing my PhD, I have worked increasingly at the borderlands of philosophies, stories and cultures. The research for my experimental novel-of-sorts, Sixty-Four Chance Pieces: A Book of Changes – a collection of linked stories based on the hexagrams of the Yijing 易經 – led me on a long detour into Chinese philosophy. As well as the book, I’ve written on Chinese and Western comparative philosophy and literature (with a particular interest in the Yijing and the Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍, The Carving of Dragons and the Literary Mind, a sixth century writing manual).
As well as academic research work, I have also been involved in more on-the-ground research and consultancy projects, working in everything from public art to education and development in Myanmar.