Interview with Sigrid van Roode

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Sigrid van Roode

Jewellery historian and archaeological consultant

Tell us about yourself?

Hi, my name is Sigrid van Roode. I am from the Netherlands and work as an archaeological consultant for a government body. It’s a job that I love, but that bears no relation to my other passion: traditional jewellery from the Arab world. I chose to pursue that passion anyhow, and so it turned out to be an amazing side hustle that is now evolving into a PhD-track!

Sigrid van Roode

What is your side hustle?

I study traditional silver jewellery from the Arab world. To me, being trained as an archaeologist, jewellery is one of the expressions of material culture that tells us about the people wearing them. And it does have so many stories to tell! From the jewellery a woman was wearing, you could tell whether she was single, engaged, married or widowed, where she was from, whether she was wealthy or not…imagine that, without a social media-profile J. Like in almost any other part of the world, traditional jewellery is no longer worn and its language slowly disappears. My side hustle consists of publishing books and articles for a larger audience, curating exhibitions, giving jewellery-talks, workshops and courses, and consulting on collection-building. The latest project I was working on was supposed to be another regular book, but turned out to be so wildly varied in approaches and angles to pursue, that it now has become my PhD-research with Leiden University. In a way, you could say my PhD-track *is* my side hustle.

What is your PhD about?

My PhD is about a particular type of jewellery that was used in a spirit possession ritual in Egypt, from the late 1800’s to ca 1980. In approaching ritual through its material culture, I hope to learn more about developments in the ritual itself. The spirits depicted on the jewellery tell us about how women perceived their world, and as such offer a glimpse into society of a century ago. I’ve only just started, but already found such a more intricate, nuanced perception of the many uses of jewellery in ritual than is generally assumed, that I’m excited to learn more!

Do you make money from your side hustle?

Fortunately, I do. Not a lot though, but every assignment helps me to pursue my PhD-track. It’s a self-funded, external position that I work on in addition to my full-time job. Book sales and author/consultancy fees enable to me to visit ethnographical museums all over Europe to collect data for my research, acquiring books that I need etc. Not all revenues are in cash: for example, I also write for magazines that I really like in return for a free subscription, or review for publishers in return for a book. All in all, I’m very grateful that I can bankroll my PhD with my side hustle and the help of my incredibly supportive employer (because these research visits do outnumber my allocated holidays…!).

How does your PhD help you in your side hustle?

I believe that by acquiring a certain critical level of thinking and approaching material culture, I will be better in my job as a jewellery historian. I do not see an academic career for myself in the future, but I want to challenge myself into learning to think like an academic, to be equipped with the skills I need in order to keep the wide and colourful cultural background of these pieces of jewellery from being lost in history.

What would your advice be to other people thinking of pursuing a PhD later in life?

At first glance, you might wonder how on earth I would finish a PhD. I’m 46 years old, working full time, and will probably be around 50 when I finish. Being older and employed however does not have to be against your odds. Never underestimate what you’re capable of at a later age: for example, my time management skills have been honed for the last 20 years. I’m a ninja in planning and sticking to it! I feel that when you’re passionate about your subject and are willing to put in the time and the work, you might even be better at it than you would have been at a younger age. I am very much enjoying the possibility of learning something new and developing myself further in a field that I love!

Find out more about Sigrid:

Website: www.bedouinsilver.com Instagram: @bedouinsilver Facebook: @desertsilver

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