Updated: Sep 27
Dr Monique Charles is a Cultural Sociologist, Theorist and Methodologist with a focus on Black music and sound. She developed a research method to analyse and understand music for the social science and cultural studies fields (Musicological Discourse Analysis – MDA) and developed a theory on Black music and spirituality in live performance/clubbing spaces (AmunRave Theory).
'Making Intelligence Cool' and aspirational for all, especially for Black people who are often excluded from this narrative. Representation is important and by living 'That Blackademic Life' herself, she and the those who connect with the brand, push back against stereotypes of what an intelligent person looks like, whilst affirming and celebrating themselves and their intelligence!
Dr Charles is a Media Reviews Editor for the Global Hip Hop Studies Journal, on the Editorial Board of the Caribbean Music Journal and on the Organising Committee for the European Hip Hop Studies Network. She is passionate about building the discipline of Black British Music into university level education and is one of the first to bring Grime Music (PhD - Hallowed be thy Grime #HBTG?) into the higher education as a serious topic of intellectual study on an international scale. Her love of music and sound extends beyond the intellectual. In her capacity as a Sound Therapist/Healer (specialising in tuning forks and voice) she works with meditative techniques, energy and sound for healing and therapeutic purposes (for groups, individual, events, bespoke) in her ‘I Run The Sound System’ #IRTSS practice. Dr Charles, known as 'the Brainy, Brawny, Beautiful Blackademic', is passionate about empowering others and is the Director of 'That Blackademic Life' - A lifestyle brand (streetwear, books and stationery) whose mission is 'Making Intelligence Cool' and aspirational for all, especially for Black people who are often excluded from this narrative. Representation is important and by living 'That Blackademic Life' herself, she and the those who connect with the brand, push back against stereotypes of what an intelligent person looks like, whilst affirming and celebrating themselves and their intelligence!
Monique's debut book highlights and gives voice to the experiences, drives and motivations of more than 100 Blackademics that are British (including some studying PhDs or working overseas) and/or Blackademics (of any nationality) studying or working in Britain. The focus in this book is on:
· those having gone, or are going through, the PhD process or academia,
· and a connection to Britain.
It explores their academic journeys and navigation through their PhD, different academic ranks at university and beyond...
'Life of the Mind/Grind' is coming this Autumn/Winter 2021 to Daisa Publishing...
How do you come up with the titles to your books?
DMC: Most of the time they enter my mind. I like wit and word play (having multiple meanings or alliteration etc) so wherever possible I try to include these elements in my book, chapter titles and articles.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
DMC: I should say first and foremost I am primarily an academic writer – there are so many ways to be a writer, but I think that is an important distinction to be made because different writers have different creative, analytical and technical leanings.
Writing sometimes happens without me believe it or not! Of course, I am there, and I have a process that I follow, but I do not always know what I am trying to say very clearly until I begin the refining and proof reading process, going over data - for accuracy and having thought experiments. A lot happens before writing. My writing is emotion and energy, reading, thinking, imagining, philosophising. I love thought experiments and creative ways of doing things. It is very rare that I am not thinking about or imagining something. My actual writing process involves drawing pictures, moving things around and talking aloud. If I can’t do these things it is difficult for me to deliver a concise message in my words! There are many things that happen before and during the process of putting pen to paper (or key strokes into a document).
What does success mean to you? What is the definition of success?
DMC: To me, success is setting your mind and effort to do something and then working towards achieving that. What that is can be anything, external or internal to yourself. At this moment in time, success is maintaining a level of autonomy over my life, my work inspiring and encouraging others to be their best selves and remembering to have gratitude. Success also means having a degree of self-control and trust in the process/ journey towards what you are working to achieving.
Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?
DMC: Yes I am. I also have a website www.drmoniquecharles.com. The main social media platform I use is Instagram @Neake81, but I do have Facebook, Twitter & TikTok under the same name.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your book(s)?
DMC: That I am like a baby. They sleep a lot to process information and store memories. Sometimes, all I need is a good sleep (to organise information unconsciously) and when I wake up, I know what to add as I continue to follow ‘my writing process’.
Where do you get your inspiration?
DMC: I love ideas so from the world around me. I like to take disparate ideas and put them together. Like this ‘idea come art, coffee table book’, a lifestyle brand around ‘making intelligence cool’ or my PhD in Grime Music! I must be moved emotionally on some level to create. I also like to find solutions. Social issues around injustice, empowerment and/or encouraging others as well as shifting values and perceptions (not always together) are definitely driving forces that inspire my work and outlook on life. Because of the nature of the things that motivate me, I try to do my work with integrity and a loving energy.
Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
DMC: My website is a one stop shop – on the publications page on www.drmoniquecharles.com. There are links to downloadable academic writings. I also have videos of talks I have done – more connected to my academic writing on my interactive page on the site. I also post on my socials if I am doing speaking events.
What was the inspiration for the story?
DMC: It was a combination of interlocking things really. My own personal experience as a Black Academic as well as conversations with other academics from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. I wanted to raise visibility about Black Academics, especially in the British context. I want the perceptions of who is or ‘looks’ intelligent to shift and I am contributing to that shift in a way that is authentic to me. Living ‘That Blackademic Life’ brought the realisation that for most people, being ‘an academic’ is vague and abstract. An academic’s contribution isn’t understood in the same way as a lawyer or accountant for example. This misunderstanding can be isolating and devalue the work we do. Also, young people cannot ‘aim’ (should they want to) for what they do not know. I was the Co-Founder of the UK arm of the Black Doctoral Network for about five years and wanted to facilitate networking and collaboration for young scholars, so this ‘idea come art’ coffee table book is for Black Academics to feel less alone, as they are not alone and to generate wider discussions about Black Academics, inequality, intelligence, academia and society in a creative innovative and engaging way.
What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
DMC: This book creates space for discussion and exploration, whilst giving a little art and luxury. I hope readers engage with the thoughts and narratives, knowing these perspectives come from more than 100 people. Whilst it is related to academia specifically, it can open up discussions in other professions and experiences of working life in Britain. Some people can learn from the accounts of others, so I want readers to hold space for the experiences, emotions and thoughts on the pages. I want them to acknowledge their own responses to what is shared. I want the reader to move the book around, in and out, back to front. To use it as a 3D art ‘block’ in their home. I also want readers to know/realise that there is a new way to read and interact with a generative book/art piece to engage in thought, debate and discussion.
What was the highlight of writing this book?
DMC: Different things really. Firstly the content - giving voice to all the contributors. Seeing the open responses by so many and grateful for the trust given to me to hold their truths – both good and bad.
Then, the second ‘prong’ I guess is personal desire and experience. I am an academic, but I think I am unconventional in some (obvious and less obvious) ways. I always wanted to do a coffee table book and I wanted to make it innovative and powerful. I wanted to raise visibility about Blackness, Black academics, academia and intelligence so that the book had the potential to inspire, but I also wanted to combine important messages with the luxury of a coffee table book. Just because something is about Blackness doesn’t mean it cannot have an element of luxury to it. As someone who is almost always thinking, I like to get people thinking. I wanted powerful messages to be received in, or engaged with, in a relaxed, non -pressurised fashion, through artistic and creative means. I think innovation and creativity really provides space that is necessary when approaching powerful topics.
Thirdly as a thinker and in the highlight of an intellectual (innovative and creative pursuit). I wanted to create a new way to engage with a book, so a definite highlight is seeing the concept come together. I hope it is received well and not surprisingly, inspiring others to push the envelope.
Do you have a library membership?
DMC: Yes with the academic institutions I work at and public libraries. I have also worked in public libraries across three councils for ten years in the late 1990s and 2000s. I worked at the prestigious Senate House Library (often filmed for period dramas) and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library (and Archive). I enjoyed looking at the beautiful green roof of the British Museum when going into the stacks to collect books for library users! You can probably see it on google maps now, but for a long time it was a beautiful secret. I also remember there was a collection in the stacks that was a bit eerie, I think the collection was donated by a magician! I didn’t like getting books from there! Fortunately for me it was very rare request were made from that collection.
So most of my career in one way or another I have engaged with books – from shelving them, cataloguing them with Library of Congress, buying them (acquisitions), assisting with postgraduate enquiries, to reading stories in the children’s library. Of course I borrowed them from public and academic libraries and now I write them!
How many bookshelves are in your house?
DMC: Six and counting … I do love books. I love digesting ideas to help support or articulate my own (non-fiction). I love my imagination being expanded though fiction. I cannot stop buying books and my reading list is never ending!
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
DMC: I love exercising, it is a great way for me to switch off and keep healthy at the same time. I am increasingly focused on being more present and pampering myself when I can as well. I love good food and good company! I also love my sound therapy work, singing and enjoying music. I also find I love being around nature – not completely in the thick of it mind ... but I like to observe and take in nature – it is restorative for me.
If you could only have one season, what would it be?
DMC: Spring. Hands down! I love spring flowers (my favourites are Daffodils), buds and blossoms on the trees, the ever lengthening days it just has an energy of optimism for me.
If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
DMC: Brainy, Brawny, Beautiful. I am THE Brainy, Brawny Beautiful Blackademic after all! I try to apply my mind, body and spirit to bring out the best in everything I do.