PhD student and author Sam George-Allen thinks that while “witch” is a gendered term, it’s not necessarily an insult.

This is one of the issues she explores in her new book Witches: What Women Do Together.

“The word ‘witch’ isn’t really like other gendered slurs It’s got this element of power and fear to it. Even when it’s used in a pejorative sense.

“It suggests something wrong but in a fundamental suspicious, unknowable kind of way and I love that this is something that women have access to,” Sam said. 

If you claim it, it is a source of power, at least in the way we in the west understand ‘witch’ as an exclusively feminine term.

Sam and her partner moved to Tasmania from Queensland six months ago. They were interested in Tassie’s creative community, ready for a chance of pace (and temperature), and Sam was keen to start her PhD.

“I looked at the English department here and saw my supervisors, Dr Danielle Wood and Dr Hannah Stark. Their expertise aligns really well with the work that I do, and I’ve ended up with the best supervisors I can imagine.”

Sam’s book came out of what she calls “a personal crisis” where she realised her thoughts about other women were at odds with her feminist beliefs.

“The book is really personal. I started questioning feelings that I had about other women, that were feelings of rivalry or competitiveness. 

Women are encouraged to view each other as rivals, and we get told implicitly there is room for only one of us in whatever thing we might be pursuing.

“It’s nonsense. There’s always room for other women.”

The process of researching and writing Witches: What Women Do Together proved cathartic and healing- and Sam hopes it can help others challenge the idea of compulsory female rivalry.

“It fixed all those feelings that I had, and I hope that the book helps other people to get there as well.”

The idea of changing views through powerful writing is forming the basis of Sam’s PhD project at the University, and her theory component will examine creative non-fiction about women.

“I will be looking at the theory of how that works as a craft and a literary phenomenon.”

Sam and her partner have settled in the Derwent Valley and she said living in the country “really helps” with her writing.

Part of the reason I wanted to move to Tasmania was the natural environment. It’s so calming and conducive to deep thought. I just love it here so much.

Find out more about studying English at the University of Tasmania here

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