2023 Wrapped: Faculty Research Centre and Group Highlights and Looking Ahead

By George Thomas, Faculty of Arts Research Events and Communications Coordinator

As 2023 draws to a close, we caught up with some of our Faculty Research Centres and Groups to learn about their highlights from the academic and calendar year, as well as activities they are particularly looking forward to in 2024. To find out more about our Faculty Research Centres and Groups and how to get involved, please see contact details and website links provided at the end of each entry.

Centre for Health, Humanities and Science:

The Centre for Health, Humanities and Science (CHHS) and its c. 200 members have been busier than ever this term and are looking forward to a number of exciting events in the new year. This academic year was inaugurated with a workshop organized by Dr Dan Degerman, a Leverhulme early-career fellow in Philosophy, on ‘Silence and Psychopathology’; this was followed by a colloquium organized by Kathryn Body, PhD student in Philosophy, on Loneliness and Shame in Health and Medicine, with speakers from the US, Hong Kong, Ireland and the UK. An event in November, co-hosted with the Wellcome-funded Epistemic Injustice in Healthcare project, brought together psychotherapists, doctors, and academics in Medicine and English Literature to talk about Trauma. The final event of the year, held in December, was an online colloquium on Modernist Literature and the Health Humanities organized by Dr Doug Battersby, a Global Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow in the English Department.

The Sensing Spaces of Healthcare showcase takes place on 14 February 2024

Highlights for Spring 2024 include a showcasing of Dr Victoria Bates’s UKRI-funded Future Leaders Fellowship project on Sensing Spaces of Healthcare, taking place on 14 February, followed by an early-career event on ‘Narrating Public Health Taboos’, a practice-based workshop with the artist Hannah Mumby, scheduled for 20 February. A talk on epistemic injustice by Professor Havi Carel and Dr Dan Degerman will be taking place in March. The annual Art Exhibition organized by Dr John Lee, featuring art works by students from the Intercalated BA in Medical Humanities, will be held at People’s Republic of Stokes Croft in May. On 11-12 June, the CHHS will also host a grant-writing workshop and retreat at Hawkwood College in Stroud. Last but not least, the new year will see the publication of Key Concepts in Medical Humanities (Bloomsbury Academic), a collection of essays on topics such as ‘health, ‘illness’, ‘neurodiversity’, ‘disability’, and ‘death and dying’, as well as approaches including ‘narrative medicine’, ‘graphic medicine’, ‘medicine and the visual arts’ and ‘’the Black health humanities’. The book is authored by members and affiliates of the Centre for Health, Humanities and Science.

Contact: Professor Ulrika Maude (ulrika.maude@bristol.ac.uk). You can also stay up to date through the Centre’s Twitter account.


Centre for Creative Technologies:

The Centre for Creative Technologies has had a successful year, forming a community that brings together creative practitioners, academics, and researchers. Our Alternative Technologies Workshop Series offered a great chance to reflect critically on developing technologies within the Metaverse, Blockchain, AI and Mega-engineering, and connect University of Bristol academics with Pervasive Media Studio residents.

Dr Paul Clarke presents on the Centre’s panel ‘Affective Relations’ at the Zip-Scene conference in Prague

From these connections, we saw some successful applications that blossomed into projects from our Creative Technologies Seedcorn Fund; VR games and storytelling, platform cultures, mixed reality experiences of futures in Colombia, and creative skills in animation and co-production in Amazonia. The Future Speculations Reading Group has grown, and we will be expanding the sessions with the Centre for Sociodigital Futures with a focus on community and creative technologies. The summer term ended with our keynote speaker, Dr Eduard Arriaga-Arango, sharing his research on Afrolatinx digital culture and data decolonisation. Our July event, Queer Methodologies in Creative Technologies, has developed into a two-day event in November consisting of artist workshops and an open forum; Queer Practices and Creative Technologies. The Centre curated a panel, ‘Affective Relations: Empathy, imagination and care in immersive experiences’, at the Zip-Scene conference in Prague, one of the leading international extended reality (VR/AR/MR) and interactive storytelling conferences, which was also an opportunity to network with related Centres, academics and artists in this field.

Dr Francesco Bentivegna presents on the Centre’s panel ‘Affective Relations’ at Prague’s Zip-Scene conference

The Concept Game Jam, run with Bristol Digital Game Lab and sponsored by MyWorld, opened up conversations around Algorithmic Bias related to co-director Professor Edward King’s UKRI Project ‘Contesting Algorithmic Racism Through Digital Cultures In Brazil’. We plan to organise events to share this project’s progress, and are currently building the project page on our website with regular blogs for members to follow. Our Friday Lunchtime talk series at the Watershed will continue, as well as further collaborations with the Pervasive Media Studio. Our membership and scope have grown, and this year we hope to solidify connections between academics and PM Studio residents and develop our connection with Knowle West Media Centre by focusing on community technologies. We plan to organise a workshop series run by PhD and ECR centre members at the Pervasive Media Studio in the run up to our final summer event on community and creative technologies, with a keynote speaker.

Follow our blog to find out more, and for any queries please contact artf-cct@bristol.ac.uk.


Centre for Environmental Humanities:

2023 has been a busy year for the Centre for Environmental Humanities. Our first major event was a workshop in February on ‘the Future of the Environmental Humanities’, which brought together around 30 people from across the Faculty and beyond, together with Melina Buns from our partners at the University of Stavanger’s Greenhouse Center, and Michelle Bastian from the University of Edinburgh. This was a valuable opportunity to reflect on our existing strengths and think about strategies for the centre to develop and grow.

Thanks to the vagaries of the academic calendar, 2023 also saw two annual lectures! In June we hosted Professor Gisela Heffes from Rice University, who spoke on the aesthetics of toxicity in contemporary Latin America, and in November we welcomed Professor Imre Szeman from the University of Toronto, who discussed the future of clean energy and gave us a literary analysis of the environmental writings of Bill Gates…

 

Alongside these major events, we’ve been continuing with our usual programme of seminars, and have also introduced a weekly tea/coffee catch up, which has proved a valuable and relaxed space for the sharing of ideas, reading recommendations and plans. We’ve been delighted to welcome our first cohort of students on the MA in Environmental Humanities, who are already proving a lively addition to the CEH community.

We’ve begun a collaboration with a curator, Georgia Hall, on working with artists in the environmental humanities, thanks to a grant from the Faculty’s AHRC Impact Acceleration Account. We look forward to continuing this collaboration in 2024. We are also hard at work, alongside other research centres in the Faculty, on a bid for one of the AHRC’s new ‘doctoral focal awards’ on the theme of ‘arts and humanities for a healthy planet, people and place’.

To find out more about the Centre for Environmental Humanities, please contact paul.merchant@bristol.ac.uk and adrian.howkins@bristol.ac.uk. You can also stay up to date through the Centre’s Twitter account.


American Studies Research Group:

The American Studies Research Group experienced an amazing 2023! Membership increased to include over forty staff and graduate students from across the Faculties of Arts and Social Sciences and Law. Beyond our steering group, we have established three sub-committees to advance strategic goals, including partnerships, funding, and events. Our graduate training initiative, led by Dr Thomas M. Larkin and Dr Darius Wainwright, was well attended and provided important support for our PGR students. Our regular speaker series garnered positive feedback through presentations by such scholars as Ian Tyrrell, Dr Lorenzo Costaguta, Dr Erin Forbes, Dr Kate Guthrie, and Beth Wilson. We also helped to organize and host the British Association of Nineteenth-Century Americanists (BrANCA) 6th Biennial Symposium, which drew scholars from across the world to share their latest research. Our partnership with the American Museum (Bath) inspired additional consultations and collaboration, while the strengthening of our research environment contributed to new publications, including articles by Jim Hilton, Paula K. Read, Victoria Coules and Professor Michael J. Benton, and Dr Thomas M. Larkin.

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We are excited by our plans for 2024. We will be hosting Professor Vanessa N. Gamble (The George Washington University) as the Bristol Benjamin Meaker Distinguished Visiting Professor. She will work closely with our group on funding and partnership development, as well as deliver four research presentations. We are pleased to continue hosting a range of external seminar speakers, including Nathan Cardon, Sharon Monteith, and Thomas Arnold-Foster. We are grateful for the financial support of the Faculty and the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).

To find out more about the American Studies Research Group, please contact stephen.mawdsley@bristol.ac.uk and sam.hitchmough@bristol.ac.uk.


Early Modern Studies:

The Early Modern Studies research group has had a very productive 2023. In May 2023, EMS organised the ‘Place and Space in the Early Modern World’ workshop (already reported on the Arts Matter Blog). In the summer we held our annual Summer Symposium featuring 4 panels of two speakers each, with papers ranging from early music to Anglo-Dutch identities; from stage corpses to Venus and Adonis; and from Philip Sidney’s translation of a devotional work to Shakespeare’s history plays and his will. The start of the new academic year (TB1) saw the occasion for a research celebration: many good news stories, research updates, and a celebration of two first monographs published by Dr Dana Lungu and Dr Gonzalo Velasco Berenguer. EMS will soon hold their annual ‘conversations’ event (Dec 2023); and for 2024 has further early modern events lined up.

Dr Sebastiaan Verweij opens the ‘Place and Space in the Early Modern World’ workshop

For anyone who would like to join EMS and stay abreast of news, please write to grp-ems-internal@groups.bristol.ac.uk.


Drinking Studies Research Group:

Since its inception, the Drinking Studies Faculty Research Group has been running a research seminar series with local, national, and international speakers to bring together local members and spark productive conversations. We have had flash talks from PhD students and local academics to get to know each other better as a group, and talks from experts in the wider field of Drinking Studies. Dr Deborah Toner (University of Leicester) joined us in June to talk about her experience of collaborative work and bringing history and policy together with international partners in South America. Dr Susan Flavin (TCD) joined us in September to talk about her interdisciplinary project on early modern brewing techniques including an exciting authentic brew which was tasted by the members of the project and examined by chemists and nutritionists to investigate much discussed questions around the ABV and nutritional qualities of these early brews. In the coming year, we are hosting the Drinking Studies Network conference at Bristol (March 2024) which will bring together local, national, and international researchers to discuss writing about alcohol.

Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909), ‘Hip, Hip, Hurrah!’, 1888, oil on canvas

To join the Drinking Studies Faculty Research Group or propose a seminar or other activity, contact Mark Hailwood (mark.hailwood@bristol.ac.uk) and Pam Lock (pam.lock@bristol.ac.uk). 


Screen Research Group:

The Screen Research group had a very successful 2023. We ran a series of workshops on video-essay making, which allowed participants to develop key technical and analytical skills related to video-essay production, and to gain insight into best practices when it comes to integrating video-essays as unit assessments. The sessions were delivered by leading experts in the field, including Prof. Catherine Grant. 2023 also saw the publication of Dr Miguel Gaggiotti’s Nonprofessional Screen Performance (Palgrave Macmillan) and Professor Catherine O’Rawe’s The Nonprofessional Actor: Italian Neorealist Cinema and Beyond (Bloomsbury), two monographs greatly shaped and informed by Screen Research events, sessions and partnerships. The short films Nothing Echoes Here (Hay, 2023) and Pouring Water on Troubled Oil (Massoumi, 2023), directed by group members, also had their festival premieres in 2023. We hope to continue this success into 2024.

Dr Miguel Gaggiotti’s new monograph
Professor Catherine O’Rawe’s new monograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We will be running further events and training sessions on video-essay production, an area group members have shown a particular interest in, which has led to an ongoing series of monthly video-essay work-in-progress sessions where members share their work and receive peer feedback. The video-essay is now being adopted as a form of undergraduate assessment in the Faculty, so we are also working on best practice for assessing it, and have invited Dr. Estrella Sendra of KCL to talk to members about using the video-essay as a pedagogical tool. We will also be running a one-day practice-as-research symposium in collaboration with UWE (in June 2024) as well as a joint book launch for Catherine O’Rawe’s and Miguel Gaggiotti’s monographs in early 2024, among other activities!

To find out more about the Screen Research Group, please contact c.g.orawe@bristol.ac.uk and m.gaggiotti@bristol.ac.uk


Bristol Digital Game Lab:

The Bristol Digital Game Lab showcased a vibrant array of events throughout 2023, providing a platform for scholars, students, and enthusiasts to delve into the multifaceted world of digital gaming.

The Lab initiated the academic year with a thought-provoking online roundtable on October 24, where experts and major UK game lab leads gathered to discuss the implications of the Video Games Research Framework (launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in May) on individual research, and how game labs, centres, and networks could support its aims. The event featured two esteemed keynote speakers: Prof. Peter Etchells, who was involved in drafting the Framework, and Dr Tom Brock, the Chair of British DiGRA.

‘Music and Sound in Games’, a collaborative event between the Game Lab and Digital Scholarship @Oxford

Following this, on October 31, the Lab collaborated with Digital Scholarship @Oxford and organised a hybrid panel and roundtable titled “Music and Sound in Games”. Expert speakers from both industry and academia dissected the impact of music on gaming narratives, characters, and emotional engagement. The digital roundtable facilitated by Dr Richard Cole further delved into critical conversations surrounding this fascinating aspect of game design.

November brought a Research Seminar in collaboration with the Department of Classics and Ancient History. Dr Dunstan Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Latin Literature at the University of Kent, presented on “History is not the Past”: Videogame Design and The Ancient Mediterranean. The seminar explored how video games portray ancient history, emphasising the diverse ways in which different genres and playstyles influence the conceptualisation of ancient worlds within digital games.

Towards the end of November, the Lab hosted an exciting inaugural event, the ‘Concept’ Game Jam, co-organised with the Centre for Creative Technologies and sponsored by MyWorld. The Game Jam challenged the 40 participants to explore how gaming mechanisms could shed light on the biases embedded in algorithms, especially in the realm of machine learning and AI. It stimulated creative thinking about the intersection of gaming and algorithmic bias and some teams came up with innovative working prototypes.

Bristol Digital Game Lab has expanded to over 150 members, gaining increasing international recognition

December will start with the Antiquity Games Night, a novel monthly online meetup organised by Dr Richard Cole and Alexander Vandewalle (University of Antwerp/Ghent University). Scholars, students, and designers will gather to play antiquity games, fostering an engaging space that blends academic discussions with gaming experiences.

Closing the year on a festive note, the Lab will bring back the “Festive Gaming” event on December 14. This event will invite participants to join in for an evening of social gaming, featuring the latest releases and playtests of upcoming games. The lineup included contributions from Catastrophic Overload, Meaning Machine, and Auroch Digital, providing a platform for networking, exploration, and celebration within the gaming community.

In summary, the Bristol Digital Game Lab’s 2023 events were a testament to the diversity and richness of the digital gaming landscape. From scholarly discussions on research frameworks and ancient history to hands-on game jams and festive gaming, the Lab succeeded in creating a dynamic space that catered to a broad spectrum of interests within the gaming community. The Lab has expanded to a network with more than 150 members, gaining increasing recognition internationally.

Looking ahead to 2024, we will be hosting an ECR/Postgraduate work-in-progress event in January, followed by a series of industry talks with a headline from Ndemic Creations, a roundtable on accessibility, as well as a conference on New Directions in Classics, Gaming, and Extended Reality. We look forward to seeing you there!

To find out more about the Bristol Digital Game Lab and sign up to our mailing list, please visit: https://bristoldigitalgamelab.blogs.bristol.ac.uk/how-to-get-involved/.

Representing Evolution

By Professor Samir Okasha, Professor of Philosophy of Science, School of Arts

Professor Samir Okasha tells us about Representing Evolution, a £1.4m ERC Advanced Grant currently underway in the Department of Philosophy. Led by Samir, the five-year research project in the philosophy of science aims to deepen our understanding of how evolution is, has been, and should be represented.

A central part of scientific enquiry involves constructing representations of the world, or more accurately of those objects, events and processes in the world that the science in question is concerned with. Representations can take many forms, including diagrams, taxonomies, verbal descriptions, physical models, and abstract mathematical models. Thus a diagram of the solar system, a taxonomy of Alpine flora, a ball-and-stick model of a chemical substance, and a mathematical model of the spread of a disease are all examples of representations. Different though they are, each of these scientific constructs aims to represent some system in the world (the “target system”) and can be assessed for how well they achieve this aim.

The aim of Representing Evolution is to examine how biological evolution has been represented – diagrammatically, verbally and mathematically – in the scientific literature, past and present. A further aim is to examine representations of evolution in the context of pedagogy and science communication. “Biological evolution” is taken to include the process of descent with modification that Darwin described; the mechanisms that drive the evolutionary process such as natural selection; and the products to which the process has given rise, such as organic adaptation and diversity. Scientists have constructed representations of each of these elements in their quest to understand how evolution works. The project will offer a systematic study of these representations, the concepts from which they are built, and the associated inferences, from an overarching philosophical perspective.

The project has six work strands:

  1. The first strand examines diagrammatic representations of evolution, such as trees, landscapes and causal graphs.
  2. The second examines linguistic representations, particularly the use of metaphors and analogies to describe the evolutionary process.
  3. The third examines mathematical representations, as found in the abstract models that evolutionary theorists develop.
  4. The fourth strand examines “ways of thinking” about evolution, that is, fundamental cognitive styles that scientists and laypeople alike use to think and reason about evolutionary phenomena.
  5. The fifth strand considers the communication of evolutionary ideas, in particular how evolution is represented in science education and non-specialist fora.
  6. The sixth strand examines the project of generalizing evolution to the non-biological realm, a project whose feasibility depends in part on which representations of evolution are treated as canonical.

The importance of the project lies in its integrative ambition. The project will bring together philosophical ideas about the nature of representation and idealization, linguistic ideas about metaphor and analogy, psychological ideas about reasoning and cognitive biases, and educational ideas about science communication. By drawing on such a diverse range of ideas, the project will deepen our understanding of how evolution is, has been, and should be represented. The results will be of interest to both philosophers of science and scientific practitioners alike.

Professor Samir Okasha, Department of Philosophy, is Principal Investigator (PI) on the Representing Evolution project. To find out more about Representing Evolution, please visit the project’s website at https://representingevolution.xyz, or contact Samir directly at samir.okasha@bristol.ac.uk.

Reel Change: Using Historical Film to Inform Gender Activism in Ghana

By Professor Kate Skinner, Professor of African History, School of Humanities

Professor Kate Skinner tells us about a collaborative project which uses historical film to challenge misrepresentation of gender activism in Ghana. Given the under-representation of Ghanaian women in national and local politics, this research is an important intervention. Kate and her collaborators recently received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account award, which they are using to demonstrate the positive influence of humanities research on democratic participation.

The Background

Under the 1992 constitution, Ghana has become a ‘consolidated democracy’ (meaning that there have been multiple peaceful handovers of power resulting from free and fair elections). Civil society organisations have flourished, and since 2004 a broad-based non-partisan Women’s Manifesto Coalition has set out the steps that governments should have been taking towards gender-equitable development. Yet women’s democratic participation is still severely constrained.

Fewer than 20% of Ghana’s parliamentarians are women. In local government, fewer than 10% of district assembly members are women. Three key pieces of legislation that were promised by successive governments in their periodic reports to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) have been stalled. How can historical research help us to explain and close the gap between the vibrancy of non-governmental organisations of women in Ghana, and the persistent under-representation of women in elected national and local government?

The research

Between 2018 and 2022, Prof Kate Skinner and Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo co-led a British Academy-funded project titled An Archive of Activism: gender and public history in postcolonial Ghana, to which they recruited a postdoctoral researcher, Dr Jovia Salifu. The archival and oral history research that they carried out showed how negative and delegitimising misrepresentations of gender activism have constrained women’s participation in public life in particular ways. Gender activism has been repeatedly depicted as a recent ‘foreign import’ to Ghana, meaning that when women organise collectively to raise difficult issues, they can be dismissed as ‘westernised’, elitist, or out-of-touch with the supposed mass of ‘typical’ Ghanaian women.

When Women Speak (2022). Directed by Aseye Tamakloe. Produced by Akosua Adomako Ampofo and Kate Skinner. Funded by the British Academy’s Sustainable Development Programme.

In order to challenge the myth that gender activism is a recent ‘foreign import’, the project generated a documentary film, When Women Speak, which revealed the long and rich history of women’s mobilisations in Ghana. Directed by Aseye Tamakloe, and shot entirely in Ghana by a Ghanaian crew, this film was screened at multiple international film festivals. It is now available free-to-view at https://whenwomenspeakfilm.com/.

Impact of the film

Initial screenings of the film in Ghana suggested many ways in which it could be utilised, both in university and senior-secondary school settings, and by people working outside of the formal education sector. Through a collaboration with Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin – Executive Director of Abantu-for-Development, one of Ghana’s leading women’s organisations – the project team were able to further explore potential uses of the film among three particular groups:

  • District assemblywomen – who contest elections at the local government level and play key roles in local development.
  • Journalists – who play a key role in enhancing public understanding of gender issues.
  • Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection (MoGCSP) – which has a broad policy oversight, presents draft bills for cabinet approval, and runs a range of sensitisation programmes.

District assemblywomen and aspiring candidates gathered at the August 2023 workshop

In August 2023, funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Impact Acceleration Account enabled workshops to be held with representatives of these three groups. With the help of expert facilitators, we identified pertinent themes which could be excerpted from the film, and ways of integrating these excepts with discussion questions and additional materials, in short and flexible training packages. We also identified the specific settings in which these training packages might be used, and potential obstacles – for example, the relatively high cost of mobile data packages relative to average incomes, and constraints on organisations’ internal resources for continuing professional development and public sensitisation programmes.

Professor Kate Skinner (centre) talks with Dr Sika Jacobs-Quarshie (right) and Dr Rose Mensah-Kutin (left)

Evaluations

In their evaluations of the workshop, district assemblywomen and aspiring candidates highlighted the well-documented issues of verbal abuse and unpleasant gossip that risk deterring women in election campaigns and undermining them once they are elected. Participants commented that seeing the struggles and achievements of earlier generations of Ghanaian women in the film was important for the motivation and confidence of candidates and serving assemblywomen:

  • ‘It will be an everyday reminder to them [women candidates] that the road is rough but determination will take them there.’
  • ‘It will build their capacity to know how far they can go if they want to become leaders.’
  • ‘…it gives you courageousness to move ahead and not feel intimidated.’

Reflecting on the workshop, a journalist participant observed that training packages based on the film would be ‘a valuable addition to existing training programmes for media professionals. They can help raise awareness about gender stereotypes, promote inclusivity, and encourage more accurate and diverse representation in media.’

 

Next steps

The Public Affairs officer of the Ghana Journalists’ Association concluded: ‘The story about women’s rights in Ghana must continue to be told. Generations down the line ought to understand where it all started, how it’s going and the way forward.’

The training packages are now in development. Watch this space!

Professor Kate Skinner is Professor of African History and Research Director for the School of Humanities. To find out more about Kate’s research, the When Women Speak film, and the training packages in development, please email kate.skinner@bristol.ac.uk.

Publishing Success for Creative Writing PhD Student Ash Bond – Peregrine Quinn

By Ash Bond, PhD Creative Writing student, School of Humanities

As the first proofs of her debut novel arrive in bookshops, PhD Creative Writing student Ash Bond introduces us to the wonderful world of Peregrine Quinn and explains how her time at Bristol has influenced her writing.

My debut novel Peregrine Quinn and the Cosmic Realm is the first in a fantasy series, aimed at – primarily – an audience of nine to twelve-year-olds, what those in the publishing sphere refer to as ‘Middle Grade’. Middle Grade is where you will find The Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl, and Percy Jackson. It is also where you used to find Harry Potter, but now of course he gets his very own section (with matching rucksacks and light-up pens).

 

The idea that a magical world is just a wardrobe or a train platform away is commonplace on these shelves. In Middle Grade books if you say the right spells, tap the right rock, or mess with the wrong fairy, you could end up – quite literally – anywhere. In Peregrine Quinn, the entrance to the Cosmic Realm lies behind a bookshelf in a library (I am a writer with a vivid imagination, but I am also an academic and, as the adage goes, write what you know). It is in one of these libraries where the first book begins, with Peregrine and her godfather Daedalus breaking into Portal Number Nine in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

One of my greatest joys in writing fantasy books for children is in framing these opportunities for the reader to look at this world, a world that can often appear so devoid of wonder, with renewed curiosity. Is that person on the Tube looking at a map of the London Underground, or the Under-Underground? Check next time, you just never know.


“The weaving of myth and imagination, of research and creativity, is a skill that the Creative Writing PhD at Bristol offers much practice in”


As I transition into the second year of my PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol, I am also moving onto write the second in the Peregrine series. In this second book, the library door is opened wider, and the reader is invited further into the Cosmic Realm. As the world expands, I find myself drawing more and more upon the mythology that forms the basis of much of Peregrine’s universe, a universe that is at once both familiar, and deeply strange. Hekate for example, the classical goddess of witchcraft, in Peregrine’s world runs HekTek Laboratories and specialises in poisons. Daedalus, the architect who designed Minos’s famous labyrinth, in this novel has designed the portal system that connects the Terran Realm (Earth) with that of the Cosmic Realm (Olympus).

The weaving of myth and imagination, of research and creativity, is a skill that the Creative Writing PhD at Bristol offers much practice in. The Creative Writing PhD itself is made up of two strands: one creative and one critical, and is designed so that both strands complement and elevate each other. Like all PhD students, I am lucky enough to have two supervisors; one in Creative Writing, Dr Joanna Nadin, and one in Myth, Dr Vanda Zajko. Both of my supervisors are incredibly generous with their support and rigorous in their feedback, offering me the opportunity to grow as both a writer and as an academic.

The second book is only half written, and with at least one more book to write in this series I am beyond grateful for the consistent opportunities for inspiration – mythological and otherwise – that are offered by the dynamic, interdisciplinary academic environment provided by the university. And while I am very much at the beginning of both my PhD and my publication journey, I look forward to working with Bristol University as Peregrine’s adventure continues.

Ash Bond is a PhD Creative Writing student who recently secured a three-book deal with Piccadilly Press to bring her Peregrine Quinn series to life. The first book, Peregrine Quinn and the Cosmic Realm, will be published in April 2024 by Piccadilly Press which you can pre-order now. To find out more about Ash’s research, please email xn22400@bristol.ac.uk.

New Directions in Black Humanities Conference, 18 April 2023 – Centre for Black Humanities

By Dr Saima Nasar, Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa and its Diasporas, School of Humanities

With the advent of a new academic year fast approaching, we caught up with some of our Faculty Research Centres and Groups to see what they got up to last term. Here, Dr Saima Nasar tells us about the Centre for Black Humanities’s highly successful April conference.

The aim of this conference was to bring together researchers to reflect on ‘New Directions in the Black Humanities. It sought to showcase the exciting research that is being carried out by a dynamic, interdisciplinary group of early career researchers. In doing so, one of the key ambitions of the conference was to support community building. 

This was an in-person conference, hosted at the University of Bristol by the Centre for Black Humanities. Thanks to generous funding from The Social History Society’s BME Small Grants Scheme and the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Arts Fund, we were able to offer travel bursaries for our conference delegates who joined us from Royal Holloway, the University of Oxford, the University of West London, the University of Bristol, QMUL, the University of Birmingham, SOAS, and the University of Leicester.  

Dr Amber Lascelles opens the conference with reflections on Black Humanities

We began the conference with an introductory talk by Dr Amber Lascelles (RHUL), who reflected on how it might be possible to create a critical mass of Black Humanities scholars in Britain. Lascelles posed the questions: how do we work with and expand the often US-centric scholarship in Black Studies? And how do we network and build, both as practice and method? In so doing, Lascelles stressed the need for community building and mentorship.  

Our first panel on ‘Literatures’ started with University of Bristol MA Black Humanities student, Kennedy Marie Crowder. Crowder’s paper (‘Fabulation, Physics and Racial Horror: The Non-local Unreality of Black Literature’) probed what ‘reality’ to a Black person is. She explored how speculative fiction by Black authors represents racialised geographies. Her paper was followed by Andrea Bullard (doctoral researcher, University of Bristol) who presented on romance representation in media and Black historical fiction. The panel concluded with Tony Jackson’s (MA Black Humanities, University of Bristol) paper on ‘The Thin Line Between Love and Obsession’. 

MA Black Humanities student, Kennedy Marie Crowder, delivers her paper

PhD Creative Writing candidate, Andrea Bullard, presents her paper

Our second panel was on the theme ‘Black Lives and Activism’. Sascha-DaCosta Hinds (doctoral researcher, University of Oxford) chaired the session. Wasuk Godwin Sule-Pearce (doctoral researcher, University of West London) started the panel with a comparative study of ‘quadruple consciousness’. Sule-Pearce examined the transatlantic experiences of Black LGBTQ+ students in Higher Education institutes in the UK, US and South Africa. Caine Tayo-Lewin Turner (doctoral researcher, University of Oxford) followed with an illuminating paper on Black anarchism and theanarcho turn’ of Black British protest and thought. He argued that the Black rebellions of the 1980s was the logical conclusion of over a decade of dissident norms established by Black radicals. Dr Melsia Tomlin-Kräftner (Lecturer in Qualitative Research, University of Bristol) then presented her research on migrations of British colonial Caribbean people.  

The first afternoon session focused on ‘African Studies’. We had four brilliant papers by Celine Henry (doctoral researcher, University of Birmingham), Henry Brefo (doctoral researcher, University of Birmingham), Danny Thompson (doctoral researcher, University of Chichester) and Helina Shebeshe (doctoral researcher, SOAS). The papers covered histories of Asantehene Prempeh I, educational scholarships and development bureaucracy in Ghana, and Ethiopian migrants in the United Kingdom and their understanding and experiences of belonging. The panel was chaired by Dr Saima Nasar (Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa and its Diasporas, University of Bristol).  

Celine Henry-Agyemang, University of Birmingham, delivers her paper

Our final panel on ‘Fashioning Selves’ was chaired by Ross Goodman-Brown (doctoral researcher, University of Bristol). The panellists included: Natasha Henry (doctoral researcher, University of Leicester), Claudia Jones (MA Black Humanities student, University of Bristol) and Olivia Wyatt (doctoral researcher, QMUL). Each paper examined race and racialisation. Wyatt, for instance, interrogated the ambivalent attitudes towards Black mixed-heritage children between the 1920s and the early 1950s.  

Olivia Wyatt, Queen Mary University of London, presents her paper

We were hugely honoured to then be joined by our keynote speaker: author, feminist and academic researcher, Lola Olufemi. Olufemi’s paper ‘Only the Promise of Liberation’ examined the purpose, utility and function of the imagination in the work of anti-racist and feminist grassroots political mobilisations in the UK 

Feedback from the day was overwhelmingly positive: 

‘New Directions brought together some of the most talented emerging scholars working in Black Humanities in Britain. I thought the quality of the research on offer and the generosity of the questions and discussion made for a very warm and supportive environment. For some it was their first time giving a paper in person, and many shared with me that the collegiality in the room made this a much less daunting experience. The event made me excited and hopeful for the future of Black Humanities.’ Dr Amber Lascelles (RHUL).  

The conference was a fantastic opportunity to bring together different voices — from around the world — working within the field of Black humanities. Not only did it provide us with refreshingly alternative concepts and methodologies, the conference also functioned as a safe space for upcoming researchers from ethnically-marginalised backgrounds navigating workplaces that are overwhelmingly White. The love, care and support that emerged within these sessions fill me with hope and excitement for the future of Black humanities in Britain.Olivia Wyatt (QMUL).

Olivia Wyatt, Wasuk Godwin Sule-Pearce, Caine Tayo-Lewin Turner, and Sascha DaCosta-Hinds in discussion

New Directions provided an encouraging and welcoming space, bringing together a diverse set of researchers united by the concern for the future of black studies. The range of focus and disciplinary methods (without the pretence of uniform expertise) made participation both rewarding and generative. Distinct ideological undercurrents did not serve to divide but rather inform a dialogue on the political dimensions of black humanities as a discourse; I gained clarity on my position as well as the field in general. I look forward to the Centre’s future events and conferences.Caine Tayo Lewin-Turner (University of Oxford).  

I thoroughly enjoyed New Directionsin Black Humanities at Bristol. As an Africanist it is often difficult to see how my work falls into conversations on black humanities, however the breadth of research made me feel at ease while at the programme. I heard many amazing discussions as well as questions and contributions which I will be exploring in my methodology for my own research. The key thing I am taking away from the programme is the rich network of researchers that I met and hope to keep in touch with throughout my research career. I hope this programme is organised again next year. Celine Henry (University of Birmingham)  

Many thanks to everyone who participated in and supported the conference!  

The Centre for Black Humanities is an international interdisciplinary hub for Black Humanities research in the heart of Bristol. To find out more about the Centre’s activities, research and to join the mailing list, please contact cbh-publicity@bristol.ac.uk. You can also stay up to date through the Centre’s Twitter account.

How a PGR Internship Prepared Me for Publishing a Co-Authored Article

By Alice Kinghorn, PhD History candidate, School of Humanities

As PhD History candidate Alice Kinghorn’s co-authored article with Professor Hilary Carey appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, we caught up with Alice to find out how her experience as a postgraduate research (PGR) intern prepared her for publishing in an academic journal.

I undertook a PGR internship under the supervision of Professor Hilary Carey in June/July 2022. We worked together over the course of five weeks to co-author an article on the slave-owning missionary, James Curtin. Curtin is a figure that incorporated both of our scholarly interests, as a Catholic convert who travelled to Antigua as a Protestant missionary in the early nineteenth century. 

After creating an initial plan together, we each set off on our own research tasks. I visited LambethPalace Archives, where I had the opportunity to carry out investigative research that has been restricted during the period of the pandemic. Following our individual research, we shared notes and drew up a plan. Using a shared document and with regular meetings, we took to writing up the article.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the biggest challenges during my internship has been to keep a narrow enough focus when researching and writing collaboratively. Our individual research disclosed many interesting accounts, and our initial draft ending up being over twice the journal’s word limit. Consequently, the editing process was challenging. Nonetheless, after lengthy edits, I believe I have improved my ability to write clearly and concisely for an academic audience. Together we co-wrote and co-edited the article, and submitted for publication to the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, which the article on James Curtin features in. 

The opportunity to write a jointly authored article with Professor Carey has supported me immensely as a postgraduate researcher. I have gained valuable experience in the academic publication process, including selecting an appropriate journal and writing a concise piece that whilst related to my thesis, is separate to my main research. I feel more confident going into the publication process in the future following this internship, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to explore this with the support of my supervisor.This internship engendered success through its published research output, which is my first published article in an academic journal.

 

Alice Kinghorn is a PhD History candidate with research interests in Anglican missionary societies and transatlantic slavery. Alice’s co-authored article, ‘The History of James Curtin: Catholic Priest, Protestant Missionary, and Pariah of British Proslavery, 1765-1845’, can be read in the Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, vol. 24, no.2, Summer 2023.

Introducing the ‘Remaking Britain’ project in South Asian Heritage Month

By Professor Sumita Mukherjee, Dr Florian Stadtler, Dr Aleena Din, Dr Rehana Ahmed and Dr Maya Parmar

We’re excited to launch the new project Remaking Britain: South Asian Connections and Networks, 1830s to the present. Remaking Britain is an AHRC-funded research project led by the University of Bristol (Sumita Mukherjee, PI and Florian Stadtler, Co-I) and Queen Mary University of London (Rehana Ahmed, Co-I) in partnership with the British Library. Aleena Din (Bristol) and Maya Parmar (QMUL) are researchers on the project. 

Remaking Britain will reveal the significance of South Asian people and communities as agents of change to Britain’s cultural, economic, political and social life from the period of empire in the 1830s to the present. Through the exploration of archival records and the capturing of oral histories, the project will produce a free, interactive and widely accessible digital resource with accompanying learning materials and oral history interviews, designed for researchers of all types from academics to community and family historians, to interested members of the public.  

We are working closely with the Bristol Research IT team, led by Tessa Alexander, with Mike Jones, as well as user experience consultant Stu Church and web designer Tom Waterhouse. This resource, with roughly 750 entries, will be launched in the summer of 2025. 

To mark South Asian Heritage Month, which takes place between 18th July-17th August, we have spotlighted five individuals, events and organisations which will feature in our digital resource.  

Atiya Fyzee (1877-1967), author, social reformer and arts patron

Image of Atiya Fyzee wearing a head-covering light-colored veil with a pearl ornament, and an embroidered/jeweled bodice.
Atiya Fyzee. Source: Basanta Koomar Roy, “Picturesque India”, The Mentor vol. 9 (May 1, 1921).

As a youth, Atiya was involved in women’s organisations and made contributions to reformist journals for Muslim women, including Tahzib un-niswan (Lahore) and Khatun (Aligarh). She was sent to London by her parents for an education and undertook a teaching qualification at Maria Grey Training College. While in London, Atiya wrote a travel diary which documented her networks and connections in Britain. This was later published as Zamanai-tahsil (A Time of Education) in 1921.  

During her short time in Britain, she became part of influential social networks, travelled across Europe and made significant cultural contributions through her groundbreaking observations of life as a Muslim woman in early 20th century Britain.  

 

Amrit Kaur (1889-1964), activist and politician

Image of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, from a 1936 issue of ''The Indian Listener''. Amrit has her head covered with a shawl and is sat down looking towards the camera.
Amrit Kaur. Source: “Rajkumari Amrit Kaur”, The Indian Listener (November 7, 1936): 1096.

Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was a leading member of the Indian suffrage movement in the 1920s and 1930s, visiting London numerous times to campaign for Indian women’s rights, and went on to become Independent India’s first female cabinet minister.

Amrit Kaur was the first Indian to study at Sherborne School for Girls in Dorset. She joined the school in 1902, following the coronation of Edward VII, and left in 1906 as Head Girl and Captain of Games. Amrit Kaur also served as one of Mahatma Gandhi’s private secretaries for 16 years and was an active member of the non-cooperation movement. In 1950, her suffrage campaigning saw success as the new constitution of India enfranchised all adult men and women over the age of 21. 

 

 

Chuni Lal Katial (1898-1978), doctor and politician 

Chuni Lal Katial graduated with a degree in medicine from Lahore University, and then continued his studies in Liverpool in public health and tropical medicine in 1927. After moving to London, he initially worked as a doctor in Canning Town, and later set up a surgery in Finsbury, attending mainly to working class communities. He was elected as a councillor for the Labour Party in 1934, and in 1938 he became the first South Asian mayor in the UK. He was a driving force as Chairman of the Public Health Committee in the setting up of the pioneering Finsbury Health Centre, which offered a range of health facilities all in one location, including a tuberculosis clinic, dentist and women’s clinic. During the Second World War, Katial was a civil defence medical officer. 

Katial was also heavily involved with the campaigning pressure group the India League. During the Second Round Table Conference in 1931, he became Gandhi’s chaperone in London, and a famous meeting between Gandhi and Charlie Chaplin took place at his house.  

Embed from Getty Images

M K Gandhi meeting actor, Charlie Chaplin, in London’s East End. Also in the picture from left to right are: Dr Katial and the poet, Sarojini Naidu, 22nd September 1931 (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images) 

 

Indian Writing (1940-45) 

South Asian writers played a significant part in London’s literary and political life in the early twentieth century. One node of a substantial network which connected South Asian, British and other anti-colonial writers, intellectuals and activists was the magazine Indian Writing (1940-45), edited by Iqbal Singh, Ahmed Ali, Krishnarao Shelvankar and Alagu Subramaniam. Run from Sasadhar Sinha’s Bibliophile Bookshop, located just a stone’s throw from the British Museum at 16 Little Russell Street, the magazine published short fiction, non-fiction and book reviews. On the cusp of Indian independence, it brought together fierce political critique and literary talent at the heart of the imperial metropolis. 

Image of an advertisement for Indian Writing magazine. The advertisement reads: 'Indian Writing: A New Quarterly. The spring number contains stories, articles, and reviews by Mulk Raj Anand, Iqbal Singh, K. S. Shelvankar, Raja Rao, Ahmed Ali, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, A. Subramaniam, Cedric Dover, and others.'
Advertisement for Indian Writing, published in the magazine, Life and Letters and the London Mercury and Bookman [Shelfmark: P.P.5939.bgf.; Courtesy of the British Library]
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Asians and the NHS

The NHS as we know it today has been built – and continues to be sustained – by migrant contributions. South Asians have played a major role in this. But we can place South Asians in the medical profession in Britain, long before the NHS was formed. Bari Chohan, who shared his family history for the Millenium Memory Bank (MMB), described how his family arrived in England in the 1870s, having practiced homeopathy and opthalmics on the subcontinent. They then opened medical clinics all over England. Bari’s great uncle Dr Chirag Din Chohan, who was a hakim (practitioner of alternative medicine) and an eye specialist, opened his first practice in Harrogate in the early 1920s. He later moved to his wife Florence’s hometown of Middlesbrough in 1925 where, in 1933, he opened a practice on Kensington Road. In 1937, Dr Chohan opened a second practice on nearby Linthorpe Road.  

Embed from Getty Images

An Indian doctor examines a patient, UK, October 1955. Original publication: Picture Post – 8572 – Indians in London unpub. (Photo by Thurston Hopkins/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)] 

The team chose to spotlight these lives and organisations as they showcase the wide range of interests of the project including gender, literary and cultural life, political activism and campaigning, religion, as well as workers’ experiences  

Contact us

We’d love to hear from anyone with project queries, expressions of interest in oral history participation, or any information relating to the rich history of South Asians in Britain from the 1830s to the present. 

To contact the project team, please email remaking-britain-project@bristol.ac.uk.

You can find more information on how to contact us on our website, including our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Performing Shakespeare at Sea – The Hamlet Voyage

By Dr Laurence Publicover, Senior Lecturer in English, School of Humanities

Dr Laurence Publicover discusses his contribution to a new play, The Hamlet Voyage, performed at the Bristol Harbour Festival in 2022. The project received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account Award and underlines the positive social influence arts and humanities research can effect.

The Hamlet Voyage performed aboard The Matthew in Bristol. Image Credit: Edward Felton

In January 2021, I held a video conference call with a Bristol-based American theatre director named Ben Prusiner. For some years, it turned out, both of us had been intrigued by the enigmatic evidence surrounding a specific performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: one supposed to have taken place aboard an East India Company (EIC) ship off the coast of Sierra Leone in 1607.

Shipboard theatricals

If this performance did take place—and its reality continues to be the subject of debate—then it is not only the first recorded performance of Shakespeare outside Europe; it is the first recorded performance, anywhere, of Hamlet. (Shakespeare’s tragedy was written and first performed around 1600, and versions of it were published in 1603 and then 1604-5, but there are no surviving records of specific performances before 1607.) To make things even more intriguing, the voyage on which this performance may or may not have taken place involved the first English ship to reach mainland India—a region that the EIC, at this point a fledging enterprise, would later rule.

All this interests me not only because I work on Shakespeare, but also because, in recent years, I have become interested in what people read, write, and perform on board ships; in fact, before Ben and I made contact, I had alluded to the episode off the coast of Sierra Leone in the introduction to a volume of essays on this topic.

The Hamlet Voyage

Ben didn’t simply want to talk to a fellow Shakespeare enthusiast; he wanted my help in developing a play about the possible performance of Hamlet. With staggering energy and imagination, he then realised this vision over the following eighteen months, commissioning a script from the British-Nigerian playwright Rex Obano (who had written previously on Africa and early modern England, and who had also, before becoming a playwright, been an actor with the Royal Shakespeare Company) and involving a team of academics and creative practitioners with expertise relating to the story. With the help of Jiamiao Chen, who worked as a research assistant, my role in the project was to locate and help interpret primary and secondary literature concerning the third voyage of the East India Company—and in addition, to help Rex and Ben think about shipboard theatricals and about the texts of Hamlet with which the English sailors might have been working.

We trialled the first draft of Rex’s script at the University of Bristol’s Department of Theatre over the summer of 2021, working with student volunteers, and then ran a second series of workshops that autumn at the Trinity Centre in Easton, where Ben invited members of Bristol’s West African and South Asian communities to watch rehearsals and ask questions. With support from several funding bodies, including Arts Council England, the University of Bristol’s Participatory Research Fund and its Impact Acceleration Fund, and the Fenton Arts Trust, The Hamlet Voyage—as the play was titled—went into rehearsal in London in the early summer of 2022. I travelled to London to speak to the cast about the historical background of the play and about why (and how) people might have performed Shakespeare during a long voyage; in addition, I helped the actors playing English sailors to rehearse the scenes from Shakespeare that Rex had incorporated into his play.

The Bristol Harbour Festival

The Hamlet Voyage premiered at the 2022 Bristol Harbour Festival on board the Matthew, the replica of the ship on which John Cabot sailed from Bristol to Newfoundland in 1497; it then transferred to London for a run at the Bridewell Theatre. On the morning of the first performance, Rex and I spoke about the play on BBC Radio Bristol, and the interviewer asked the question that I’ve been asked countless times since: Did this performance of Hamlet really happen? I direct anyone wishing for a response to that question to the piece I wrote for the project’s website.

The Hamlet Voyage performed at the Bristol Harbour Festival, 2022. Image Credit: Edward Felton

The Hamlet Voyage performed aboard The Matthew in Bristol. Image Credit: Edward Felton

Education Outreach

That website was also the basis for an education programme that reached around 200 students across four Bristol schools in 2022. Across four sessions, students were asked to think about the possible performance of Hamlet in a number of different ways: for example, through West African forms of storytelling and through English modes of record-keeping (specifically, diary-writing).

Future Projects

Working on this project has influenced my work in a number of ways. I now have a better sense of what is involved in turning research into a creative output, and I’ve been inspired to keep reading and thinking about the early voyages of the EIC: I’m now writing an essay on those journeys for a volume of essays to be produced by Migration Mobilities Bristol, a Strategic Research Institute at the University of Bristol. I’m also working with Rosie Hunt from Bristol’s School of Education to develop a series of Shakespeare-related materials linked to the project and aimed at A-Level and GCSE students.

The Hamlet Voyage performed at the Bridewell Theatre, London. Image Credit: Dan Fearon

The Hamlet Voyage performed at the Bridewell Theatre, London. Image Credit: Dan Fearon

Even if it never happened—and I keep changing my mind over whether it did or didn’t—this performance of Hamlet off the coast of Sierra Leone is a wonderful story to think with, posing questions concerning the social dynamics of shipboard spaces; the place of Shakespeare in histories of globalization and imperialism; and the role of theatre in diplomatic and cultural exchange. Among all the video calls I held during the pandemic, the one with Ben in January 2021 was by some distance the most consequential.

Dr Laurence Publicover is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English with research interests in Shakespeare and other English Renaissance dramatists and in the relationship between humans and oceans. To find out more about Laurence’s research and The Hamlet Voyage, please email l.publicover@bristol.ac.uk

Introducing the American Studies Research Group

To celebrate American Independence Day, we caught up with Dr Stephen Mawdsley and Dr Sam Hitchmough, Co-Directors of the Faculty of Arts’ American Studies Research Group, to find out more about the Group, its activities, successes and plans for the future.

 

What is the American Studies Research Group? 

The American Studies Research Group is an interdisciplinary collaborative partnership based in the Faculty of Arts, which brings together PGRs and academic staff members from History, English, Creative Writing, History of Art, Music, and Liberal Arts, as well as researchers from other allied programmes, including Geography, SPAIS, and Education.  

What are the key objectives of the American Studies Research Group? 

Our group has a broad and inclusive programme of events and activities designed to strengthen local research culture. We nurture not only existing staff, but the next generation of researchers by supporting the graduate student experience through colloquia, workshops, and funding initiatives. Our group not only draws on well-established academic communities and programmes, but also contributes to a range of national and global networks. We maintain a shared research agenda around a set of core themes: Race, Gender, Protest, Health and Medicine, and Decolonisation. These themes encourage and maximise opportunities for collaboration, impact, and grant capture, working together in creative ways, and alignment with university goals. 

What successes have the American Studies Research Group had? 

We had an extremely productive first year. Our group is helping to make Bristol an important player in academic publishing, postgraduate recruitment, grant capture, and impact on topics related to America. Our members have fostered American Studies networks and collaborative initiatives, attracted external funding from the British Association for American Studies, established an external partnership with a local museum, the American Museum in Bath, held a series of stimulating speaker sessions, and organized training sessions for our graduate students.  

Could you tell us a little more about your partnership with the American Museum? 

Last autumn two members of the American Studies Research Group were invited to join a new consultation group. A small group of experts in Native American history, American literature, museology and decolonisation, were invited to join museum staff and consider how to rethink and reframe the permanent exhibitions as well as engage with planning for future exhibitions. This work has included editing existing museum literature, text accompanying artefacts and rooms, layout, and website material and commentary.  

What plans do the American Studies Research Group have for the next 12 months? 

We have a dynamic set of plans for next year. In addition to continuing our regular initiatives, some of our members will continue to work closely with the American Museum in Bath as part of the consultation group reconsidering current and future exhibits. We are excited to grow our membership – please do get in touch if you’d like to join or have ideas that you’d like us to engage with.  

What research have members of the American Studies Research Group recently produced? 

Some of our most recent research outputs include: Lorenzo Costaguta, Workers of All Colors Unite: Race and the Origins of American Socialism (2023); Victoria Coules and Michael J. Benton, “The curious case of Central Park’s dinosaurs: The destruction of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ Paleozoic Museum revisited,” Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association (2023); Thomas M. Larkin, “The Global American Civil War and Anglo-American Relations in China’s Treaty Ports,” The Historical Journal (2022). 

The American Studies Research Group launched in 2022 with the aim of making Bristol a leader in all aspects of study related to America and its history. To find out more about the American Studies Research Group and to get involved, please contact stephen.mawdsley@bristol.ac.uk and sam.hitchmough@bristol.ac.uk.

Queer Methodologies in Creative Technologies Conference, 29-30 June 2023 – Centre for Creative Technologies

The Centre for Creative Technologies have organised a two-day conference which explores queer methodologies used by artists and researchers interested in creative technologies. We caught up with Katy Dadacz and Dr Francesco Bentivegna, from the Centre, to find out more.

What is the conference?

This two-day conference on the 29-30  June will be an opportunity for methodological reflection and collaboration around queer practices in creative technologies. We will be asking; what methods do queer researchers and artists use when they engage with creative technologies such as virtual reality, creative computing, and animation? What identities are privileged when technologies are imagined, narrated, designed, and used? How can practices be queered (using methods and processes that resist binary and hierarchy, and subvert heteronormative structures)?

Participants will re-think and recalibrate research methods to not only understand the complexity of queer approaches but to imagine alternative creative technology practices. The two-day conference will consist of a workshop and micro-talks. On the first day, MELT, (Ren Loren Britton & Iz Paeh), will run an online workshop. Their work focuses on arts-design research to generate material and infrastructural transformations that intersect Trans* feminism and Disability Justice. On the second day, speakers including queer artists, creative technologists and University of Bristol and University of the West of England researchers will give micro-talks, sharing their own practices and methods. This will range from reflecting on queer phenomenology as a potential way to critique dominant narratives of the Metaverse, to a project on inclusive design processes prioritising older queer people and their experiences. Over the course of the two days, we encourage imaginative, open, curious, and messy ways of working with creative technologies.

What inspired this project?

This project blossomed from a long-standing interest in creative collaboration between humans and technologies which has been explored at the Future Speculations Reading Group run by us at the Pervasive Media Studio. Beginning in October 2022, academics, artists and creative technologists from the University of Bristol, University of the West of England, Pervasive Media Studio, Control Shift Network and Queer Tech Meet Up discuss texts exploring themes such as artificial intelligence, algorithmic creativity, machine learning and feminist hacking. We critically engage with artist practices, as well as film and literary responses.

The reading group has challenged and envisioned just and equitable futures for human and machine collaboration, centred around trans feminism, disability justice and queer transformations. The discussions inspired us to think about the value of knowledge-exchange between artists, creative technologists, and researchers (whose identities often crossover) and how we can explore and build queer resilience within the emerging practices of creative technologies.

In the foreground is a smart phone in landscape orientation on a selfie stick. Someone's left hand is holding onto the selfie stick. The phone screen displays a blue and white digital image of the scene in front of the phone's camera viewfinder, which is blurred in the background.
Billennium, by Uninvited Guests and Duncan Speakman. Photo by Paul Blakemore.

Why is this research important?

Our project will be a response to the marginalisation and erasure of trans and queer folx in conversations and speculations surrounding the future of creative technology. We will re-think what resilience means with different contexts of creative technologies and emphasise the importance of collaboration between artists and researchers. It will be an opportunity to experiment and envision alternative ways for these connections to have different impacts with and for the queer community, in Bristol and beyond.

How will you go about researching, including partners involved?

We are working with artists-in-residency at the Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio and creative technologists at Ctrl Shift Network and Queer Tech Meet Up. The interactive workshop will explore queer metaphors and materials that can help to expand creative technologies, as well as teaching low-tech solutions such as DIY servers. The symposium invites creative technologists at the Pervasive Media Studio and researchers at UoB and UWE from a range of disciplines to share their work, and a ‘thought experiment’ or question set. After each presentation, the participants, in small groups, will have time to engage with what has been proposed.

What impact do you expect this research to have?

We aim to see a network of queer researchers, artists and creative technologies grow, creating new relationships with which projects inspired by sustainable and equitable queer methodologies for resilience will begin. This project will also be an opportunity for public education around queer identities within creative technologies.

What are the next steps for the project?

Building from this pilot project, we aim to kickstart a standing series of workshops and meetings framed around Queer Resilience through Arts and Creative Technologies. Our idea is to develop regular, affordable, playful, and critical workshop-based meetups and a standing hub to share ideas, trajectories, and strategies for resilience.

The Centre for Creative Technologies launched in 2022 with the aim of facilitating collaborative research on creative technologies between disciplines within the Faculty of Arts and across the University. To find out more about the Centre’s activities, research and to join the mailing list, please contact artf-cct@bristol.ac.uk