Highlighted AHRC CHASE Training Opportunities

The following training opportunities are open to all Arts and Humanities PhD students at Birkbeck.

Coming up in CHASE Essentials

Copyright and Creative Reuse
Thursday 17 November | 1100-1215

Finding and Using Audiovisual resources in your research
Training is over 3 days – 8, 9 & 15 December | 1000-1230

See full CHASE Essentials programme

Working With Marginalised Communities: Towards an Ethical Practice for PhD

This webinar takes place over two dates – 12 & 13 November 1500-1700 each day

A growing number of PhD students and Early Career Researchers have shown interest in pursuing research with and for communities who have traditionally been viewed from an abstract distance if, indeed, they have been viewed at all. The scope of these projects is wide and includes researchers working with women in domestic violence refuges, teenagers in socio-economically deprived areas of London and Afghani refugee communities caught in the limbo of the Aegean islands.

What these projects all have in common is that they bring academic scholars into contact with individuals and communities that are likely to have experienced trauma as well as disempowering if not explicitly violent interactions with institutional and state authorities. High levels of professional and personal sensitivity and ethics are essential if the researcher is to avoid replicating the participants’ experiences of marginalisation and creating an abstract rather than rich, nuanced picture of their lives and experiences.

This is a two part webinar series delivered by Fred Ehresmann, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health at the University of the West of England and Dr Jade Lee, director of Aurora Learning and UK Programme Lead of School Bus Project, an NGO that supports educational programmes for young refugees in Europe.

Register here

The Liquidity Cohort

A group of researchers who work with various notions of liquidity from the body (in the broadest sense, human and otherwise) to material infrastructures. We are interested in “liquidity” as an immersive experience of being-in-the-world and its implications for practice; questions of how to write from states of immersion, how to work from the body immersed in experience. We are also interested in hydrological and technological infrastructures and their impacts on the body and its worlds.

Current workshop dates below:

Session 1: Saturation Epistemologies and Oceanic Media


Wednesday 18 November | 1700-1900 | Online

In this session, Melody Jue will discuss saturation epistemologies in her book Wild Blue Media: Thinking Through Seawater and the forthcoming collection Saturation: An Elemental Politics (co-edited with Rafico Ruiz).

Register here

Session 2: Liquid Gold

Wednesday 25 November | 1500-1700 | Online

For this session Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie will present a performance reading that draws on thematics from their recent collaborative works Deeper in the Pyramid (2018) and The Inextinguishable (2020).

Register here

Session 3: Bodies that Weather: Hurricane Katrina and ‘Viscous Porosity’


Wednesday 2 December | 1500-1700 | Online

Christina Sharpe writes in ‘In the Wake: On Blackness and Being’ (2016) of the climate of anti-blackness that black bodies continue to weather.

Register here

Session 4: Liquifying Selves: Toxicity, Tales and Transindividuation

Wednesday 9 December | 1500-1700 | Online

As the pandemic forces us to adopt new hydro-hermetic praxes, we will examine some other ways in which liquid has already presented counter-ontologies to those of the Cartesian self.

Register here

The Liquidity Cohort was initiated by Dr. Bridget Crone (Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths) in 2018, and is open to researchers from CHASE institutions.

Material Witness

Fake! The role of watch forgery in the making of the modern world

27 November 2020 | 14:00 – 16:00 | Zoom

This talk will explore how the objects history leaves behind can be used to explore the world they existed in. Using forensic analysis to look for hidden clues inside early C18th mass-manufactured watches – practising-watchmaker Rebecca Struthers will reveal the moment access to portable time started its journey towards democratisation. By weaving the physical evidence in with archival sources, this talk will explore the transformative social impact watches had in the UK during the Industrial Revolution.

Register here

2020 Annual Cumberland Lodge Dialogue, Arts and the Union (Online)

6pm on Thursday 5 November.

Birkbeck students and staff are invited to join the virtual audience for the 2020 annual Cumberland Lodge Dialogue, Arts and the Union, taking place on Zoom from 6pm on Thursday 5 November.

In partnership with Goodenough College, London, this public panel discussion examines the cultural bonds that unite the UK’s four nations and the role that the arts can play in building social cohesion across the British Isles. The panellists will explore topics such as: how national identities are expressed within the rich artistic heritage of the UK; the role of the arts in building bridges within and across communities; and how the power of the arts might be harnessed to bring the four nations closer together.

Screen Studies Research in a Pandemic

Annual Postgraduate Training Event by the UoL Screen Studies Group, co-funded by CHASE and LAHP

23rd and 24th October & 20th November

Day 1: Friday 23 October, 14:00-20:00

Day 2: Saturday 24 October, 10:00-13:00

Day 3: Friday 20 November 14:00-17:00

Register on Eventbrite

Teaching Creative Writing

Image by Fred Merchán, taken from Flikr and used under Creative Commons licence

Creative writers teach in schools, universities and the community, on retreats, in theatres and in workshops. Teaching is often a key part of a writer’s career, and there are rich possibilities creative arts education across a huge range of contexts. But how do you teach creative writing? Can you? This series offers anyone considering teaching creative writing as part of their career development the opportunity to look in detail at the theory and practice of creative writing pedagogy in a variety of institutional and community settings.

The series will address the historical principles and contemporary critiques of creative writing pedagogy, and how these are responding to wider institutional and societal developments. It will consider in detail the theory and practice of employing these pedagogical skills both within and outside higher education. Attendees will be invited to reflect on future possibilities and challenges for the development of creative writing teaching, enabling a deeper awareness and knowledge of creative writing as a subject of study, a future career, and a creative practice.

Students are not expected to attend all the sessions, but the series has been designed to allow for an arc of learning from theoretical principles to practical engagement.

The sessions will take place online via Microsoft Teams, once a month for the 2020/21 academic year.

You can sign up for individual sessions using the links below:

13 October | 1100-1200 | Creative writing pedagogy: past, present and future

25 November | 1430-1745 | Pedagogy in practice: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting

3 December | 1100-1230 | Can you teach creative writing? Theory and practice of the creative writing workshop

19 January 2021 | 1100-1230 | Decolonisation and inclusivity in creative writing

9 February 2021 | 1100-1230 | Show don’t tell: feminist pedagogy in the creative writing classroom

9 March 2021 | 1100-1230 | Writing in the Community

Call for Doctoral Student Participation – BISR Urban Intersections Experimental Collective

Starting in academic year 2020-21, the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research is funding an Experimental Collective on Urban Intersections. This new research grouping will bring together scholars from across Birkbeck doing urban research, including postgraduate taught and research students. Through a diverse programme of activities (see below), the Experimental Collective aims to incubate joint research collaborations, provide research training, raise the public profile of urban and social research at Birkbeck, and build up the capacity for a more permanent urban research centre or institute at Birkbeck in the future.

Urban Intersections series

Towards these aims, in the coming year the Urban Intersections Experimental Collective will host (remotely, as necessary): an Urban Intersections series which may include research seminars, engagements with visiting practitioners, film screenings, focused reading discussions and (virtual) field visits; two Research Methodologies Workshops; and an end-of-year Public Research Colloquium.

We are currently seeking expressions of interest from our community of doctoral researchers to be involved in this exciting new initiative. 

Steering committee members sought

In the first instance, we would like to solicit expressions of interest for up to three Birkbeck doctoral students to join our Steering Committee. Members of the Steering Committee would help shape the overall direction of the Experimental Collective and would also help to organise or potentially lead on some of its events and activities.

We would also welcome expressions of interest from Birkbeck doctoral research students who have excellent ideas for urban-related research events that they would like to organise with the Urban Intersections annual programme.

Expressions of interest

Expressions of Interest should include your: 

  • Name
  • Department
  • Area of research (1 sentence)
  • Stage of doctoral studies (e.g. first year, upgraded to PhD, writing up)
  • A short statement (max. 200 words) outlining how you would like to contribute to the Urban Intersections Experimental Collective (e.g. whether you would like to volunteer to be on the Steering Committee, lead on a specific event idea you have, or both).

Expressions of Interest should be sent to Dr Scott Rodgers no later than 16 October 2020.

Clarivate Web of Science webinars

Colleagues in the Birkbeck Library have highlighted the following 2 sessions which are part of a series of training sessions and webinars provided by Clarivate.

Kick off your academic year with the Web of Science essential tools for researchers

SEPTEMBER 29 AT 11:00 AM BST

Whether you’re an early-career or well-established researcher, the suite of integrated tools from the Web of Science will supercharge your workflow, making every stage of your research journey a smart one. Learn how to make the most of the Web of Science platform and start off the year on the right foot.

Register here

All the ways to save and export your findings in the Web of Science

SEPTEMBER 30 AT 10:00 AM BST

Discover the various tools that will help you save your searches and results and export data outside the Web of Science platform in multiple formats.

Register here

In times of Pandemic

A BGRS Blog post by Nicola Clarke (PhD History)

I am a mature student, just beginning the second year of my PhD in Early Modern History, so I am currently preparing my first research chapter for my upgrade from MPhil to PhD. My research focuses on accuracy and the value of accuracy in seventeenth-century English news sources, with particular reference to the period between 1649 and 1685. It was always work that was going to have some resonance in the 21st century; “fake news” is very definitely not a modern invention.

One of my main topics looks at the 1665 Great Plague and the Fire of 1666. I am interested in whether both producers and consumers of news approached accuracy any differently when dealing with natural disaster as opposed to news about political, civil and military strife, of which there was a good deal in the seventeenth century. When I decided, with my supervisor (Dr Brodie Waddell), to make this my first research chapter, neither of us had any idea that I would be working on it during a 21st century pandemic and a national lockdown….. and that archive access might be a bit trickier than normal. So many thanks are due to Brodie for advice on how to deal with that and to all the archives and their staff that have re-opened in the past few months.

At the start of lockdown in March 2020 I decided to keep a “Covid journal” prompted by a number of academics I follow on twitter. I used to be a journalist and I am trying to be a social and cultural historian, so I figured that keeping a diary might give me some insight into those diary keepers, commonplace book authors and letter writers whose news consumption habits I was trying to understand.

Historians should be rightly cautious about making comparisons between the past and the present, so I am very careful about drawing direct comparisons.

However, despite the considerable advance in medical science and news technology in the last three hundred and fifty years, the search for reliable information and the debates about how to act on that information have a familiar ring.

People in seventeenth century London tracked the weekly Bills of Mortality, as we have all followed the graphs at the daily government news conferences. The efficacy of shutting people up in their houses once a case of plague was discovered was debated from the street to the medical journals. News came at the seventeenth century citizen from a huge range of sources, orally from neighbours, business partners, customers, from Authority – the King, Parliament and the City Authorities, from newspapers, which as well as editorial content, ran huge numbers of adverts for all sorts of plague cures and preventatives.

Those citizens of seventeenth century London, who remained in the city, had to juggle a lot of conflicting information, with the need to maintain daily life and work, and if I have learnt one thing in the last six months it is to have considerable respect for how they managed to do that.

Bob Woodward & the Case for Rethinking News Values

A BGRS blog post by Naomi Smith (PhD Film and Screen Media)

Naomi is also the Birkbeck Student Union Women’s Officer

Legendary American journalist Bob Woodward has a new book out, another deep dive into the inner workings of the White House, including extensive interviews with President Donald J. Trump in which he admits, on tape, to having deliberately downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020. These interviews were conducted between December 2019 and July 2020, but the revelation that Trump was aware how deadly the virus is and deliberately sought to conceal this information from the American public wasn’t published until recently, when CNN obtained a copy of the book ahead of its 15 September release.

The revelations immediately led to recriminations against Trump from all sides – politicians, journalists, members of the public on social media – and, more surprisingly perhaps, against Woodward. Fox News, for example, questioned his decision to hold onto this information for so long if it was so important. So why did Woodward choose to withhold those interviews until now? And was the decision to do so inherently unethical? Some suggested that Woodward was motivated solely by profit and the desire to sell more books on the strength of the revelations, and others even alleged that he has “blood on his hands”. In response, Woodward argued that he could not verify the information at the time and wanted to investigate further, and that Trump’s attitude to the virus was already public knowledge and was not, therefore, immediately newsworthy on its own. Erik Wemple, the Washington Post’s media critic, argued that Woodward was following standard practice for writing a book and that his sources would have had an “implicit understanding” that they would be interviewed multiple times until he could “stitch together something authoritative, in book form”. If he were to have published “daily dispatches”, then it is unlikely that he would have kept getting those rare on-the-record interviews with Trump. In Wemple’s eyes, the decision was not whether to publish in March or September, it was whether to publish in September or not at all.

When analyzing decisions regarding news selection, we often talk about news values, a theory developed by two Norwegian researchers in the 1960s, which describes a set of criteria that form a definition of newsworthiness. The more of these criteria are satisfied by an event, the more likely it is to be reported on by the press. The results of that Norwegian study have been reviewed and updated over the intervening years, particularly in the context of the rise of digital media but rarely challenged outright. And despite satisfying several key news values – surprise, negativity, conflict, etc – the revelations in Woodward’s book went unreported for seven months.

My research asks whether – especially given that our current conception of news values did not predict and does not fully explain the actions of a veteran news reporter – we can continue to use a one-size-fits-all taxonomy, rethinking the concept of news values as one that can be generalized across different formats in multiple markets, using American broadcast news as an initial case study.

Reference

Galtung, J & Ruge, M.H., 1965. The Structure of Foreign News: The Presentation of the Congo, Cuba and Cyprus Crises in Four Norwegian Newspapers. Journal of Peace Research. Vol. 2, No. 1. Pp. 64-91.

Starting my PhD during a Global Pandemic

A BGRS blog post by Swathi Kumar (PhD Biology, Cancer Biology, ISMB)

I’m now in my second year of the BBSRC LIDo PhD programme. The first year was composed of two 4-month rotation projects, the first of which was based at both Birkbeck and UCL and is now my full-time PhD project. Like many others, March 17th was my final pre-lockdown day working in the lab and I was one month in on my second rotation project based at Barts Cancer Institute. The rest of the summer was a blur with days spent teaching myself to use command-line interfaces to run bioinformatic tools in an attempt to produce any data whatsoever for my project that had then become wholly computational. I managed to complete a coding course covering MATLAB, R and Python which was a mandatory part of my first year and a useful skill to learn as a biologist. All that remained was to return back to my old lab and officially start my PhD.

My first day back in the lab was July 27th – 4 and a half months post-lockdown. I had fastidiously read all the ‘returning to work’ documentation and was prepared for Birkbeck to look quite different to how I remembered it. Sure enough, the corridors were filled with COVID-19 safety measures and a 2-metre rule had been implemented. Luckily, I was already trained in the microbiology techniques I would need for the first month of my PhD thanks to my rotation project last year. My PhD researches the pathogenesis of the Kaposi Sarcoma-associated Herpes Virus with a particular focus on a viral oncogene it produces called vFLIP. I am interested in cancer biology having done a master’s degree in it, and my interdisciplinary PhD combines structural biology and virology. Overall, the majority of my PhD is wet lab based.

Being supervised while adhering to social distancing rules vaguely resembles a Quickstep dance. The 2-metre rule was recently relaxed to 1-metre with masks on at all times, which made it significantly easier for my supervisor to teach me how to use structural biology equipment. Later this month I will be demonstrating these techniques to undergraduate summer camp students and supervising an undergraduate placement student – both firsts in my career. Apart from eating our lunches at desks spaced 2-metres apart, the daily work routine is becoming relatively normal. I do look forward to the day we can attend seminars and lectures in-person rather than online. However, I will say that the switch to online talks gave me the courage to try a new profession – teaching! Overall, I’m thankful that my transition from working at home to experimenting in the lab has been smooth. I hope my story encourages others who may have some anxiety about returning to work to not be afraid and to believe in themselves!