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Cultural Studies & Humanities Good News

The latest good news from the School of Cultural Studies & Humanities.

Students in front of School of Cultural Studies & Humanities sign

Translating Tricksters: Book Launch and Trickster Event 
Renaissance One launched Dr Emily Zobel Marshall’s book American Trickster: Trauma, Tradition and Brer Rabbit (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) at the Leeds Members Library on 11 July. 

The launch was part of the Literary Salon series of events at the library and the evening was dedicated to the figure of the trickster with readings by poet John Agard , Ghanaian drumming, a question and answers session, storytelling and dance performances.

War on Waste
A series of artworks produced by BA (Hons) Graphic Art students during a project led by Dr Henry Irving has just been put on display at Leeds Town Hall. The War on Waste exhibition was inspired by Henry’s research on recycling during the Second World War and shows how wartime techniques can be used to inspire change in the present. The project was funded by the Centre for Culture and the Arts and has been supported by Zero Waste Leeds and the Leeds City Council Art Development team. To mark the opening of the exhibition, Henry gave a guided tour of the display to members of Leeds City Council’s Waste Management team, who have asked to include the exhibition in a new campaign to promote reuse and waste reduction

In addition to this exhibition, new work based on Henry’s research has recently been published in the journal Cultural and Social History. The article – ‘We Want Everybody’s Salvage!’: Recycling, Voluntarism, and the People’s War’  shows how volunteers were used to promote recycling during the war, using their experience to consider how wartime messages were interpreted by the public. 

Making Connections Conference 
Making Connections, a conference organised by  Dr Andrew Lawson, was held on June 19 for postgraduate research students in the School. Participants heard papers from research students at different stages of their PhD journey in our three subject areas of Literary, Historical, and Media Studies. The papers were of a uniformly high standard and addressed a wide range of topics, which included:

• Ashleigh McCann explored the use of disguise in Juana Manuela Gorriti’s tale of post-independence Bolivia, “Treasure of the Incas” (1865), locating her analysis in the context of contrasting theories of cultural hybridity from Bhabha and Canclini. Ashleigh’s paper showed how a hybrid cultural identity can take narrative form as a strategy of empowerment in a moment of political uncertainty and change. 

•  Fern Pullan explored the genesis of the “Silver fork” novel, a popular genre of the early nineteenth century which focussed on the lives of the British aristocracy. Fern traced the development of this neglected genre from Caroline Lamb’s Glenarvon (1816) through to its 1840s heyday, showing how these novels served as conduct guides for a burgeoning middle class at a moment of political instability. 

• Niv Chatterjee brought “thing theory” to bear on some of the 4,000 objects – from pens and spades to water pumps -- to be found in the poetry of Seamus Heaney. Drawing on work by Bill Brown as well as Jane Bennett's Vibrant Matter and Graham Harman's Object Oriented Ontology, Niv showed how Heaney’s objects challenge us with their fluidity, fixity, and recalcitrance, qualities that are subtly but irreducibly gendered.

• Edmund Hewson uncovered what he described as an “eco-system of spiritual agencies” in the writing of three nineteenth-century travellers to Abyssinia, Walter Plowden, Mansfield Parkyns, and Samuel Gobet. Edmund focussed on these writers’ encounters with boudas, shape-shifting sorcerers with the power to transform themselves into hyenas. Drawing on Latour’s actor network theory, Edmund showed how tales of spirit possession radically complicate European ideas of human agency, revealing a world in which the human, the material, the animal, and the supernatural are “enfolded.” 

• In “The Bulgarian 1989,” Galina Yakova explored the complex prehistory of a historical moment, tracing the origins of the revolution that overturned Communism in her country back as far as 1956. Reflecting on the methodological problems involved, Galina showed how “soft systems theory” allowed her to grasp the complexities of a revolutionary process through a visual representation of its complex relationships and shifting dynamics. 

• In her exploration of correspondence columns in Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper, Annisa Suliman showed how this magazine offers testimony to the Victorian public’s desire for useful knowledge, pleasure and status. In Annisa’s paper we heard the voices of factory hands, teachers, farmers, and clerks transcribed and reinterpreted by a Victorian gatekeeper-editor. 

• Critically interrogating media accounts of millennials as mollycoddled, needy and narcissistic, Joanna Smith described the results of her interviews with Leeds Beckett students aged 23 to 35, uncovering an “emerging story of positive social mobility” told by students from under-represented groups who see themselves as both ambitious and excluded

In a plenary session led by Dr Shane Ewen, two recent graduates funded by the Heritage consortium, Andrew McTominey and Michael Reeves, provided us with reflections on the key stages of their PhD journey, highlighting the importance of producing writing early on, joining writing groups, sending out articles to journals, attending major conferences, and developing the skills that make research students employable. As an example of collaborative work they have done recently in the field of public history Andrew and Michael also discussed their beautifully written and illustrated contribution to the multi-authored book These Northern Types(Split, 2019).  

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