Monday, 5 November 2018

Three Fully-Funded Collaborative Doctoral Awards

Image: hand-written labels from the Pitt Rivers Museum
Three Fully-Funded Collaborative Doctoral Awards

With my colleagues Dr Sadie Watson, Dr Priyamvada Gopal and Dr Christo Kefalas, I am co-supervising three new collaborative AHRC-funded doctoral awards which will run from October 2019. These are operating through the new Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Programme. Two are based in the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, and are partnerships with the National Trust and Museum of London Archaeology. They are both concerned with Archaeology and Photography - Counter-Memories: Photographs of Empire in Country House Collections and The Photological Past: contemporary archaeological photography as visual culture.

The third is based in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, in partnership with the Pitt Rivers Museum. This is on the theme of Writing the Ethnological Museum

For students who meet AHRC residency requirements, the full award covers university fees plus a maintenance grant at the RCUK minimum doctoral stipend rate (currently £14,777 pa), adjusted on a pro-rata basis for part-time students. For students ordinarily resident in an EU country other than the UK, the award is fees-only.

The application deadline for the Cambridge Ph.D. is 3 January 2019 and the deadline for the two Oxford opportunities is 25 January 2019. You can see the full range of opportunities on the OOC programme website.

Counter-Memories: Photographs of Empire in Country House Collections
DPhil based in the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford in collaboration with the National Trust.
Supervisory team: Professor Dan Hicks (Archaeology, Oxford) and Dr Christo Kefalas (Curator of World Cultures, National Trust)

Almost all National Trust country house properties have historic photographic collections. These photographs are usually associated with family members who lived at the houses. Among them are many images of the British Empire. Some albums relate to personal, family or business travel, while others derive from military or administrative service overseas. These colonial images range from the touristic to the anthropological, from leisure to expedition, and from exoticism to the domestic.  This project offers a unique opportunity to undertake a ‘visual archaeology’ of these virtually unstudied photographic collections. The aim of the research is to explore the relationships between empire, knowledge and regimes of photographic visuality in post-colonial perspective, through studies of historic photographs as zones of contact or conflict in the past and as ongoing legacies and aftershocks of colonialism in the present. 

Specific material that could be form the focus of the research ranges from well documented collections at Polesden Lacey in Surrey or Packwood House in Warwickshire to many other little-understood collections at other properties. The sheer richness and unstudied nature of the material means that most regions in which 19th- and 20th-century British imperialism operated could form the geographical focus of the research – from the Caribbean to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. This geographical focus will be agreed between the supervisors and the students before the research begins.  The project offers a unique opportunity for the geo-political dimensions of these neglected and provincial colonial archives to be explored, for example through the creation of new connections with places and descendant communities beyond the country house. 

Research themes developed by the research student around this material may include questions of ‘race’, class, gender, genre and representation, objectification and orientalism, visibility and silence, and knowledge and memory, ranging from what Marie-Louise Pratt called the ‘transculturation’ of ‘imperial eyes’ to the ongoing status of the colonial gaze of these visual pasts in contemporary, postcolonial Britain. Though the embedding of the studentship in the ongoing operation of National Trust properties, the ‘Counter-Memories’ project will foreground for the student the practical challenges of exploring unseen pasts through visual culture.  

Applicants will normally have an academic background in an Arts, Humanities or Social Science discipline such as Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Museum Studies, or History.

To apply for this opportunity: Apply through the standard route to read for a DPhil in Archaeology at the University of Oxford, for the 25 January 2019 deadline. You also need to upload the OOC DTP Supplementary Questions Form as an additional document when applying.

The Photological Past: contemporary archaeological photography as visual culture
DPhil based in the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford in collaboration with Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA)
Supervisory team: Professor Dan Hicks (Oxford) and Dr Sadie Watson (MOLA).

This research will re-assess the status of the photographic image in the practice of archaeological fieldwork and documentation in the digital age. Studying the tens of thousands of photographs taken and archived by MOLA in the course of more than 40 years of professional practice on development projects from the City of London to national infrastructure projects such as High Speed 2, the research will apply approaches from the study of photography in the History of Art and Visual Anthropology to the study of historic archaeological photography and the reflexive study of archaeological fieldwork and the creation of archaeological knowledge of the human past. The subjects of photographs will range from excavations of prehistoric, Roman, medieval or modern sites to standing buildings, artefacts, or fieldwork in process.  The study of historical and changing contemporary practices, genres and norms of archaeological photography offers a unique opportunity to study the place of visual culture in the production of knowledge of the past. The research will address the idea of “photological knowledge” in relation to questions of time, archive, and objectivity – moving beyond longstanding literatures on the social construction of heritage in order to look at the visual enactment of the human past through the photography of archaeological deposits – soils, scales, artefacts, and so on.  The collaborative nature of the project will facilitate research that is genuinely embedded within field projects across the UK, from London’s Square Mile to rural landscapes. This will make possible a unique extended case study for observing and reflecting on photography as a practice in the field, and its afterlives both in the museum archive and both formally and informally across social media. Particular themes may include the different modes of ‘working shots’, technical field photography as ‘preservation by record’, and reportage or journalistic photography; tensions between fieldworkers’ photos and ‘professional’ photography; the changing presence of the human subject in the frame of archaeological photographs; new drone technologies creating new forms of aerial photography; and archaeological approaches to the sheer scale of the digital record, and its preservation. The researcher will have full access to the unique photographic archive of MOLA, as well as the ongoing production of photographic images in fieldwork through the organisation’s contemporary practice, and may also choose to study the use of archaeological imagery in museum displays and publications.

To apply: Apply through the standard route to read for a DPhil in Archaeology at the University of Oxford, for the 25 January 2019 deadline. You also need to upload the OOC DTP Supplementary Questions Form as an additional document when applying.

Writing the Ethnological Museum
Ph.D. based in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge in collaboration with the Pitt Rivers Museum
Supervisory team: Dr Priya Gopal (Cambridge) and Professor Dan Hicks (Pitt Rivers Museum)

This collaborative project uses the historic inscription practices of the Pitt Rivers Museum as a lens through which to study the history and ongoing legacies of the knowledge made through colonialism in the context of the ethnographic museum. Primary material includes all writing practices involved in the functioning of the anthropological museum as an institution from 1884 to the present day: from vocabularies of people and thing to museum labels as a genre, a narratology of annual reports and accession books, a close reading of the card index and database, and the study of the diversity of practices of writing on objects. The hands of particular curators and collectors and the re-writing of museum displays will be put into dialogue with a broader set of questions about the relationships between objectification through material culture and representation through text.  In a cross-disciplinary perspective that brings literary analysis into dialogue with linguistic anthropology through material culture, the research  will involve a literary study of language, writing and speech acts as imperial technologies of objectification in the academy in the past, and a consideration of the scope for rereading and revision today.  Case studies will be drawn from across the geographical, temporal and disciplinary scope of the Pitt Rivers, from Asia and Africa to the Americas and Oceania, with regional or thematic focuses developing from the student’s own interests.  

The research will be conducted at the intersection between a series of present themes in postcolonial literary and museum studies, including thinking about ‘voice’; the politics of representation/self-representation; technologies of writing; the making and unmaking of cultural, racial and gendered identities; archival silences and archival traces; reparative histories; the construction of narratives of self and other; the politics of the ‘contact zone’ and encounter and the question of ‘culture wars’; aesthetics and politics; the constitution and/or reframing of the archive; the politics of the particular and the universal; authority and authorship; narrative strategies and ‘narrativity’; (re)reading against the grain; and resistance, dialogics and rewriting.  

The contemporary politics of empire and colonialism and their ongoing legacies will be central to the project, but in supple ways which allow for considerations of resistance, reflexivity and reconstitution. It might be possible, for instance, to consider the ways in which texts can function as colonial disciplinary and governance mechanisms while examining the possibilities for radical rewriting and re-imagining in the wake of empire. 

A number of questions might govern a study:  
Can colonial documents/collections/practices be deployed towards new political claims or imaginings of community? 
What forms of ‘epistemic co-operation’ might be possible in the reconstitution of collections or archives? 
Can the collection(s) in question at all enable a revisioning of the relationship between the particular and the universal? 
How might the voices of resistance be found in the interstices or margins of colonial knowledge? 
Do the collections entrench epistemic scepticism or can they serve to provide reparative histories and knowledges? 
In the process of ‘objectification’, does the ‘subject’ disappear entirely? 

The student will have a background in literary studies, and a demonstrable interest in any aspect of postcolonial studies, archival studies, or anthropology. 

To apply for this opportunity: Apply through the standard route for the Ph.D. in English at the University of Cambridge, while also completing the OOC DTP Supplementary Questions Form and uploading it as an additional document when completing your application through the portal.

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