Back in June, Aedín was part of a team of academics and actors who organised a one-day workshop on Dementia and Bilingualism at the Insight Institute in the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. As this BBC Alba film shows, the performance-led day created a very different kind of event to the usual format of academic and voluntary sector conferences.
A dramatic reading of the play ‘Five to Midnight’ (provisional title) portrayed the experiences of ‘Mary’ who, with the onset of dementia begins to lose her ability to speak in English and returns to Scottish Gaelic, her mother tongue. The play, performed in separate parts, was interspersed with audience reflection and three panel discussions on bilingualism in the medical context, dementia’s impact on the family and the bilingual community and bilingualism and the arts.
The play prompted much discussion about changing roles and relationships in families affected by dementia. Mary’s husband ‘John’ does not speak Gaelic. Meanwhile, Mary’s adult son finds himself being pulled into the not always comfortable role of interpreter between his parents and those around Mary who do not understand Gaelic.
As Mary’s dementia progresses, she becomes increasingly cut off from the English-speaking world. Audience members without Gaelic language skills are exposed to more and more Gaelic monologues and conversations as the play unrolls, mirroring John’s experience of being increasingly locked out of his wife’s world. This experience fosters audience empathy with characters in the play who are separated by language divides.
Dementia’s impact on language is a key clinical and care issue, and science has shown that monolingual and bilingual individuals are affected differently.
Of course, the play focuses on a very specific linguistic context. However, students of French may be interested in this interview with the Canadian actress Louise Pitre who speaks about the struggles she had to find linguistically cognate care for her native French-speaking parents in anglophone Canada. As the project continues, it is hoped that it will highlight the need for wider recognition of the role of language and cultural understanding for the care needs of bilingual individuals living with dementia.
We’re delighted next week to be welcoming to Stirling around 90 academic colleagues from around the world for a three-day conference looking at the narratives which emerge from diverse experiences of forced migration. The event is part of Fiona Barclay’s AHRC-funded project, ‘Narratives and Representations of the French Settlers of Algeria’, and takes place at the Stirling Court Hotel.
The event also includes a film screening of the play The Trojans, a reworking of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, written and acted by a cast of Syrian refugees working with director Victoria Beesley and her company Terra Incognita. The showing at the Macrobert Arts Centre will be followed by a live Q&A with the producer and some of the actors.
Over the past 6 months or so, we’ve been able to report on a whole series of fantastic new appointments to French at Stirling starting with Beatrice Ivey, then Emeline Morin, then Aedín ní Loingsigh and finally Hannah Grayson who took up her post at the start of this year. And it’s with great delight that we get to welcome another new colleague in the shape of Nina Parish who will be joining us as Chair in French at the start of July. Nina is currently at the University of Bath and her research expertise encompasses representations of the migrant experience, difficult history and multilingualism within the museum space. She was part of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 UNREST team working on innovative memory practices in sites of trauma including war museums and mass graves. She is also an expert on the interaction between text and image in the field of modern and contemporary French Studies. She has published widely on this subject, in particular, on the poet and visual artist, Henri Michaux.
Our students will get their first chance to meet Nina in the Autumn semester and we’re all very much looking forward to working with her and doubtless gently persuading her to write a few blog posts along the way…
The previous post about this year’s applicants for the Stevenson Exchange Scholarships, reminded me that I still had one other article lurking in my files, waiting to be posted, about a French at Stirling student’s success. In this instance, the scholarship in question is the University of Stirling’s Williamson Travel Scholarship which, last year, was awarded to Stefano, currently in the final semester of his degree in International Politics and Languages, along with his fellow student Christopher. Their joint research project was entitled ‘(Dis)integration in Southern Europe. A comparative observation of integration practices for migrants in Italy and France.’
Stefano and Christopher used the research they conducted under the auspices of their project to observe perceptions towards integration of migrants in two different European countries, namely Italy and France, through on field observations of integration practices at both local and regional level. Last July, they made use of their scholarship to spend two weeks in Southern Europe to carry out a comparative review of approaches to integration between two neighbouring countries which have been dealing with an increase of migrants in recent years, in order to enhance their understanding of the ways these countries can foster the integration of migrants in their societies. As well as examining national media representations of ‘the migrant question’, they also made contact with local civil servants and representatives of NGOs to further their knowledge and understanding of the situation. For example, they interviewed Dr Stefano Pasta, Adjunct Research Fellow at the Catholic University of Milan (Research Centre for Intercultural Relations), Journalist and senior volunteer at the Community of Sant’Egidio, a leading international NGO founded in Italy to support and integrate foreigners and migrants in Europe.
In their report on the project, Stefano and Christopher explained that having had the possibility to spend time in two European countries which have both been affected by the arrival of migrants since the start of the humanitarian crisis in 2015, ‘it has been deeply interesting to further investigate their different approaches and attitudes towards migration and subsequent integration within their societies’ and they hope their research will foster ‘awareness of the necessity for an ever greater deal of solidarity and cultural understanding in order for all of us to be oriented by the inspiring examples encountered along the journey.’ And they are, of course, grateful to the Williamson Trust for its trust in them and for its financial support through the scholarship.
Many thanks to Stefano for sending us the information about this project and for his patience while the article somehow sat in an email folder waiting to be posted!
The University of Stirling is hosting a special week of events under the theme ‘Experiences of Exile’ to launch the new exhibition in the Pathfoot Gallery of the same name.
A View of Love Screening, 8th November, 4.30/5.30pm
Kicking us off the Macrobert Arts Centre is hosting a special screening of A View of Love/Un Balcon sur la mer (2010 dir. Nicole Garcia) as part of the French Film Festival programme. A View of Love is a romantic mystery film about three French children who left Algeria very suddenly during the last violent months of the War of Independence in 1962. The film moves between past and present as the characters, now adults in France, rediscover each other and their past. It illustrates how the nostalgia of the French settlers who lived in Algeria before it became independent, opens the door to the unexpected return of the past.
The film will be preceded at 4.30pm by an introductory talk by Dr Fiona Barclay. Her talk unpacks the emotional and historical attachments which linked Algeria to France for over a century, and which continue to shape the lives of millions living in France today. You can book tickets directly from the Macrobert Art Centre here.
Photographer Anna Pantelia presents: The European Dream, 13th November, 3pm
The photographer Anna Pantelia, will discuss her current exhibition ‘The European Dream’ which is on display in the Pathfoot Gallery. Anna Pantelia is an award-winning photojournalist and the Field Communications Manager for Médecins Sans Frontières. She was the official photographer for CERN between 2012-2014. Her photography and interviews have appeared in Newsweek, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Vice News etc. She has worked in Europe, Turkey, South Sudan and Mozambique as a freelancer photographer with international NGOs such as Action Aid, Save the Children, and CARE International. (Oscars, Pathfoot Building, 3pm).
Autumn Art Lecture, with Professor Alison Phipps, UNESCO Chair: Refugee integration through languages and the arts (University of Glasgow)
Pathfoot Lecture Theatre, 15th November, 5.30pm
Entitled ‘Drift. Float. Drown. Dance: Reflections on refuge from a calabash’, the lecture will reflect on a translational study in Ghana. It saw researchers work alongside a dance company, who expressed the themes of the research in dance form. Places are free for the event but must be booked in advance here.
Many thanks to Beatrice Ivey, Research Assistant on Fiona Barclay’s project, for sending us all this information and we hope to see many of you at these events!
A Summer of changes for French at Stirling, not only with new cohorts of students coming to join us and our ELAs and Study Abroad students returning, but also on the staffing front. As we’ve mentioned here before, Bill Marshall retires at the end of next month and we are currently advertising for two new lecturers so there’ll be new faces in the teaching team over the months ahead. And, as we’ve also spoken about on the blog, Fiona Barclay – who has been on research leave this past semester – was awarded an AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellowship so we’re also appointing a fixed-term lecturer to replace Fiona for the next two years. We’re looking forward to introducing you to these yet-to-be-appointed colleagues very soon but, first, we thought it’d be good to get Fiona to tell us a bit about what she’s been up to over these past few months and what lies ahead. And that also gives us an excellent excuse to introduce Dr Beatrice Ivey who was recently appointed to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant with Fiona and who we’re very excited to welcome to Stirling!
‘Greetings from the sunny south of France, where I’ve just finished my semester of research leave! Stirling seems very far away but as the semester comes to a close it’s a good time to look back on the last few months and reflect on plans, progress, and the inevitable changes that happen…
I came to France in January with the plan of writing a couple of chapters of the book that I’m working on, using local libraries, and accessing some archives. The book is on the European settlers who came to Algeria following its conquest by the French in 1830. Almost all of them – 900,000 – were forced to leave for France when Algeria became independent in 1962 in one of the biggest population movements since 1945. Since then, a proportion of them have been very vocal in French politics, whilst others have produced a large corpus of literature which records their memories of their homeland and works through their feelings of loss and nostalgia. My project looks at these narratives and representations, and the ways in which the community’s identity is being passed on to the younger generations born in France since 1962.
Plans are often subject to change, and so it was on this occasion. My idea of using the local university library ran into trouble straightaway, when I discovered that, due to a combination of a local strike against university mergers, and the subsequent national blockade of universities, it was closed until further notice. In the end ‘until further notice’ meant nearly 5 months, giving me a new perspective on the UK’s UCU strike action, and a lot of sympathy for local students who were still expected to sit exams. Thankfully Stirling’s electronic library holdings and lending provision has developed a lot in the last few years, so I was able to access most of the texts needed.
The second change to my plans came in February, when I received news that my application to the AHRC’s Leadership Fellows scheme had been successful. The award is £250,000 for a two-year project starting next month and, in addition to the completion of the book, it has a substantial set of public engagement activities, some of which will start early in the project. Consequently, I’ve spent much of the last few months working with colleagues in museums and archives in Paris, Perpignan and Port-Vendres to organise access to images, video testimonies, artefacts and so on. These will feature in a year-long exhibition opening in September at the Pathfoot Gallery in Stirling. I’m also working with colleagues at Stirling to build a new project website, which will feature an interactive map giving access to many of the images, videos and sound-files, as well as links to a free access online course (MOOC) and film season taking place as part of the UK French Film Festival in November 2018.
The project will also have another team member, a Postdoctoral Research Assistant who will work on the project for 15 months. I’m delighted that Dr Beatrice Ivey, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Leeds, will be starting at Stirling on 1 September. She will be leading on many of the digital and online parts of the project, and also co-organising an international conference on forced migration which will take place at Stirling next May. We look forward to welcoming her to Stirling!’
Many thanks to Fiona for this update – news of the exhibition and other events will follow in due course! – and over to Beatrice:
‘I’m joining the ‘From Colonisers to Refugees’ project at the University of Stirling as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant and, in this role, I’ll be assisting Dr Fiona Barclay with the management of the project website, the organisation of an international conference at Stirling in 2019, research and publication as part of a planned special issue. I will also interview people who have settled in Scotland having fled Syria as refugees for the project’s Digital Cartographies and Storytelling Soundscapes components.
I completed my PhD at the University of Leeds in 2018, examining the gender performativity of cultural memory in writings by Assia Djebar, Hélène Cixous, Ahmed Kalouaz, Malika Mokeddem, and Nina Bouraoui. My thesis, entitled ‘Performing Gender, Performing the Past’ argued that acts of cultural memory also reiterate, and possibly subvert, the gendered imaginaries associated with French colonialism in Algeria. I examined specific cases of gendered memory which produced connections between the memory of French Algeria and other disparate histories of extreme violence, such as the Holocaust, Partition, Slavery in the Caribbean, and the ongoing ‘Border Crisis’ (Daniel Trilling 2017) in the Mediterranean. I have published a chapter ‘Hélène Cixous’s L’Indiade ou l’Inde de leurs rêves: Gendering Memories of Colonialism in Algeria and India’ in the volume French Feminisms 1975 and After(Atack, Fell, Holmes, Long 2018) and an article ‘Affect, Gender, and Postmemory in Nina Bouraoui’s Representations of the 1970s’ in theInternational Journal of Francophone Studies.
My current research focuses on the transnational memory of forced migration in Francophone cultural production from and about the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.’
Many thanks to Beatrice and Fiona for these posts, and good luck with the project!