Tag: Postcolonial Studies

Conferences and ‘To-Read’ Lists

Next up in today’s blog catch-up, I’m delighted to have our first post by Hannah Grayson who joined us as a Lecturer in French at the start of this year, focusing on her research trip to the States earlier this semester:

‘Back in March I was lucky enough to be in the USA for two academic conferences. My first stop was Washington, DC, where the American Comparative Literature Association was hosting its annual meeting at Georgetown University.

Unlike a lot of conferences, the ACLA has a distinctive structure where seminar groups of 10-12 people meet for two hours each day over three days in order to foster extended discussion. I would definitely choose to participate in this kind of structure again, as it allowed us lots of time to develop our conversations and draw links between papers. Our seminar stream, organised my colleague Eloise Brezault from St Lawrence University and myself, was titled ‘Responding to Violence: Hierarchies of Memorialization in Postcolonial Africa’. Our aim was to explore why certain instances of violence take precedence over others in terms of historicization, and how literary/cultural texts can both reorient historiographical trends and provide new lenses for revisiting historical moments. Among other things, we discussed the use of digital technology to tell stories in new ways, and different forms of responding to the silencing of history.

Our Stirling colleague Fiona Barclay presented research on the contested memorialisation of the massacre that took place on 26th March 1962 in Algiers from her current project. My own paper ‘Responding to Ebola’ was on En compagnie des hommes, a recent novel by Véronique Tadjo who is one of the authors studied at Stirling in the option module French and Francophone Cultures of Travel. I discussed Tadjo’s itinerant writing, and her critique of political responses to the 2014-16 Ebola epidemic. There was also plenty of time to attend other sessions, and I followed a fascinating seminar stream on injustice and witnessing. On the final evening, the keynote address was given by prize-winning author, Amitav Ghosh, who spoke to us about the challenges of representing polyglot societies in what he described as the essentially monolingual form of the novel.

2019 HG US Trip Pic 1With a few days to spare I took the opportunity to visit the Library of Congress, which is the largest library in the world. Though I was mainly marking first-year commentaries, it was also a great opportunity to read some new material on Tierno Monénembo, a francophone Guinean author whose writing was at the heart of my doctoral research. I also got to see the Lincoln Memorial and the White House, but will have to plan a return trip to make the most of Washington’s amazing collection of museums.

 

The next stop was Oklahoma City: a place, according to those I asked in DC, known for being totally flat, extremely windy, and not much else! Oklahoma City certainly isn’t known for being a centre of interest for scholars of French and Francophone literature, but it is there that we gathered for the annual 20th and 21st Century French and Francophone Colloquium. I presented on Tadjo again, but this time on a panel about the suffering body: ‘Corps en souffrance: s’adapter et survivre face à la maladie’. It was great to discuss the place of illness and mourning, and the position of the patient, in literary texts by René Allendry, Maëlys de Kerangal and Emmanuèle Bernheim.

The theme of the conference, ‘Catastrophes, Cataclysms, Adaptation & Survival’, had caught my eye because of my research interest in fictional representations of crisis in sub-Saharan Africa. Where the majority of papers were based on texts from metropolitan France, those from the wider francophone world particularly interested me and I’ve now added Edgar Sekloka’s Coffee and Failles by Yannick Lahens to my to-read list for this summer. Stirling students who take the French Atlantic Slave Trade module would have especially enjoyed Fabienne Kanor’s presentation on the process of writing her novel Humus, which tells the stories of 14 female slaves who in 1774 chose suicide in the Atlantic rather than a life of slavery. She spoke about the journeys she made from archives in Nantes to Badagry, Nigeria, and her process of writing those 14 voices, always keeping the sounds of the sea present in the text, and asking herself, “comment témoigner à leur place de cette catastrophe?”

On the final day of the conference I made my way through a huge St Patrick’s Day parade to the Oklahoma City national memorial and museum. Having discussed the filmic and literary representations of so many episodes of violence in the two conferences, it was very moving to walk around the monument to the 168 lives lost in the domestic terror attack of April 1995. I spoke with staff there about the process of designing the memorial, the decision to have an empty chair for each of the lives lost, and the presence of an elm tree which remarkably survived the blast and all the destruction that followed. I was also reminded of research I’ve done in Rwanda around how museums, monuments, fiction and testimony all contribute to building a memory landscape in the wake of the Genocide against the Tutsi of 1994. But perhaps that’s something for a future blogpost!

All in all it was a great trip, and I came back to Scotland with a huge to-read list, and lots of ideas to follow up.’

2019 HG US Trip Pic 2

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Many, many thanks to Hannah for this article and we’ve taken careful (and grateful!) note of the promise of future ones!

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Languages: ‘A vital part of who I am!’

As regular blog readers will recall, the BBC published an article a few weeks back that focused on a decline in language learning in UK schools which prompted us here on the blog to post a series of articles by and about our staff and students, and their experiences of language learning. Those conversations have been continuing over the intervening few weeks and I’m delighted to get a chance to post another series of thoughts on the joys and challenges of language learning, this time by Stefano:

2018 Intropido Pic I‘I am really glad to have this opportunity to write again on this topic here on the French at Stirling Blog, as I cannot recommend studying languages enough! In fact, if it wasn’t for languages, I wouldn’t even be able to write this post at all; but… is it really all about articles and academia? No, there is so much more to it!

When I was a kid, I was lucky enough to be in a school, back in Italy, where I could already start learning some bits of English from a very early age (I think I was 4 when the teachers started organising some playful and funny activities so that we could learn nursery rhymes and games in English). Although I am not too confident now with my knowledge on kids’ songs, I am sure that this joyful approach made me keep going with English in primary school, where I also started some extra-curricular English courses to engage more and more with this beautiful language. My ongoing passion for the subject then pushed me to carry on with English all throughout my schooling years, right until the very end of high school, where I found myself to be a bit of “anglophile”; as Emeline mentioned earlier, even just the chance to read books and watch movies in their original language uncovered a whole new world of possibilities (and yes, the new Harry Potter books did play a crucial motivational role in this, I must say).

After so many years of learning and practising English in Italy I’d say I never got bored of it, but I started feeling the curiosity for going to English-speaking countries to put the theory into practice; I liked English so much that I ended up working as a Group Leader for younger Italian pupils abroad during their summer camps in the UK and those travelling experiences made me realise how far even a young student could go just thanks to a foreign language! And when it was then time to apply for universities, moving to Scotland simply seemed to me like the best choice to carry on along this path.

A bit of a warning here: studying a foreign language might be contagious…

Not only does it make you connect with (and be inspired by) so many new people, but once you start learning something as eye-opening as a foreign language, it is really hard to stop!

In my case, the “language-bug” made me study French, starting when I was 11. It could have been something temporary, as in Italy you are only required to pick up a “second” European language (usually French or Spanish or German) between the age of 11 and 14. However, once again, I became ‘too’ fascinated by this new wonderful language and I stuck with French all way throughout my 5 years in high school in Italy and (spoiler alert!) even at university level here in Scotland.

When I arrived here I realised how differently you can learn French in these two countries; whilst in Italy a much greater focus is on France’s history and literature (I have lost count of the classic French novels and plays we had to study in school…), here in Scotland attention is mostly put on language skills, as well as postcolonial and contemporary studies, which makes the two countries’ approaches perfectly complementary!

Looking back, I still struggle to believe how far I have come just thanks to French and the number of experiences I have gained through it. Some examples include: school trips and holiday in France (yeah I know, this might sound obvious, but as soon as you learn how to order French food it is really hard to resist!), an unforgettable Summer School in Strasbourg, an even more memorable Semester Abroad in Paris, a research scholarship to travel across the South of France2018 Intropido Pic I and many more.

As I have been travelling around Europe, people have often asked me if I am now a “trilingual” student. I am finally happy to say, a bit more confidently, that I am now fluent in three languages (although my parents make fun of my now broken Italian sometimes, but that’s another story), but especially I am really happy and grateful for all the places I have seen and the people I have met along my journey thanks to these languages.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, this “language-bug” thing is not getting any better… I should indeed mention, perhaps, that I also studied Latin for eight years in school and, guess what, I simply loved it! Call me boring, but I had so much fun with Latin as well that I managed to be selected for a national competition in the North East of Italy; no, I didn’t win, but yes, I had a great time, everything was included for the journey and I managed to meet some other great people even in that occasion. Therefore, let me just go against a well-established stereotype on “dead languages”: not only do they help you learn modern ones, but they take you around more than what you would think!

To conclude, I do believe that languages are not just subjects, but rather constitute a vital part of who I am; they represent wonderful key to access our world! And if you think you have got a “language-bug” yourself, don’t worry, it can only get “worse” 😉

Now I really have to go though, I have just seen a flyer about a Spanish course…’

Many, many thanks (merci, grazie, thank you!!) to Stefano for this brilliant post and for the infectious enthusiasm for languages.

ACHAC’s ‘Human Zoos’ Exhibition: Scottish University Tour

As was mentioned way back in a February 2018 blogpost, these past few months David Murphy has been coordinating a poster tour, called ‘Putting People on Display’, which has visited 5 Scottish HEIs: Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh, Stirling, St Andrews and Aberdeen. ‘Putting People on Display’ is a pared-down version of a major exhibition, ‘Human Zoos: the Invention of the Savage’, organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011-12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context were specially commissioned for this Scottish tour.

2018 David Putting People on Display Scottish National ExpoThe exhibition is made up of 22 banner-style posters charting the history of ‘putting people on display’. It covers a range of historical periods, geographical locations and national contexts, raises many questions about putting people on display, and the forms of observation these practices involve. Drawing on the rich iconography surrounding the phenomenon, it also forces us to address the ethics of display and the extent to which access to often challenging imagery is essential to understanding this historical practice and its contemporary afterlives. The exhibition was developed in association with the Lilian Thuram Foundation, and is part of a wider commitment to understanding the historical roots of contemporary racism – and to contributing to anti-racist education.

Each of the events held in conjunction with the exhibition has been very well attended. We had an audience of 100 at our launch event at Glasgow School of Art, and we organised a series of lunchtime tours in Stirling and St Andrews. Particularly fascinating was an event in St Andrews featuring speakers from the ‘Friends of Saughton Park’ in Edinburgh which was the site of a major ‘human zoo’ during the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908. The park will reopen in May 2019 after a long period of refurbishment, and it is likely that our ‘Putting People on Display’ exhibition will be included in the events to accompany the grand re-opening. So watch this space for more news as plans develop.

Gender, Film, Postcolonialism: Conference Time

If I’m quick, this might even go up on the blog before Bill Marshall’s Cinéma-Monde conference on ‘Film, Borders, Translation’ that starts this evening with a screening at the MacRobert of Chloé Leriche’s 2016 film Avant les rues. The conference continues over the next couple of days, with participants from across the UK, North America and Australia, and papers from three French at Stirling colleagues. David Murphy will be talking about ‘Filming the First World Festival of Negro Arts, Dakar 1966’, Elizabeth Ezra will give a paper entitled ‘TransFormations: Cinema’s Uncanny Origins’ and, as for me (Cristina Johnston), I’ll be talking about the ‘ruptures, cooperation and paradoxes’ of Franco-Iranian cinema.

It’s a busy time for conference over the next week or so, as Stirling is also running its annual Arts and Humanities postgraduate conference tomorrow on ‘Arts and Humanities Research Through a Gender Lens’ and our own French at Stirling PhD student, Fraser McQueen, will be there, talking about ‘Islamophobia as a gendered phenomenon in French radicalisation cinema.’ And then, next week, Fraser is off to the University of Birmingham for the SFPS Postgraduate Study Day where he’ll deliver a paper entitled ‘Borders between us and them in female radicalisation fiction.’

More research news to follow soon…

Untold stories, untold history

It’s really great to be getting a chance to alternate between articles by students who are reaching the end of their undergrad studies with us in French at Stirling and those who’re at various different stages of the process so, following Alexia’s post, this time we have an article by Jeanne who will be graduating next month:

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 2 May18‘Studying International Management and Intercultural Studies at the University of Stirling has led me to choose the right path for my future studies and work orientation. Indeed, I initially thought I would opt for a career in international business, although I wanted to keep all my options open (a career in translation perhaps) as I wasn’t sure just yet.

Throughout this degree, I have had the chance to study topics such as colonial history, collaboration and feminism in France. As a French citizen with slave ancestors (from Martinique) and a woman, being able to study these subjects (which are still taboo in my home country) and being granted greater access to a part of my identity has been an amazing experience.

In a sense, I had found the answers to many of my pending questions. So, I chose to change my degree to International Management with European Languages and Societies (without the final year in the management school in Strasbourg) as I still had many questions which remained unanswered and my curiosity was as high as it could be regarding taboos in French as well as Spanish history.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 8 May18As I also study Spanish, during my third year, I had the chance to go to Spain, at the University of Granada for my Compulsory Semester Abroad with the Erasmus programme. I also successfully applied for a Stevenson Exchange Scholarship for my Semester Abroad. These are Scottish research grants for students from Scottish Universities going to study in EU countries or for foreign EU students coming to Scotland to promote Scottish culture and enhance mutual EU belongingness through research and mine enabled me to examine whether Spaniards encountered the same difficulty as the French to teach some of their ‘dark history’: the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, something I had studied in depth in Scotland and France.

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 3 May18Thanks to the scholarship, I was able to visit various “lieux de mémoire” such as Garcia Lorca’s home in Granada or Franco’s tomb near Madrid. I also visited museums (Museum of War in Toledo, Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid–where you can see Guernica) and bought many books. The project pushed me to talk to many people: librarians, high school teachers, random people in the street, lecturers, guides, friends… allowing me to collect many varied and enriching opinions on the subject, while enhancing my language skills, grasping the culture and understanding my host country a lot better.

During our semester abroad, we also had to conduct a Research Project, for Stirling this time, and I chose to do it on “Modernisation in Spain: through the study of religion”. Actually, from abroad, I had the impression that Spaniards were practicing, rigorous Catholics, and I wanted to understand why, if that is true, they voted in favour of same sex marriage in 2005 (having in mind that a fiercely secular country like France only voted in favour in 2013). I loved doing field research for this project, confirming once more my decision to do research in the future. As with the Stevenson scholarship, it was another great opportunity to meet locals, make friends and learn from others such as during the impressive street processions of “Semana Santa” where families and friends gather each year.2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 6 May18

In this past year, I applied to an MLitt by Research in Transnational Cultures at the University of Aberdeen, focused on post-colonialism and I can’t wait to start. I would like to continue with a PhD and hopefully become a university researcher, to study the impact of the “untold history” on our identity.’

2018 Jeanne Nozahic Picture 4 May18

Many thanks to Jeanne for finding the time to send us this post and best of luck for the MLitt in the Granite City – we look forward to hearing how things are going over the months and years ahead. And we can promise posts by French at Stirling’s 2018 Stevenson Scholars over the weeks ahead…

Exhibitions, Grants, Talks… French at Stirling Staff Updates

The past couple of blog posts have focused on French at Stirling students’ achievements and activities – now it’s time for an update on what staff have been up to and what’s coming up for us over the weeks and months ahead…

Congratulations, firstly, to Fiona Barclay who has just learned that she has been awarded a prestigious AHRC Early Career Researcher Leadership Fellow award which she will hold for 23 months from July 2018 onwards. The award will enable Fiona to work on a major project entitled ‘From colonisers to refugees: narratives and representations of the French settlers of Algeria.’

2018 Staff Updates David Algiers poster Feb18Back in December, David Murphy was invited to serve on the fiction jury at the 8th Algiers International Film Festival: ‘an intense but fascinating week, watching lots of films and meeting filmmakers, actors and other creative artists from all over the world. There was even time for a visit to the famous Casbah, which will be familiar to students from La Bataille d’Alger. Our special jury prize went to a wonderful Algerian film En attendant les hirondelles by a young Algerian director, Karim Moussaoui. You should be able to catch it in Scotland later this year.’

David is also the main organiser for the Scottish tour of the exhibition ‘Putting People on Display’, a pared-down version of a major exhibition (‘Human Zoos: The Invention of the Savage’) organised by the French colonial history research group, ACHAC, which was held at the Quai Branly Museum in Paris in 2011/12. Three additional posters focusing on the Scottish context have been specially commissioned for this Scottish tour and a longer blog post will follow…

At the end of last year, Cristina Johnston was involved in organising the Stirling-based component of ATLAS’s week-long translation workshops. The workshop brought together a group of translators working between French and English, giving them an opportunity to focus on the translation of a range of articles and chapters under the ‘Translating History’ umbrella and under the expert guidance of Stirling’s Emerita Professor Siân Reynolds (translator, among many other things, of the crime fiction of Fred Vargas) and experienced translator Diane Meur. Workshop participants were also given the opportunity to talk to students on our postgraduate Translation Studies programmes and to visit Stirling’s own Pathfoot Press, courtesy of Kelsey Jackson Williams.

2018 Staff Updates Cris Film Matters Cover Feb18The dossier on ‘Cinema and Childhood’ Cristina coordinated with contributions from a group of Stirling undergraduates (past and present) was also published towards the end of last year in Intellect’s journal of undergraduate film scholarship Film Matters. The dossier contains articles on representations of ‘Orphan Annie’ by Hayley J.  Burrell, a comparison of La Vita è bella and The Boy in the Stripded Pyjamas by Floriana Guerra, an examination of children and the destruction of innocence in WWII films by Laura Jones, analysis of ‘children as the uncanny’ in The White Ribbon from Regina Mosch, Ralitsa Shentova’s exploration of girlhood, fairytales and reality through Atonement and Crows, Lewis Urquhart’s essay on ‘concealed childhoods’ in Caché and Conor Syme’s reflections on childhood faith in science fiction. A fantastic set of articles by some impressive future film scholars!

2018 Staff Updates Elizabeth Cinema of Things Cover Feb18Elizabeth Ezra’s book The Cinema of Things was published by Bloomsbury in early November last year, and her updated chapter on ‘The Cinemising Process: Film-Going in the Silent Era’ is in the 2nd edition of The French Cinema Book just out from the BFI. And, as Elizabeth launches her new option module on Children’s Literature, we’re particularly pleased to be able to sing the praises of her children’s novel Ruby McCracken: Tragic without Magic which was named by The Herald as ‘One of the Nine Best Books for Children and Teenagers’ in its Christmas 2017 round-up. The novel also won the 2016 Kelpies Award for New Scottish Writing for Children.

Bill Marshall – whose ‘Cinéma-Monde’ conference will take place in Stirling at the end of May – was recently invited to the University of Vienna where he gave a talk entitled ‘Quebec Cinema as Global Cinema?’ and, later this month, he will be at UNISA (South Africa) where he will deliver a keynote on ‘Deleuze, Guattari, Hocquenghem: Anti-Oedipal Texts and Minor Cinemas’ as part of their February Lectures on ‘Queer Life in the Global South.’

2018 Staff Updates Bill Poster Vienna Feb18

And our Language Team (Jean-Michel DesJacques, Mathilde Mazau and Brigitte Depret) continue their hard work updating our language programmes, including our new format of oral and aural teaching for final year students which enables them to benefit from weekly 15-minute paired sessions, as well as more standard classroom-based conversation practice.

More to follow on much of the above as the blog continues its revival!

Publications, progress reviews and teaching: a year in the life of a PhD student

This semester seems to be flying past and it doesn’t entirely seem possible that we should already be a week or so away from our mid-semester break. Our Year 1 students have just received feedback on the essays they wrote as part of our package of Bridging Materials, assessment deadlines are starting to fall for this semester’s modules, the schedule of films for Stirling’s section of the French Film Festival has made its way into the MacRobert programme… Against that busy backdrop, it’s good to get a chance to reflect on what a year in the life of French at Stirling can look like, from the perspective of one of our PhD students, Fraser McQueen who has very kindly made time to send us this blog post:

“I came back to Stirling to start my Ph.D in French Studies in October 2016, having originally graduated with a degree in French and History in 2014 before going to St Andrews to do an MLitt in French Studies and then spending a year teaching English as a lecteur at the Université de Toulon. I came back to Stirling mostly because I thought that it was the best place in Scotland for my project, given the department’s strategic focus on colonial and postcolonial studies, but also because I’d enjoyed my time here before. If it seems like a year is a long time to leave it before writing a blog post, I’m the only one to blame: I’ve been promising to do this for several months now!

I’ve just passed the first year review of my Ph.D, which means that I’m officially allowed to progress into the second year: the review process, during which I had to answer questions from three academics on the work I’ve produced so far, was quite stressful but also very helfpul in showing me the areas in which I still have a lot of work to do.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. I research representations of Islamophobia and coexistence in contemporary French literature and film: I believe that this is an extremely important subject, and it’s been great to have the chance to research it in depth.

I’ve also enjoyed the other opportunities that come with doing a Ph.D: I’ve presented at three conferences and had four articles published in The Conversation, a news and opinion website via which academics from Ph.D level upwards are able to share their research with a non-specialist audience. This is something that I’ve particularly enjoyed: I think that it’s important to communicate academic research to people outside of academia, particularly with projects like mine, and The Conversation is a great way to do that. Writing for non-specialists has also really helped me to write more clearly: I used to have a bad habit of writing huge sentences filled with jargon, which their professional editors wouldn’t allow. Although I can’t use the exact same style for my academic writing as I would in The Conversation, the experience of needing to be more concise has definitely helped and I’d strongly recommend that other Ph.D students try writing for them.

I also had my first journal article published in Modern and Contemporary France last week, which I’m really pleased with. Getting it through peer review was a very long process – I originally submitted it last November – but I feel that the article is much better for it. I also had a book review published in Modern and Contemporary France earlier in the year, and am now working on another journal article which I hope to submit elsewhere in the next month or so. I’m enjoying all of this, but trying to balance it all out with actually doing my research and writing my thesis can be tricky at times!

Problems balancing my workload and the occasional stress of writing to one side, though, I’ve really enjoyed the first year of my Ph.D. Over the next year I’m hoping to get draft versions of four of my thesis chapters written: it’ll be a challenge, especially given that I’m now also teaching undergraduates, but it’s one that I’m looking forward to.”

Many thanks to Fraser for taking the time to write this and congratulations on the progress review success, as well as on the publications front!