Calling all Postgraduate Students

The postgraduate years can be likened to the moment when the river is just about to flow into the ocean. It can be overwhelming, it can be lonely, and it can definitely be hard work to try and keep your head just above the water.

To help ease the process and to make it more tolerable, the BAFTSS Postgraduate Student Network is set up with the aim to encourage further postgraduate involvement with the activities of BAFTSS. At least one postgraduate student is co-opted into the Executive Committee to represent the interests of both postgraduate research and taught students. Currently, there are two postgraduate representatives: MaoHui Deng (University of Manchester) and Marta F. Suarez (Liverpool John Moore University).

We have started a Twitter account – @baftsspg – and we hope that the account will become the main platform for everyone to engage in general conversations about being a postgraduate student, and also as a platform for everyone to share their research process/pains/findings if they so wish. It will also be a good place to disseminate information on any conferences, research seminars, or one-off events that you think might be off interest to anyone. To facilitate discussions across the Twittersphere, send your tweets using the hashtag #baftsspg and we can get the conversation going. Alternatively, you can drop us an email and we can post a tweet on your behalf.

Currently, BAFTSS runs a Postgraduate Events Funding Competition which is designed to help facilitate postgraduate-led events (conferences, symposia, and training workshops, to name just a few). The next deadline is the 1st of April 2017. You can find more information about the competition via here.

In addition to the competition, we are very keen to let the postgraduate community have a more substantial presence in BAFTSS and we would really like to hear from you to see what we can do to get more postgraduate students involved. You can contact us via the @baftsspg Twitter account. Likewise, you can also contact Mao via maohui.deng@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk or on Twitter @dengmaohui. You can contact Marta via m.suarez@ljmu.ac.uk or on Twitter @MartaFSuarez. We look forward to hearing from everyone soon.

For a Slow Academia, by Elena Caoduro

 

Recommended to me over the summer, but put aside in favour of the more escapist saga by Elena Ferrante, I eventually finished reading the much debated The Slow Professor. Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber. This fresh and inspiring short book has been food for thought while completing appraisal forms, workload planning and documents for my probation meeting. Early career academics and more senior scholars, but most importantly those in leadership roles within our universities, should familiarize with the analysis of the current state of academia offered by Berg and Seeber.

 

Taking inspiration from the principles of the slow movement (in particular the Slow Food one), and applying them to the higher education sector, the two ‘slow professors’ take a stance against the frantic speed and endemic problems of isolation, time poverty and anxiety in the academy. As a sort of manifesto and self-help book, but supported by evidence of a variety of studies on the job-related stress and burnout of academics, Berg and Seeber propose strategies to maximise the pleasure in teaching, research and administrative duties and resist the ‘supermarket’ model in North American universities. Slow down is the mantra: take extra time to read and to listen to students, to go to libraries and learn to say ‘no’.

 

The Slow Professor certainly offers useful advice to make work less stressful and pinpoints some systemic fragilities in universities, which are equally present in the UK. However, I am left with a doubt that the suggested strategies come at a price. Berg and Seeber are honest as they acknowledge their position of protection as tenured professors and feel that they have an obligation to improve the working climate for all the spectrum of academic position (ix). I wonder whether what they predicate is in reality a perpetuation of reaching a position of privilege. If the (tenured) professors slow down, who is covering for the faculty meetings, the various committees and the extra seminars? How can we resist the speed and find strategies that won’t impact the assistant professors/lecturers or the hourly paid/fixed term lecturers and in the end the experience of our students?

 

So, I would like to open up the debate and invite BAFTSS members to discuss strategies of deceleration that can really improve the life of all of us. Join me for a chat on Twitter on Monday 7th of November at 6pm @baftss @elena_caoduro #slowacademia.

 

 

Anna Claydon on the BAFTSS Teaching & Learning Network

BAFTSS takes teaching and learning seriously and, to this end, we have launched the BAFTSS Teaching and Learning Network during the summer of 2016. It is still early days but plans afoot include: creating a screen studies specific bank of reflections and ideas about teaching; an annual standing session at the April BAFTSS conference where network members can report on their innovative work; an annual September workshop meeting to think about ideas more creatively; supporting colleagues developing HEA fellowship applications and mentoring those who seek it; a network specific newsletter for email and potentially a blog on the BAFTSS website; and as of now, the new @BAFTSSTandLNet on twitter. Go, find us and follow. If you’d like to be on the network email list and haven’t already contacted us, email the co-ordinator Anna at eac14@le.ac.uk. The first network email will go out on Monday 10th.

So, what are we about? We held our first forum meeting at the beginning of September and agreed our mission statement as being:

The BAFTSS Teaching and Learning Network believes that the highest quality teaching comes not only from innovation but also sharing and learning from each other’s good practice. It is open to all people teaching in HE, including PhD students and part-time staff as well as full-time academics, regardless of their career stage. As such we aim to:

  • Create a bank of best practice in the teaching of film, television and screen studies;
  • Provide a collaborative context for discussing colleagues’ ideas and challenges;
  • Ensure that the sharing of experience helps encourage colleagues’ continuing professional development; and
  • Disseminate best practice in our fields through networking and development opportunities.

Therefore, in the spirit of collecting best practice stories together, of if there is something you’d like to report on as part of the BAFTSS Teaching and Learning Network Panel at the Conference in April, pop us an email about conference ideas or post on the twitter feed (you can include links to website  and photos of your teaching exploits). We’ll also be having a monthly theme on the twitter feed: this month’s is about encourage students’ interest in older films. Do share!

 

Anna Claydon, BAFTSS Teaching and Learning Network Co-ordinator

Joe Andrew on Ken Loach’s Days of Hope

As a bit of light relief over the summer I spent several pleasant evenings watching again the Ken Loach / Jim Allen miniseries from 1975, Days of Hope. It’s a set of four feature-length films which cover the trials and tribulations of the English working class over a 10 year period, from the Great War to the General Strike of 1926.

I was struck by several intriguing aspects of the films. Most generally, as the first fully fledged overtly political films from Loach, Days of Hope set the agenda that will run through much of his work over the last 40 years. The victories (the ‘hopes’) of ‘ordinary working people’ are short-lived, and defeat is the more common denouement of the Loachian plot. There is also a, in my view, rather naive apparent espousal of Leninism.

Watching them during the latest bout of internecine strife within the Labour Party, the films seemed remarkably topical. Especially in the third film, set in 1924 during the troubled days of the first ever Labour government, Allen and Loach capture very well the sense of near paranoia that existed (and exists?) between the different factions of the Labour movement, with the sympathetic ‘centrist’, newly elected Labour MP accused of class treachery and betrayal by his own brother-in-law, a member of the then quite strong Communist Party. Corbynistas and their opponents could both learn much from the films’ lessons in history.

Perhaps the most significant, and perhaps slightly surprising aspect of the films for me, though, was the enduring interest that war has held for Ken Loach. We can see this thread first emerge here in the opening film, ‘1916: Joining Up’, to be picked up repeatedly in later films like Land and Freedom (1995), Carla’s Song (1996), The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006), and his Iraq War film, Route Irish (2010). Even more specifically, and looking back to the miniseries as a whole, it is civil war, in a broad reading of that phrase, that seems of especial concern to the director. An interesting PhD topic for someone perhaps?!

Joe Andrew

After the conference

The conference was a great success, with fascinating keynotes given by Mireille Rosello and John Akomfrah. I will soon be posting photos of the conference, as well as the more formal documents from the Executive Committee. As a taster, here is a photo of the winner of the BAFTSS Best Monograph Award, Helen Piper, receiving her certificate. Next year’s conference will be in Bristol, in the Department’s brand new premises opened this week. Phil Powrie

Best Monograph 2015 Helen Piper

BAFTSS Conference

Our fourth annual conference begins tomorrow at the University of Reading. We hope to see you there. Our two keynotes are theorist Mireille Rosello (University of Amsterdam) and filmmaker John Akomfrah, who will be given an Outstanding Achievement Award on Saturday. Go to the conference page for more details.