On 30th January 2020, GOTH held its first critical reading group and networking workshop in collaboration with the OU’s Health and Wellbeing PRA (Priority Research Area). The purpose of the day was to give members of GOTH and Health and Wellbeing an opportunity to meet each other and discuss current research, funding strategies, and recent publications, as well as joining in a critical discussion.
We began with a critical reading group on the subject of Feminism and Nationalism, led by GOTH Advisory Board member and Professor of Literature and Cultural History, Suman Gupta. Professor Gupta provided the group with two readings: Lois A. West’s chapter ‘Nation’ in the 2005 Blackwell Companion to Gender Studies, and the introduction to Sara R. Farris’ 2017 book In the Name of Women’s Rights: the Rise of Femonationalism. Discussion focused particularly on the latter contribution, as participants explored the intersections of feminist thought and anti-immigrant sentiment in additional contexts beyond those pointed out by Farris.
The reading group was followed by a networking lunch, where participants were able to meet each other informally and begin to learn about each other’s work. This was compounded in the session after lunch, a ‘lightning’ networking session during which each participant spoke for 2-3 minutes about their research interests and past and current work relevant to the group.
We then heard two short papers from GOTH members. The first speaker, Kim Pratt, a PhD student in Classical Studies, told us about her recent experience giving a talk about Classics in a prison in Staffordshire. Kim drew attention to the positive effect that such events, and studying in general, can have on prisoners. You can read more about Kim’s experience on the OU Classical Studies blog. The second speaker, Sally Blackburn-Daniels, a postdoctoral researcher in English, spoke to us about her work on Vernon Lee and a new production of Lee’s ‘Ballet of the Nations’, an allegorical satire about World War I. She also discussed Lee’s interest in anthropology and incorporation of element inspired by this interest in the original ballet.
The final session of the day was a panel on research funding, led by Dr Shaf Towheed of English and Gaynor Henry-Edwards of Health and Wellbeing. The panel presented useful information on approaches to funding and how to build a strategy around funding applications, as well as highlighting a number of funders that have current or open calls for applications for which participants in the workshop may be eligible to apply.
The workshop was a great opportunity for researchers from different areas of the university to get to know each other’s work and make useful connections for future projects. GOTH hopes to repeat these networking events on a yearly basis, in order to maintain a strong community of like-minded researchers across the OU and beyond.