Gender and Otherness in the Humanities (GOTH)

Interview with (Peg) M A Katritzky, Senior Research Fellow, Department of English & Creative Writing

Can you tell me more about Gender and Otherness in the Humanities (GOTH)?

In 2019, GiTH (Gender in the Humanities) a research group active in the Arts Faculty of The Open University from around 1990 to 2013, was relaunched as GOTH (The Centre for Research into Gender and Otherness in the Humanities). A substantial US award funded the launching of GOTH as a Research Centre based in the OU’s School of Arts and Humanities, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and a three year GOTH Doctoral Studentship, awarded to Chris Dobson in 2020.

Our annual programme of events, planned and guided by our Committee and Advisory Board, is designed to appeal at various levels. We support OU researchers and postgraduates with specialist interests wishing to strengthen their interdisciplinary network; additionally, we welcome all OU employees and postgraduates with more general GOTH-related interests wishing to meet colleagues and enjoy a cultural experience, at whatever level of engagement. GOTH currently has more than 50 members.

Are you talking about the Humanities at any time, or is there a focus in terms of historical period?

We welcome collaboration with the Faculty’s historically focused research groups, such as those for the Classical, Medieval & Early Modern and Post-Colonial periods. Rather than having a specific historical focus, we aim to support members’ GOTH-related research interests. In connection with one of these, ShAC, I published a book chapter (“Margaret Cavendish’s Female Fairground Performers”) in The Palgrave Handbook of the History of Women on Stage, 2020 (see publicity poster with Bernardine Evaristo below). GOTH provides a platform for members’ research bids, and has recently submitted a GOTH-based bid for European funding for EURO-PPP (Trans-European Performance, Practice and Patronage as Cultural Heritage). If successful, this collaborative international three year project will examine live travelling performance of every period, with particular emphasis on the present.

Poster for The Palgrave Handbook of the History of Women on Stage, 2020

What events are you holding online? Are there ways in which lockdown and online meetings gives a group like GOTH greater global reach?

For now, we are adapting our regular events to the pandemic by going online with our entire events programme, and maximizing current opportunities to attract inspirational overseas presenters and widen participation:

* The live performances at our October 2019 launch party led to requests for more live theatre visits. While that’s on hold, Christine Plastow led an October 2020 online viewing of the recorded livestreamed production of By Jove Theatre Company’s Medea LIVE, followed by lively online discussion; more performances will follow.

* Our first Reading Group (‘Nationalism and Feminism’) was a live event led by Suman Gupta in January 2020; on 3 December 2020, Francesca Benatti will go online with our second Reading Group (‘Digital Comics’).

* Similarly, the first GOTH / Health & Wellbeing PRA Joint Annual NetWorkshop was held live in January 2020, with around 20 delegates enjoying excellent presentations by PG Kim Pratt and postdoc Sally Blackburn-Daniels, and an informative funding workshop led by Shaf Towheed (English) and Gaynor Henry-Edwards (WELS), followed by a Research Showcase of members’ recent publications and funding successes. The second Joint Annual NetWorkshop (4 Feb 2021), featuring OU speakers Sophie-Grace Chappell (keynote, Philosophy) and Naomi Barker (Music) will be online.

* Our inaugural GOTH Awayday was to Hardwick Hall in May 2019. Plans for London Awaydays led by Clare Taylor and Gemma Allen are on hold while the Committee explores options for moving our Awaydays online.

* The Annual GOTH Research Symposia, funded by a modest US follow-on award in 2020, were planned as specialist invitation-only residential research workshops. The first (20-21 May 2021) has moved online; we are honoured that GOTH board member Noémie Ndiaye (University of Chicago) has agreed to present the keynote.

* An exciting new development is the monthly GOTH PG Forum. Postgraduate convenors Chris Dobson and Sharon Wiseman (English) and Kim Pratt (Classics) welcome all OU postgraduates with GOTH-related interests on the first Thursday of each month. They first met on 5 November 2020; future activities include a takeaway party on December 3.

What would you like to see GOTH achieve?

Essentially, GOTH seeks to promote an awareness of the centrality of diversity to an understanding of the humanities, both within the OU and in society more broadly. We aim to support the GOTH-related activities and interdisciplinary exchanges of OU colleagues and postgraduates. More generally, we seek to continue the OU tradition of providing conventional academic institutions with helpful templates for online events, ever more relevant in the current circumstances.

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