Flashpoints: Key Moments in Research

PGR-led Colloquium with presentations from current PCI doctoral students, alumni, and staff

The event will be live in person (starting at 1pm) and also on Zoom (online audience is welcome to join at any point from 1:45pm on). In order to join online, register for the event and the zoom link will be sent to you with the confirmation email.

Post-Graduate Research students from the School of Performance and Cultural Industries are excited to invite you to their annual colloquium to share research, ideas and practices. This year theme is Flashpoints.

What's a flashpoint? 

  • a critical point or stage at which something or someone suddenly causes or creates some significant action
  • the lowest temperature at which a liquid in a specified apparatus will give off sufficient vapor to ignite momentarily on application of a flame a critical situation or area having the potential of erupting in sudden violence
  • a pivotal moment when one's research shifted

The Colloquium will start with an in-person workshop (1pm-1:30pm), followed by in-person and online presentations by PCI PGRs and Staff (1:45pm-4:00pm), and end with the two keynotes and discussion (4:15pm-6pm).

The keynote speakers will be Dr. Rachel Hann with her talk ‘Second wave practice research (the return)’ and Prof. Eleonora Belfiore with her talk 'Shaped by conversation: a personal reflection on the importance of collaboration'.

Colloquium Schedule 

1:00pm-1:30pm Introduction Workshop

Xueting Luo: Dancing in Poetic Nature (in-person workshop)

1:30pm-1:45pm Break and Refreshments

1:45pm-2:45pm Session 1

Tennae Maki: The AD Complex (15min presentation, in person)

Vanessa Arias Bujía: Social Media: Post-digital Museums and the Democratising Debate (5min wildcard, in person)

Kate Morton: Stones in my Shoe (15min presentation, in person)

Dionysia Bouzioti Performance as Film and Training as Therapy (5min wildcard, online)

2:45pm-3:00pm Break and Refreshments

3:00pm-4:00pm Session 2

Chiedza Chinhanu: The changing dynamics of ethics and safety in applied theatre: The case of women in prisons in Zimbabwe (15min presentation, online)

Qianyu Woonie Wang: Neoliberal feminism in China: the case of social media influencers (15min presentation, in person)

Dr. Haili Ma: Song of the Female Textile Workers, past, present and the future: UK-China Performance and the Creative Economy (10min presentation, online)

4:00pm-4:15pm Break and Refreshments

4:15pm-6:00pm Keynote Session

Dr. Rachel Hann Second wave practice research: The return (Keynote, in person)

Prof. Eleonora Belfiore Shaped by conversation: a personal reflection on the importance of collaboration (Keynote, online)

Dr. Rachel Hann is Senior Lecturer in Performance and Design at Northumbria University, Newcastle. Her research is focused on the material cultures of scenography, trans performance, and climate crisis. She is the author of Beyond Scenography (Routledge 2019), which was shortlisted for the Prague Quadrennial 2019 Publication Prize. In 2013, Rachel co-founded the research network Critical Costume and in 2014 co-edited a special issue of Scene (Intellect) on costume.

In 2016, she proposed ‘second wave practice research’ to account for shifts in academic knowledge cultures, which led to invited seminars and consultancy roles at 14 universities. Rachel’s leadership activities were recognised in her shortlisting for the Theatre and Performance Research Association (TaPRA) Early Career Prize 2017 for 'leadership in costume and practice research'.

More recently, Rachel has also started publishing on trans performance including a forthcoming chapter on gender-assemblages and the drag artist Sin Wai Kin. At the University of Leeds, Rachel’s PaR PhD thesis employed computer-based 3D visualization as a research method to investigate unrealized utopian theatre architecture (see utopiantheatres.co.uk).

Keynote abstract:

Practice-as-Research (PaR) has arguably entered a new phase of development and maturity. I argue that the ‘first wave’ of PaR debate was centred on the right to conduct research through practice and have this recognised within institutional frameworks.

PaR PhDs in the UK are now commonplace and governmental research assessment exercises, such as the REF, readily accept PaR as an established research method. In order to celebrate and consolidate these achievements, I propose that a second wave of PaR discussions should be concerned with questions of accessibility and peer review.

A second wave approach adopts the notions of ‘Practice Research’, which avoids the micro-politics of practice as/through/based/led and focuses on the wider issues related to how researchers share, apply and critique knowledge borne of practice. A second wave is also a call for an active ecology for sharing and critiquing practice research that is open and accessible to long-term debate. This second position, using the language of the REF, questions how ‘effectively shared’ is practice research when the full portfolio of evidence is directed towards the needs of the REF panel rather than the discipline at large.

While elements of the portfolio will have been shared in a range of fora, the curated portfolio that presents the ‘full’ argument and materials required to assess the knowledge claims are, more often than not, for the eyes of the REF panel only. Lastly, I argue that current methods of sharing PaR are a symptom of these administrative structures.

My argument for a second wave of practice research calls for a re-focusing on how this work is effectively shared with the discipline more broadly.

Paradoxically, a consequence of the first wave is that practice research arguably now sustains a privileged position within our administrative structures: a position that can act to isolate these knowledge claims from the critical ecologies of peer review and long-term critique. As a researcher who undertook a PaR PhD, I am overtly aware that it is only in recent years that commitments have been made to offer sustainable platforms for non-conventional research outcomes. Yet, these (mostly online) platforms require sustainable and steady funding streams to ensure the long-term accessibility. Dead hyperlinks are an academic crime.

This points to a second paradox of practice research and one that I confront as part of a second wave debate: that practice is ‘for the now’, both temporally and politically. Following by the declarations of Phelan (1993), the first wave of practice research focused on the fleeting temporality of knowledge epistemologies with little commitment to long-term critical ecologies.

Practice research seems bound for a future of repeating itself, relying on verbal histories shared between academic generations. To paraphrase former REF Panel D Chair Bruce Brown, the argument for practice research has been won. My proposal for a second wave of practice research builds upon this administrative ‘win’ to re-orientate the debate towards the long-term accessibility of knowledge claims evidenced through practice.

Prof. Eleonora (or Ele) Belfiore has joined the University of Aberdeen in January 2022 from Loughborough University, where she was Co-Director of the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture.

At Aberdeen, she is the inaugural Director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Social Inclusion and Cultural Diversity, one of five new, ambitious, interdisciplinary research centres that will address the great challenges that face the world, our climate, our economy and our society. She has published extensively on cultural politics and policy, and particularly the place that notions of the ‘social impacts’ of the arts have had in British cultural policy discourses. She is one of the world leading scholars in cultural value research.

For Palgrave, she edits the book series New Directions in Cultural Policy Research, which has published 16 volumes to date, and she is Co-Editor in Chief journal Cultural Trends. Ele is currently researching the labour conditions of socially engaged arts practice and the role of the creative industries for development in Ghana.

Ele is committed to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in Higher Education, and she is one of the founding members of the Women In Academia Support Network, a trans-inclusive and intersectional charity that brings together over 12,000 women and non-binary members from across the world to support one another and pushes for gender parity and more equitable working conditions in Higher Education.

Keynote abstract:

In exploring the theme of flashbacks and 'key moments' in research, I will offer a personal set of reflections on the way in which my own research trajectory has been shaped, enriched and pretty much altered by the insight that I have gained through collaboration, and especially through collaborations with policy makers. I will argue that, for me, it was transformational to move from researching policy makers and their decision making to working more closely 'with' them