Staff Research Seminars and Workshops
Interim Director: Professor Mairtin Mac an Ghaill
Research seminars and workshops begin at 4.30pm (unless stated otherwise) and are intended to last for approximately one hour.
All members of staff and postgraduate research students are welcome to attend.
SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS TO BE HELD IN ACADEMIC YEAR 2012-13
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Nonreligious Parents and Church Schools: theoretical light from methodological opacity
Dr Daniel Whisker
‘New Age’ spirituality, social ‘superdiversity’, genealogies of 'secularism' and, recently, the sociology of the 'Fuzzy Middle' have undermined the once-dominant ‘secularization thesis’ in the sociology of religion, thus straining traditional sociological categories of ‘religion’ itself.
The disproportionality between ever-declining church attendance and continued mass-attendance at faith schools marks the meeting of secular or nominally religious parents and church/school communities as a fruitful site of inquiry into issues of (non)religious identity and transformation.
A central methodological problem is the hiddenness of so-called ‘catchment Christians’. This seminar explores the implications of the problem for theoretical accounts of religion and secularity, and for research practice.
Dan Whisker works in Birmingham secondary schools and is a Visiting Research Fellow at Newman University.
Wednesday 5 June 2013
Subject and speaker to be confirmed
SEMINARS AND WORKSHOPS HELD IN ACADEMIC YEAR 2012-13
11 October 2012
Research Ethics Approval at Newman
Professor Yahya Al-Nakeeb
This workshop explained Newman practice, including if and when students need to seek research ethics approval for their work.
17 October 2012
The New Testament in its Jewish Context: Literary Structures and Genre
Dr Susan Docherty
This seminar came out of Dr Docherty’s current involvement with a large-scale project investigating the literary structures of ancient Jewish writings, including the books of the Hebrew Bible, the Dead Sea Scrolls and some early rabbinic works. The project team have developed an inventory to help identify and record key structural features.
Dr Docherty introduced this inventory tool, and explained how she is now seeking to apply it to the books of the New Testament in order to draw out comparisons between the literary features and genres of early Christian and early Jewish texts. The case study was the Acts of the Apostles.
22 October 2012
Working with Young People as Co-inquirers in Research that Explores Issues of Sexual Abuse and Neglect
Emeritus Professor Stan Tucker
This seminar explored the challenges faced in undertaking research work that examines issues of abuse and neglect, with young people acting in the role of co-inquirer. Based on a research process devised to support a qualitative study exploring why young people think they are frequently not believed when they report abuse and neglect, consideration was given to the issues encountered in facilitating the direct involvement of young people in research of this nature.
Consideration was given to how young people were actively recruited to the co-inquirer role, the scope of the work they undertook and the strong ethical framework that had to be put in place to support their participation. It was argued that the involvement of young people as co-inquirers has to take account of their experiences, feelings and reactions to the demands of such work. It was also acknowledged that work of this nature can be extremely demanding especially when those involved have themselves been the victims of abuse and neglect.
An account of the published work arising out of the research can be found at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2012.704988
24 October 2012
James Bond: International Man of Gastronomy?
Dr Jeremy Strong (Writtle College, Chelmsford)
In real life, of course, it is axiomatic that secret agents be secret. To operate otherwise is at least a professional failure, at worst a mortal one. Thankfully, fiction has quite opposite imperatives and Britain’s most celebrated secret agent may be appraised in terms of his fame across a media spectrum that includes novels, radio, comic strip, movies and computer games. Doing so, it would be difficult to counter the view that it is on film that James Bond has achieved his greatest stardom. Successive actors have played the role across five decades and twenty-two movies in what is, perhaps, cinema’s most enduring franchise. Yet, as Edward Biddulph observes in his essay ‘"Bond Was Not a Gourmet": An Archaeology of James Bond’s Diet’ the films ‘barely feature his taking nourishment’ though they have certainly cemented our awareness of his taste for a well prepared vodka martini.
The Bond of the novels is distinguished by the importance he affords to the items he purchases, is issued, or otherwise consumes. Detailed description and specific reference to manufacturers, modifications and technical specifications are recurring features of the stories. However, it is in the meals that Bond eats that author Ian Fleming, through the food choices of his character, most consistently and fully seeks to articulate his taste, knowledge and discernment. It is the nature of those meals, their place in Bond’s overall scheme of preferences, and their connection to Fleming’s authorial worldview – especially as it pertains to nationality and race – that forms the topic.
Food is an important aspect of the pleasure to be taken in the James Bond novels. It is more than an incidental pleasure. Bond’s culinary choices, and those meals he has chosen for him, form a substantial strand of his characterisation as a worldly, cultivated, individual as well as a man of violence where necessary, and passion when possible. Though ostensibly indicative of divergent components of his personality, of a discriminating near-fastidious side versus an instinctive animal side, they are in truth inextricably bound. For across all the novels and short stories Fleming frames Bond’s exercise of his professional functions and physical needs – of spying, killing, eating, drinking, copulating – in terms of the ceaseless application of specialist, even arcane, knowledge to the task in hand. Critical appraisal of women’s bodies, familiarity with human pressure points (applicable to lovers and adversaries alike), the ability to recognize different perfumes, expert driving, an understanding of how a dish or drink should be made, and knowing the correct place to find it, all cohere in an unlikely raft of learning in which recognizing ‘the best’ is an endlessly repeated figure. As improbable skill-sets go, nobody does it better.
15 November 2012
What’s going on? Teacher education policy in England
Professor Ian Menter (Kellogg College, University of Oxford)
Since the election of the Coalition Government in May 2010, we have seen a major White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, followed by an implementation plan and a number of significant developments. These include the expansion of Teach First, the creation of School Direct, teaching schools and University Training Schools. There sometimes appears to be something of a pendulum swinging somewhat extremely from attacks on the contribution made by higher education through to serious concerns about the sustainability of heavily school-based teacher education.
In this seminar Ian Menter offered an analysis of recent developments, locating them within the longer term trajectory of neoliberal education policies favoured by the English governments since the 1980s and relating them to trends in teacher education elsewhere in the UK and internationally.
29 November 2012
Division, discord and dilapidations: the English parish church during the Civil War and Interregnum
Dr Fiona McCall
In popular perception the English parish church is a peaceful, unchanging feature of the local landscape. But in the mid-seventeenth century it was often not so tranquil. It was too important for that – a space which acted as a central reference point not just for religious practice, but for the whole public life of the local community, its monuments and seating arrangements providing a visual statement of the dynamics of local power. Consequently, during the English Civil War and Interregnum, when both political structures and religious practices were fractured and challenged, many parish churches witnessed scenes of conflict and controversy, from attacks on conservative incumbents by parishioners during the early 1640s, to occasions where congregations rose to defend incumbents against invading soldiers during the Civil War, to fights between rival incumbents or factions for control of the pulpit during the 1650s and at the Restoration.
This seminar looked at the conflicts which took place in parish churches during this period, focusing in particular on Dr McCall’s research (contained in her forthcoming book Baal’s Priests (Ashgate)) into the experiences of the Church of England clergy, and their families, who suffered during these times for their support for the losing royalist side, and the traditional practices of the Church of England.
5 December 2012
Women Primary Teachers and their learning: stories of policy demands and personal dispositions
Dr Ann Rae
Education policy in Scotland has developed with an aim to support and structure teacher learning (GTCS, 2006). Yet often overlooked in discussion of teachers as learners is the influence of habitus (Bourdieu, 1990). In Scotland, 92% of Primary Teachers are women and, notably, teaching is still often constructed as a ‘caring’ rather than an intellectual profession (Skelton and Francis, 2009). At a time when there are increasing demands for ‘highly qualified teachers’, this study highlighted the competing nature of some of the discourses which influenced and shaped the study women’s understandings and performances as learners.
Bourdieu, P., 1990. The logic of practice. Cambridge: Polity Press
General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), 2006. The standard for full registration. Edinburgh: GTCS.
Skelton, C and Francis, B., 2009. Feminism and ‘The schooling scandal’. Abingdon: Routledge
30 January 2013
Birmingham Improvisers’ Orchestra – phases of a large scale improvising ensemble
Mr Bruce Coates
Birmingham Improvisers’ Orchestra (BIO) was founded in 2005 by Mike Hurley and Bruce Coates to create a focus for creative music making in Birmingham and the wider Midlands area. The orchestra draws on a large pool of musical talent and experience and features a diverse array of musicians who are primarily concerned with improvisation regardless of their particular chosen area of musical activity.
This seminar examined identifiable phases in the development of the orchestra from co-operative unfunded ensemble to more recent collaborative and semi-funded projects.
20 February 2013
Drowning in Renaissance Literature and Culture
Professor Claire Jowitt (Southampton University)
‘And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.’ (Genesis 6. 17)
This quotation, from the King James Bible, is perhaps the most well-known example of mass-drowning, and it establishes drowning as divinely ordained punishment for the ‘wickedness of man’ (Genesis 6. 5). In fact drowning as punishment was also a common topoi in classical literature where key stories such as that of Icarus, who drowned when attempting to fly, established death by water as punishment for those that over-reach. By the Renaissance, the punishment of drowning was more commonly enacted on women as ‘ordeal by water’ was used as a test for witchcraft.
Other narratives view death by drowning rather differently: the Byzantine story of Leander’s death by drowning when attempting to swim the Hellespont to visit his lover Hero, and her subsequent suicide through drowning on seeing his body, has been variously treated by Renaissance writers as they re-tell the lovers’ tragic story, including versions by Christopher Marlowe (c.1593), George Chapman (1598), and Ben Jonson, who includes a puppet show of Hero and Leander’s story, with the Thames as the Hellespont, in Bartholomew Fair (1614). Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s famous declaration while reading a book, thought to be the Bible, ‘We are as near to heaven, by sea as by land’ (Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations, 1598-1600), as he was about to die by drowning when his ship, the Squirrel, was lost at sea on the return leg of his voyage to Newfoundland in 1583, has been widely read both as an example of Christian fortitude and as emblematic of the legitimacy of English imperialism.
The variety of ways drowning was interpreted by Renaissance writers is the subject of this paper. Characters who drown, and tales of drowning, populate Renaissance literature and culture. In Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, Clarence drowns in Richard III (c.1591), as does Ophelia in Hamlet (c.1599-1602). Yet drowning could also be deployed with a lighter touch, for instance in Walter Smith’s trickster text The Twelve Merry Jests of the Widow Edith (1525), where the vagrant Edith merely pretends to drown in the Thames in order to financially gain from those around her. What this seminar sought to establish was an understanding of the ways drowning was understood in the Renaissance, and to explore the variety of cultural uses to which it could be put.
20 March 2013
Working with street violence through detached work
Mr Mike Seal & Mr Pete Harris
Historically, the theoretical (especially sociological) understanding of street violence is reasonably well established. Much less focus has been given to the examination of the interventions made by professionals in this area and how these interventions are experienced by those young people involved in, or affected by, street violence. The youth work team at Newman are engaged in a participatory project that aims to examine, and thereby improve, the contribution street-based youth work can make in working with street violence.
This seminar explored some of the emerging findings of the research. We believe that workers should intervene at a personal, community and a structural level and themes have emerged around collusion vs confrontation, the nature of relationships around issues like trust, respect and loyalty and challenging structural and symbolic violence.
18 April 2013
The search for Richard III – wounds and weapons
Professor Sarah Hainsworth (University of Leicester)
The University of Leicester Archaeological Services team led by Richard Buckley conducted the search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society. In September 2012, the site of the Grey Friars church was located in a council car park in Leicester city centre. Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485.
Two skeletons were found by the archaeology team, one a fully articulated set of male remains and the other a disarticulated female skeleton. The male skeleton was found in the choir area of the church, this is an area where people of high status were usually buried. The female remains were found in the presbytery. The remains were excavated by Dr Turi King from the Department of Genetics along with Dr Jo Appleby and Matthew Morris from the Department of Archaeology.
So why did we think that it was Richard III?
1. The remains are that of an adult male.
2. The choir is the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III. John Rous reports that Richard ‘at last was buried in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester’.
3. The skeleton has a number of injuries to the skull consistent with having been made by a bladed instrument.
4. The skeleton found in the choir area has spinal abnormalities consistent with someone having severe scoliosis (a curved spine – not a hunchback as Richard is sometimes depicted as being).
Subsequent DNA analysis has confirmed that the skeleton is indeed that of King Richard III.
The Department of Engineering’s expertise is analyzing tool marks in cases involving dismemberment using advanced techniques such as micro-computed tomography and microscopy such as environmental scanning electron microscopy and stereo microscopy. These advanced techniques allow us to look at the details of striations, 3D profile and other fine details and link this to the probable tools or weapons that caused the injury. We work closely with the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit on recent cases (such as the Peter Tobin/Vicky Hamilton case) or older cases with the School of Archaeology and Ancient History. This talk discussed our contribution and showed some of our in depth analysis of the wounds and weapons.
1 May 2013
Representing young Muslim men as a ‘suspect community’: Religion, masculinity and social/cultural exclusions
Professor Máirtín Mac an Ghaill
This seminar emerged out of the Children, Young People and Families Research Centre conference ‘Growing Up in Britain’ held at Newman in September 2012. One important theme identified was the impact of contemporary social inequalities and cultural difference on young people’s lives.
Reporting from a three year ethnographic study, Professor Mac an Ghaill addressed three questions. What does it mean to be a young Muslim man in Birmingham? How has racial stereotyping of young Muslim men in the media and schools shifted in recent years? Is the notion of racialization more appropriate than Islamophobia to explain the multiple oppressions experienced by the Muslim community?
The discussion was situated within the context of minorities’ experiences of Newman’s pedagogy and general university life.