‘No Man is an Island’: Reflections on our Research Collaboration

I am working here under the guidance of my Principal Investigator, Dr Louise Hardwick, so today she will introduce herself:

My name is Louise Hardwick and I’ve been a Lecturer in French at Birmingham for almost three years. I became interested in Francophone Caribbean literature during my Undergraduate study at the University of Oxford, and pursued this interest through postgraduate degrees at Oxford. This led to a postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge from 2008-2009, so I have recent first-hand experience of postdoctoral research myself… this Marie Curie Fellowship is an exciting opportunity to offer guidance to another young researcher and to develop our research projects collaboratively.

This Marie Curie award is my first experience of being Principal Investigator on a major collaborative project. Basically, it is my role to ensure Alessandro receives the skills and training he requires so that he can obtain his first permanent academic Lectureship. Over these first months of the project, we have had weekly meetings and frequent email contact (often daily!) so that I can advise him in the three main areas of academic activity: (1) research (2) teaching and (3) administration.

1) As far as research is concerned, I discuss Alessandro’s research ideas for conference papers and publications with him, helping him to develop them successfully through written and oral feedback: for example, I give advice on how to structure his arguments, or advice on important books by critics relating to his research. I also send Alessandro information about important conferences, and have invited him to participate on a number of international conference panels with me in the coming year. Moreover, we regularly discuss knowledge transfer strategies, thinking about how we can communicate our research to stakeholders outside academia, in the UK and internationally.

2) This semester, Alessandro has observed me lecturing and providing seminars at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level, to gain a better understanding of the UK University system and to draw comparisons with other systems he has experienced in Italy and France. It has been excellent to hear that he finds that Birmingham students prepare for seminars and lectures with great care and enthusiasm.

3) Regarding administrative roles, I advise Alessandro on the kinds of roles which academics undertake in the UK, which include

–          Module Design and Assessment

–          Preparation of teaching materials using Powerpoint and Audiovisual resources

–          Creating WebCT resources for our online virtual campus

–          Collating and taking account of Module Feedback

–          Setting and Marking formative work (which does not count towards a degree mark, but is essential practice and preparation for assessed work)

–          Examining: written exams, coursework, oral exams, aural exams in French and English, corresponding with our External Examiners

–          Admissions Activities and Open Days

–          Website design

–          Personal Tutoring and liaising with Student Support and Welfare contacts

–          Maintaining institutional digital research databases

–          Preparing administrative documents for the REF 2014 – the Research Excellence Framework, which is a national audit of UK research activity and is taking place at the moment

–          How to apply for funding – this usually requires academics to be trained in how to use complex online electronic application systems

–          Post-Award Funding administration e.g. timesheets

–          How to apply for academic jobs and keeping his Record of Progress/Career Development plan up-to-date

Our collaboration has got off to a busy, but very productive, start! We tend to hold our meetings in “Franglais”, and I am finding it fascinating to work in collaboration with someone else who shares my interest in Francophone Caribbean culture.


Édouard Glissant, the Colonial Body and Biopolitics

This is my abstract for the SFPS Annual Conference (University of London, 16 & 17 November 2012)

‘Rien n’est Vrai, tout est vivant is the title Édouard Glissant chose to give one of his last public speeches – held within the context of seminars organized by the Institut du Tout-monde in 2010. This philosophical-poetic intervention introduced a new concept within the spiraling nature of both his oeuvre and his thought: le vivant. Glissant’s poetry maintained a constant and fertile relationship with the most significant moments of contemporary thought, particularly that of French philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century. In a highly original manner, this decisive convergence toward an idea of living, in contrast with the notion of a trascendental and incorporeal Truth, connects to the contemporary debate on biopolitics.

Cap 110 Memorial, Anse Caffard, Martinique.

Drawing on the later reflections of Foucault, philosophers such as Deleuze, Nancy, Esposito, Agamben, Butler have argued for the complex relationship between life and form, body and power, the incommensurable potency of living and the structures of language and knowledge. These subjects show an evident connection to and a specific developement within a post-colonial and post-slavery context, and they are particulary evident in Glissant’s poetic and narrative production. Glissant’s thought and poetry, precisely due to his deep connection to the historic parabola of the African diaspora, slavery and colonial domination, have managed to shed new light on the relationship between the political horizon and that of ‘bare life’, in a deep connection between language and body. This paper argues that this relationship is particulary evident in his novels, where the governed and alienated colonial body is finally able to tip over into a new kind of performativity, marked by relation, impersonality and a new common language, which is deeply linked with the non-appropriability of the body. This paper advances the belief that Glissant’s vision is also able to overcome negative impasses of contemporary thought, deterritorializing it, while giving life to a language and a writing able of face up to the unpredictability, opacity and non-appropriability of the living body.’

‘Venus de partout, ils décentrent le connu. Errants et offensés, ils enseignent. Quelles voix débattent là, qui annoncent toutes les langues qu’il se pourra?’
(É. Glissant, Les Grands Chaos)

Very busy! Articles and papers deadlines coming on …

I’ve been very busy in the last few weeks. My work as a researcher here in B’ham has started with two very important deadlines. The first one was for an academic article on Édouard Glissant and Biopolitics, for the American academic journal Callaloo. A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. I have been working very hard on this article, which is for a special issue on Glissant, that will be published in 2013 and edited by Professor Celia Britton. The second deadline was a paper for the annual SFPS (Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies) conference wich will take place at the University of London, Institute of German and Romance Studies (Senate House) during this week (Friday 16 & Saturday 17, November 2012). Following this link you can find the two days programme. The annual conference this year will be on Postcolonial Bodies, and my paper is entitled ‘Édouard Glissant, the Colonial Body and Biopolitics’. This will be my first paper in English, so I am quite excited about that and I am sure this will be an extraordinary opportunity to meet other scholars and researchers who work on Francophone postcolonial literatures and to discuss our work together. In a next post, I’m going to put my paper abstract, to give you an idea of what I am speaking about.