IAS Postgraduate Research Conversations
A new initiative for 2010-11, the IAS Postgraduate Research Conversation offers Durham research postgraduates and post-doctoral students the opportunity to engage in specific research conversations around the IAS annual theme, mirroring those research conversations that take place at the academic level.
The Conversations are designed to encourage postgraduates to work collaboratively on preparing an inter-disciplinary research proposal. All proposals will receive feedback and the successful proposal will be awarded seed-corn funding to allow the winning group to take forward their planned activity.
The benefits of participating in this initiative include:
- The opportunity to engage in genuine inter-disciplinary dialogue
- The opportunity to develop your ideas for future research
- Developing an appreciation of the 'added-value' that comes from collaborative research
- Thinking early on in your career of the importance that is now placed on public and policy engagement
- Valuable practice in submitting research proposals within a limited time-frame
2010/11 POSTGRADUATE RESEARCH CONVERSATION
The IAS theme for 2010-11 is Futures and will be the focus of this year's Postgraduate Research Conversation. Details of the Futures theme are given below and further details of the programmes of work being carried out by scholars at Durham as part of the Futures theme can be found at www.dur.ac.uk/ias/events/thematic/. These details are not intended to be prescriptive but simply to offer a spark to thought.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
The IAS will host a scoping meeting on 20 January 2011, 1.15-3.00pm (Kenworthy Hall, St Mary's College).
All Durham research postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers interested in the IAS 'Futures' theme or are interested in learning more about this initiative should attend this event.
The purpose of the scoping meeting is to give you the opportunity to discuss your interest in the Futures theme, and to talk to other research postgraduates and post-doctoral researchers who might be interested in collaborating on ideas connected to the theme. The theme is open to interpretation and do not worry if you do not have a firm idea of what you may wish to pursue under this initiative; ideas will emerge during the course of the conversation.
The meeting will be in two parts and will be facilitated by the IAS Directors and the Dean of the Graduate School. The first session will focus on ascertaining initial interest in and ideas on the theme. The second session will be organised around postgraduates and post-docs splitting into groups to begin a more focused discussions about their ideas. By the end of the meeting it is expected that the initial idea that each group wishes to focus on will have been formed.
Following the scoping meeting each participating group will be tasked with arranging further meetings to take forward their ideas with a view to developing a research proposal that will be submitted at the end of term. IAS Directors, Professor Michael O'Neill (English Studies), Professor Colin Bain (Chemistry), and Professor Tony Wilkinson (Archaeology) will be available for consultation and groups will have access to the Institute of Advanced Study for their meetings. 3-4 weeks after the initial scoping meeting all groups will be invited back to present their current thinking to each other for feedback and comments. All groups submitting bids will be provided with anonymous referees' comments. The group submitting the successful bid will be provided with seed-corn funding in order to take forward their activities outlined in their bid.
To participate in this initiative please email Judith Aird by 10 January 2011 to register. If you have any queries or require further information then please do not hesitate to contact the IAS.
IAS FUTURES THEME
Arguably, at the start of the twenty first century, we seem to live as never before under the shadow of the future, seeking to predict, manage, control, a global future that seems precarious on many fronts. Are we for example, on the threshold of an epochal change? Are we entering a new technological, biological, ethical, ecological, spatial age?
Whatever the answer, how do individuals, institutions, governments, and the diverse peoples of the world deal with the fact of the future? What is there to know, say or do about the milliseconds and millennia to come? Anticipating, predicting, foretelling, managing, conquering the future is in many ways foundational for the human condition. From fortune tellers and visionaries to imaginary time travellers and real physical experiments, there is an obsession with the facts of life (or the shape of its Other) to come. Whether in the struggle to survive cancer, or arrest the spread of foot and mouth disease, through efforts to control climate change, to avert catastrophes, or by constructing a market for it, the effort expended to shape, manipulate, or materialise the future far outweighs the effort spent in excavating the past. Except, curiously, in the world of academic research and intellectual debate, where the past tends to be more compelling than futurology.
The IAS in supporting a theme on Futures seeks to stimulate thinking on the question on what happens next (epochal or otherwise). Artists summon the future (they sing it to life, paint it into existence, write it into being) doom tellers deny it, modellers predict it, business invents it, science does not look back, individuals approach it, the dying fear it, religions hope for it, fortunes hang on it: what is the future all about? Below are some of the initial ideas on how the theme of Futures could be approached. These are just a spark for thought and are not intended to be prescriptive:
- Prediction and forecasting: both in the sense that we try to predict and forecast the future from historical knowledge and create the future from the memories of the past, but also in terms of creating predictive models and large-scale simulations to test future materials or predict/manage, for example, climate-change or financial markets;
- Management of the future: in terms of a vocabulary and technologies of risk around issues of prediction, estimation and planning for both natural and social events (floods, landslides, terrorism). This includes thinking through the effects of this on our understanding of the future (from progressive narratives to thoughts of decline, from emotions of hope to those of fear) and also engaging with a variety of risk management technologies that by their very nature (prediction, pre-emption, anticipation, and prevention) bring the future already into the present;
- New technologies: in particular the sense that new technologies are always promising a future of improvement but do not always deliver, but also that with the emergence of new technologies come social hopes and also fears about their anticipated effects (e.g. nanotechnology, nuclear power);
- Past and present futures: the existence of several possible or hypothetical futures, assessments of their likelihood or relative attractiveness, and efforts to force a choice between alternatives, have been and are inherent in the thinking of all humans in the past and present. People in the past and in the present have held quite developed views about the future (something inevitable, something desirable, something to be resisted) and such conceptions raise deep and important issues that reach across many disciplines;
- Prolepsis: a curious phenomenon in literature of understanding the present by projecting into an imaginary future and looking back. This refers to many forms of utopian and dystopian writing in many periods;
- Future Audiences: Many writers may be seen to be positioning themselves towards their own 'afterlives', that is, positing themselves as precursors to the future. They thus shape their own reputations, direct interpretations of their work, and inscribe version of future readers within those works;
- Democratic futures?: we may be said to be witnesses to an impending clash between ecology and modern liberal democracy. The finitude of resources threatens ideals of individual rights based on tacit assumptions of ever-increasing material wealth. Current democracy thus undermines its own conditions of existence. Is 'planning for optimal population' becoming a necessary evil?;
- Representations of Terrorism: This would explore the "uncanny" and/or "premonitory" dimension that unfolds in the representation of terroristic violence - "before" the Real Event as it were, but onlycoming to lightin its aftermath ("it's just like a movie" and so on being a simplistic example).
- Religion and Socialism: Both have a sense of providentialism, of the world marching to its appointed end (whether apocalyptic or utopian). Is a return to providentialism the way forward?
For further details of the academic programme of events being run under the IAS 'Futures' Ttheme this year, please visit: www.durham.ac.uk/ias/events/thematic