Here at the University of Nottingham, we have a truly world-class group of researchers who are working on issues related to cultures and communication. My role is to coordinate and administer research in this area, allowing Nottingham to continue being a leader in cutting-edge research that speaks to the real-world concerns of our partner organisations across the public, private, and third sector. For example, one of our interdisciplinary teams is focusing upon understanding British identities, a focus that is of compelling interest at a time of Brexit. Another of our teams is focused on health and wellbeing, something that again has urgent implications for policymakers, healthcare providers, and the public. Our clusters of researchers are therefore able to offer an agile response to some of the most pressing questions that we face, both nationally and internationally.
Research in the arts and humanities is the bedrock of an extremely rich cultural ecosystem
‘Culture’ and ‘communication’ concern me a great deal because much of my own research focuses on the way that different groups (whether ethnic, national, or social) have worked to express their identity through writing and through performance. That research involves me working closely with scholars from varied methodological backgrounds, as well as with external partners such as the BBC and the National Theatre, so the interdisciplinary nature of the GRT dovetails neatly with my own approach.
Well, I began to study literature and theatre because I found it deeply pleasurable. For me, one of the real privileges of this career is that it allows me to read and discuss the kinds of material that I’d want to be reading, regardless of my line of work. In addition, literary study is an invitation to put yourself into somebody else’s shoes, and I’m motivated by the idea that this helps us better to understand different communities and societies.
There is certainly a stereotype – promulgated perhaps most grotesquely by Jonathan Swift – of academics being entirely removed from everyday concerns. Yet our research does affect the broader public sphere. If I look at my diary for last week, I spent quite a lot of time in the rarefied archives of the British Library. But then I joined a Sunday-morning discussion about culture on BBC Radio. Next, Brendan Walsh, a book-review editor at a national magazine, asked for a short piece on my holiday reading. Then I worked with Musharraf Hussain, who is producing a new translation of the Quran and who wanted some advice on making the text accessible to a modern audience. And then I went to Hall Park Academy in Eastwood, along with my brilliant colleague Andrew Harrison, to lead a workshop for year-nine students about the work of DH Lawrence.
So you see, research in the arts and humanities is the bedrock of an extremely rich cultural ecosystem. Each year the UK’s ‘literature sector’ is worth something like £2 billion, and publishing sales are worth another £4 billion. London’s theatres generate £2 billion for the UK economy, and cultural industries such as television, film and radio are vital sources of economic growth and ‘soft power’. All depend on university research to inform and refresh their output. Our research clusters, lecture halls, and libraries are essentially the R&D labs for such products.
Pass. I tend to be wary of ‘greatest moments’, because the academic career is a varied one, with many ups and downs, and perhaps the only sensible way to survive it is not to get too carried away by the successes and not to be too demoralized by the failures and follies.
Here at the University of Nottingham, we have a truly world-class group of researchers
Go and talk to the key researchers in the field as early as possible. It can help you to figure out where the cutting-edge interventions might be made, plug you into the right networks, and help sharpen your ideas. I remain profoundly grateful to so many generous and inspiring mentors who guided me in the early days of my own research career.
I’ve long appreciated the fact that Nottingham University provides the space for individual scholarship to thrive, but also encourages collaboration between colleagues from across disciplines. Some of the most vexing research questions are increasingly going to require us to develop our work in multidisciplinary teams, which is why initiatives like the GRT are so important.
Global Research ThemeCultures and Communication
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