Student Led Initiatives 2010-2011

Interfaces: encounters beyond the page / screen / stage


University of Exeter, Department of English

Interfaces: encounters beyond the page / screen / stage

1 Day Postgraduate Research Workshop, 22nd January 2011

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Dr Judith Buchanan (University of York)


 This multidisciplinary research training event examines questions of mediation and memory in encounters with non-textual materials in the arts, seeking to explore the impact, both academic and cultural, of objects and artefacts that constitute non-textual interfaces between film, literature and theatre. 

By creating dialogues between postgraduates and experienced researchers, and featuring practical sessions with curators and archivists, the research workshop seeks to investigate issues that take the researcher beyond the text at the crossover between literature, film and theatre, fostering productive debate about the value of first-hand encounters with research objects beyond their descriptive encounter in standard textual academic sources.

Participating speakers and delegates will attend a central workshop event in the University's Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture and Exeter's Special Collections, where a hands-on exploration of key filmic and literary non-textual materials will be led by the curators of these archives.

 Abstract for 20 minute papers are welcomed on the following core panel themes:

  • Performativity: transitory forms created by performance and performativity; improvisation and the play script; the body in play; improvisation and the play script; performance and photographs/stills; the critical interpretation of ephemera; the incorporation of non-print ephemera into academic scholarship; mediations between public interest and critical histories surrounding popular artefacts; the function of stage props
  • Beyond ‘Adaptation': mediations involved in processes of adaptation across disciplines / media; the creation and sustenance of ‘media memories' in repeated adaptation
  • Forms of Engagement: creative forms which overlap across the arts-such as illustrations, sound recordings, and poetic readings; the translation and migration of theatrical, literary and filmic heritages into business practices; non-narrative auto/biographical sites
  • Production History: the exploration of how plays have been ‘framed' in discussion, presentation and analysis across their history; exploring the relationship between "text" and "performance"
  • Digital Cultures: the impact of digitization upon the archival ‘text'; the impact of new digital media upon process of memory / memorial; multimedia practices and presentations
  • Rethinking archives: how archives destabilize notions of ‘text' / the search for archival authorial ‘presence'; archival silences; notions of the archive as performance; questions of authority surrounding pre-texts / printed texts; challenges encountered in recreating draft manuscripts; the impact of ‘anecdotal' archival material

 To make the event as interactive as possible, participating postgraduates are requested submit their papers shortly in advance of the event, to be circulated amongst delegates. We strongly encourage speakers to focus explicitly upon presenting the ‘beyond text' materials of their research in a multi-media format, bringing evidence of a cornerstone ‘beyond text' material-sound clip / manuscript image / artwork etc-to facilitate methodological encounters with these objects across research areas and themes.


Please submit 300 word abstracts for 20 minute papers to Lisa Stead ( Suggestions for panels of 3 speakers for any of the given core panel themes are also welcomed. Deadline: October 1st, 2010


The following downloads are available
Conference Pack from Interfaces: Encounters Beyond the page/screen/stage
PDF373.29 Kb

Literacy in oral cultures: conflicts compromises and complications

The conference will be hosted in the Senate Chambers of the University of Glasgow, Main Campus.

Panel 1: Media and memory in oral cultures (pre-colonial era):

  • What can we learn from the culture which existed before colonialism?
  • What are the dynamics of oral, aural, visual and material practices in oral cultures?
  • How does this differ from literate cultures?

Panel 2: Literacy in oral cultures (colonial era):

  • When oral cultures encounter literacy, how do they co-exist and to what extent do they cross-pollinate?
  • Is postcolonial African culture necessarily a hybrid culture?
  • How is this encounter reflected in the archives of colonial bureaucracy and tribal memory?
  • Whose voices remain silent in either place?

Panel 3: Compromises and complications (post-colonial era):

  • How do we include the voices of the people (oral history, internet fora, etc.)?
  • What ethical, legal, political and economic issues surround such an aim?
  • Whose responsibility is it?

Wednesday, 24th November 2010





Mr. Alistair Tough

Written records and the oral culture


Prof. Donald Meek

The silence of Hebridean natives: the case of St. Kilda

15:30-16:00 TEA BREAK


Dr. Kathryn Lowe

Sight and sound: the visual and vernacular in Anglo-Saxon Charters


Mr. Rory Crutchfield

Cecil Sharp: writing down an oral tradition

17:30-18:30 BREAK BREAK


Mr. Ivan Murambiwa

Public Lecture

Archiving Orality in Zimbabwe: what are the implications on the local people?

Download a PDF of the poster for this lecture (385 Kb)

Thursday, 25th November 2010

9:30-10:00 TEA TEA


Prof. Kings Phiri

Keynote Lecture

Orature and the written word in African history: How comprehensively do they capture the voices of ordinary people?

11:00-11:30 TEA BREAK


Dr. Emma Hunter

The role of the District Commissioner in imagining the pre-colonial past: the case of Charles Dundas


Dr. Sheila Kidd

Orality and literacy in nineteenth-century Gaelic culture: negotiating the transition

13:00-14:00 LUNCH BREAK


Dr. Giacomo Macola

Rescuing the Archives of the United National Independence Party of Zambia


Rev. William Coppedge

Complications to oral methodologies among the Alur people in Uganda

15:30-16:00 TEA BREAK


Mr. Paul Lihoma

Case for oral history programme in Malawi: challenges and complications


Mr. Ivan Morowa

The interplay between the oral archives and the written archives in Zimbabwe


Mr. Ivan Murambiwa

Literacy and orality: concluding thoughts

Keynote Speakers

Mr Munhamu Ivan Murambiwa

Ivan Murambiwa is Director National Archives of Zimbabwe and an independent consultant in cultural heritage matters since 2000. Previously he was with National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe for 11 years in various capacities as Curator of Archaeology/ Monuments Programme Coordinator/ Museum Director. He has considerable academic, management and consultancy experience in heritage management, impact assessments and evaluation of cultural heritage projects/programmes. Formal qualifications include an MBA and an M.Phil (Heritage Management and Museums).

Most recent publication:

Dismembering or Remembering the ‘Zimbabwe Archive'? Archives xxxiv, no 121, Oct.2009

Abstract: Archiving Orality in Zimbabwe: What impact on the indigenous knowledge base?

Orality refers to the whole body of information that is transmitted orally, between and across generations. This includes songs, dances, philosophy, culture, history, religion, science and language. In our Zimbabwean context this would include the entire concept of African epistemologies. Protection and perpetuation of indigenous knowledge is steeped in secrecy and spiritual possession, attributes that trouble our modern concept of archiving. Poorly managed modern documentation of oral knowledge poses grave threat to indigenous knowledge base. So invariably any discussion on archiving orality opens itself to debates on the efficacy of documenting Indigenous Knowledge (IK) or, given its rootedness in local culture, on the practicality of documenting IK.

This paper will look at the evolution of ‘oral archives' at the National Archives of Zimbabwe culminating in stand alone Oral History and Audio-Visual Units. It will examine in detail the extent to which these archival creations have helped build a total archive and what impact these developments have had on the broader issue of promoting indigenous knowing. The paper will highlight legal, philosophical and practical challenges of archiving orality. It concludes with recommendations on the role archival institutions in similar situations can play in documenting and promoting knowledge in oral societies.

Professor Kings Mbacazwa Phiri

Prof Kings Phiri is a Malawian and he joined the teaching staff of the University of Malawi at Chancellor College, Zomba, in 1973. He currently holds the position of Professor of African and Black History and is also Head of History Department.

He is a graduate of the University of Malawi where he received his Bachelor's degree with Distinction in 1971, and also holds MA and PhD degrees in History from the University of Wisconsin in the USA. He is author of History and the Past, Present and Future of Black People (Zomba: Government Press, 2001); co-author of Twenty-Five Years of Independence in Malawi, 1964-1989 (Blantyre: Dzuka Publishing Company, 1989); and co-editor of Democratisation in Malawi: A Stocktaking (Blantyre: Claim, 1998). His chapter contributions include those which have appeared in Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora edited by J.E. Harris (Washington DC: Howard University Press, 1982) and General History of Africa, vol. V edited by B.A. Ogot (Oxford: Heinemann, 1992). He has also published several scholarly articles on the history of Malawi, Africa and the African Diaspora in journals such as Society of Malawi Journal, Malawi Journal of Social Science, Journal of African History, Tran African Journal of History, International Journal of Oral History, African Studies Review, and Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

Abstract: ‘Orature and the Written Word in African History: How comprehensively do they capture the Experiences of Ordinary People?'

Since the 1960s, historians of Africa have been agreed about two basic facts relating to the historical knowledge they are dealing with: the essential orality and semi-literacy of African societies, making Oral Tradition a crucial source of historical information; and the uneven availability, in both time and space, of written sources as a conventional basis for producing historical knowledge. They concluded, consequently, that in reconstructing any aspect of the African historical experience, one needs to use the available written and oral sources in a complementary way, but with a lot more emphasis on oral sources than would be the case with processes of historical reconstruction in other parts of the world with higher literacy rates.

This campaign to take Oral tradition as seriously as the Written Word in reconstructing the history of African people was intensified in the 1960s and 1970s, when the approach to history writing in Africa was Traditional, in that the focus was on the development of state systems and the initiatives of dominant or elite groups in African societies (UNESCO, 1970; Vansina, 1971). Since the 1980s, however, the approach to history writing in Africa has changed, irrespective of the kind of sources one uses. The focus, currently, is on diversifying the sources one uses and exploiting the range taken into account for purposes of reconstructing the experiences and struggles of ordinary people in Africa - those that can be designated as commoners, peasants, workers, women, etc (van Onselen, 1982; Burke, 2001). The purpose of this presentation, therefore, is to reflect on how adequate the Oral and Written sources we have to work with in Africa are for the task of actualizing this vision of producing histories that capture the experiences and voices of ordinary people.

To begin with it is admitted that orature remains a vibrant aspect of African culture and history. What we have over much of rural Africa are oral societies - that is societies where the written word has not yet adequately encroached on the Spoken Word as the chief means of sharing and imparting knowledge, techniques, ideas, values, beliefs, etc. What is more, the situation we have is one which still attaches importance to traditionalists or oral specialists and their role (Hampate Ba, 1981). The result is a vibrant oral culture that is highly productive of folk stories, myths, genealogies, clan histories, epics, socio-economic charters, etc, all of which can be subjected to historical analysis. The corpus of oral tradition in question is, in other words, capable of yielding diverse information on the past political, cultural and socio-economic experiences of the community from which they are gathered. But, we are also aware of the problems attending the use of the traditions in question as sources of usable historical information. These include their susceptibility to falsification by those presenting them, and their lack of chronological specificity.

As for written sources, they are available and can be accessed on an uneven basis throughout the continent. They begin to make appearance as early as the 9th century AD in the savanna region of West Africa, the 15th century AD in several coastal zones of the continent and the 18th and 19th centuries AD in most inland regions (Hrbek, 1981). Written in Arabic or European languages (notably Portuguese, Dutch, French and English), these are available partly for the pre-colonial period when they were written by early Arab and European visitors or explorers. They have reached us mainly in the form of travelogues and dynastic chronicles. And, for the colonial period, we have in all African countries masses of records generated by European missionaries and colonial administrators.

Until recently in the post-war period, the written sources we have to work with in Africa were produced by foreigners-Arabs from the east and Europeans from the north. Reflecting the prejudices of those who wrote them, they leave a lot to be desired in so far as objective portrayal of indigenous people is concerned.

Against this background, the challenges of relying on available oral and written sources to achieve a people-oriented view of the African past are enormous but the possibilities are equally great. For the Oral Sources, the biggest of these challenges is a methodological one. It points to the necessity of generating relevant data through interviews with purposively selected informants - those representatives of different categories of ‘ordinary people'. And, as for the Written Sources, much remains to be gained from making the most of records that deal with what was happening in the private domain of life in Africa, such as newspapers and registers, minutes and newsletters of voluntary organizations. Also useful in this regard would be state records that deal with what was happening at the level of production and socio-cultural organization.

New Research Trajectories: Navigations in city and online space

New Research Trajectories invites you to accompany us on a journey through creative approaches to interdisciplinary research.

Join us as we wander between sites and venues and engage with experimental work by Postgraduate researchers from across the East Midlands.

Our aim is to explore new ways or disseminating and articulating ideas through performance, sound work, interaction, mapping and discussion.

You are invited to participate in conversations and interventions as we travel through the city.

10.00 – 10.30:

Meet in The Space at Nottingham Contemporary for registration, refreshments and introduction.

10.45 – 12.00: Travel on public transport to Park Tunnel for “Creative Conversations” by Jackie Calderwood and “In Translation” by Heather Connelly and Zalfa Feghali.

12.15 – 1.45:

Congregate in the Market Square for a conversation with Nicola Donovan at her temporary artist studio “Lace Point” in the Market.

1.00 – 2.00

Gather at Nottingham Arts Theatre for lunch. This will be provided for you.

2.00 – 4.00

Join small tours through the backstage of the theatre, to experience interactive and experimental work by Rebecca Gamble, Lee Campbell and Michael Pinchbeck.

4.00 – 6.00

Get together at Bunkers Hill pub to interact with “In[bodi]mental” by Lorna Moore followed by a discussion and feedback on the day’s events.

6.00 – 7.30

Join the artist collective LAB in their residency space above Surface Gallery for a talk with David Bell and the Critical Pedagogy Network.

Venue Addresses:

Nottingham Contemporary, Weekday Cross, NG1 2GB

Park Tunnel, off Derby Road, NG1

Nottingham Arts Theatre, George Street, NG1 3BE

Bunkers Hill pub, 36 – 38 Hockley, NG1 1FP

Surface Gallery, Southwell Road, Sneinton, NG1 1DL

Other Information:

New Research Trajectories will pay for refreshments, lunch and public transport to venues during the event.

It is important you RSVP to to book your place.

If you can’t make the whole days events please let us know which ones you will be attending so we know to expect you.

If you have any trouble finding a venue on the day please call Rachel on 07791 497258

Palaeophonics: Music, Archaeology and the politics of representation

Below are details of the first of three events constituting our Beyond Text "Palaeophonics" initiative, which we have organised collaboratively with Simon Wyatt (Bristol) and Rupert Till (Huddersfield):

Artefact to Auditorium: aural agendas in the archaeology of prehistoric sound
Theoretical Archaeology Group conference 2010, Bristol
Sunday 19th December, 0900-1230 - Room 3.32, Wills Memorial Building

Session Programme:

0900 - Session open and Introduction
0905 - Paul Devereux (Time & Mind) - “Stonehenge Rocks”
0920 - Q&A
0925 - Rupert Till (University of Huddersfield) - “Sound Archaeology: the categorisation of sites according to their sonic characteristics”
0940 - Q&A
0945 - Simon Wyatt (University of Bristol) - “Abstract Aerophones and Tangible Tones: Prehistoric Imparsimony or Occam's Mallet”
1000 - Q&A
1005 - Raquel Jimenez (Universidad de Valladolid) & Carlos García Benito (Unversidad de Zaragoza) - “Deer antler whistles in Northern Iberian peninsula”
1020 - Q&A
1025 - Discussion
1040 - Coffee Break
1100 - Farès Moussa (University of Edinburgh) & Paul Keene (University of Edinburgh) - “'Primitive' sound, 'Ritual' performance and the origins of 'Music'”
1115 - Q&A
1120 - Graeme Lawson (University of Cambridge) - “Music-archaeological theory, musicianship and heritage practice: resolving conflicts in recent approaches to the hermeneutics and creative exploitation of prehistoric musics”
1135 - Q&A
1140 - Claire Marshall (University of York) - “Open Circuit: the experimental sounds of prehistory in the present”
1155 - Q&A
1200 - Aaron Watson (independent scholar) & John Crewdson (Royal Holloway University of London) - “Songs from the Void” (multimedia performance that draws upon sound and vision-based research conducted at Neolithic monuments)
1215 - Q&A
1220 - Discussion and END
1235 - Lunch

More Info:

Arts & Humanities Research Council: Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,000 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. Arts and humanities researchers constitute nearly a quarter of all research-active staff in the higher education sector. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. See Arts & Humanities Research Council website.