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Exploring the Humanities: The Most Personal is the Most General

Postgraduate Scholars Program 2011/12

Exploring the Humanities: The Most Personal is the Most General 

Wednesday 20th June, Exhibition 12.00 - 5.00 pm, Public Presentation 5.00 - 6.30 pm

In the Autumn of 2011, the Humanities Research Centre selected an interdisciplinary group of doctoral students to work together on a project. The group was given some funding and the task of creating any project that they like.

The group includes:

Jonathan Durham, French Studies

Kate Scarth, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Christian Smith, English and Comparative Literary Studies

Maria Hetzer, Theatre Arts and Performance Studies/German Studies

We will update this page as our work evolves throughout this year.

We decided to construct our project through learning about each other’s doctoral research and through presenting ideas for a possible methodology. Having no idea what we were going to do for a project, we simply listened to each other for weeks. At the end, a project arose that is a synthesis of our collective thinking. This is what we created:

Our project is an investigation of the roots and shape of the humanities.

It consists of four steps:

Step 1: We will interview a group of professors, lecturers, post-docs, doctoral students, masters students, undergraduate students and other academics to discover the roots of why they choose to study their research topic. Our methodology will be empathic active listening. This method is being utilized to facilitate an interview that reveals professional, academic and personal reasons for choosing research. When this is done well, and when the interviewee-interviewer relationship is good/trusting, the information discovered will come from deep in the researcher’s self. It is our belief that we will find some basic human concerns that motivate research. Our approach to discovering this ensures that we see what is actually there and not what we think should be there.

Christian is leading this phase of the project. He has trained the other members in active listening, a method that he has employed and taught since 1987.

We will be asking for interviews from academics at Warwick and at universities and other research institutions in the South of England, the Midlands, the North of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Canada, France and the United States.

Step 2: We will apply a spatial/geographical analysis to all of the data from the interviews. This will be led by Kate, using methodology that she employs in her doctoral work. We will be looking at difference across all boundaries and categories of interviewees (national/academic level/gender/racial/university/department-field, etc). This phase of the project will take the common roots that we find from the active listening and, dialectically, analyse their differences across boundaries.

Step 3: We will take the data, the root findings and the spatial analysis, and explore the significance and implications for interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary work. In this manner we will explore the shape of the academe. Jonathan will lead this phase of the project.

All of the methodology and analysis above will be written as a text. This might take the shape of a report, a booklet, a special edition of a journal, or a book. Depending on our results and product, we will decide on the format later and then seek publication for it.

Step 4: We will perform our data and analysis. This phase will be led by Maria using the methodology of performance ethnography that is the basis of her doctoral work. The details of this performance will be decided after the first phases of the work are underway.

We look forward to a dialogue on our blog with the academic community about our project. Please follow our progress and feel free to comment on our mistakes, successes, ideas, and questions.

Contact the HRC Scholars:



Twitter: @HRCscholars