Current Research in Modern Languages and Area Studies in 2016

Please contact researchers directly to explore opportunities for supervision (see email address at the bottom of each research profile), and Prof Claire Griffiths (c.griffiths@chester.ac.uk) for information on research degree programmes.

Dr Anna Clayfield (Spanish and Hispano-American Studies)

My research to date has largely centred on twentieth-century Latin American history and culture, with a particular focus on Cuba and the transnational connections forged between armed movements during the Cold War in Latin America and Quebec.  My most recent research project, which developed out of the doctoral studies I completed at the University of Nottingham, explores the on-going promotion of a guerrilla ethos in the Cuban Revolution since 1959. Through an analysis of the official discourse of the Revolution, my findings demonstrate that the beliefs and values that underpinned the Revolution in 1959 remain unchanged. A Faculty of Humanities Early Career Research Award enabled me to undertake field work in Cuba in March 2016 to document further the ubiquitous signs and symbols that evidence a continued veneration of the figure of the guerrillero (guerrilla fighter) in present-day Cuba (as seen below). This research has been incorporated into a manuscript entitled An Unfinished Struggle: The Guerrilla Legacy in the Cuban Revolution, which will be published as a monograph in 2017. 

     

Beyond this area, I am currently developing two new projects. The first looks to examine the experience of political exiles in Cuba in the 1970s.  Cuba played host to thousands of left-wing political exiles who sought refuge from the violent repression unleashed by military dictatorships across the Americas. Despite their large numbers, however, little is known about the experience of these exiles, and how they negotiated the lived reality of a socialist society.  Through interviews and an examination of written memoirs, my research aims to develop a greater understanding of the extent to which a stay in Cuba shaped ideological perspectives, in a way that is perhaps different to the experience of exile in ‘Western’ nations. Initial findings from this project were presented at the symposium held at Chester in September 2016 entitled ‘Regarding the Revolution: Cuba and the Foreign Gaze since 1959’, which I co-organised with Chris Hull.

The second project looks to explore the lasting individual and social impact of voluntary military service in revolutionary Cuba. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans joined the volunteer militias established by the government in 1959, with many experiencing frontline combat during the Bay of Pigs invasion, while a new generation was able to participate as reservists following the re-establishment of the militias in the 1980s. Preliminary research on this topic was conducted at Cuba’s Biblioteca Nacional in 2016, to be followed up by further field work in 2017.

a.clayfield@chester.ac.uk

 

Dr Min Ge (Chinese Studies)

In the past year, my research activity was mainly the completion of my PhD thesis. My research is focused on Chinese studies in general, and Chinese sport economy in particular. The title of my PhD thesis is ‘The Olympic economy in China – a study of the Beijing Olympic Games’. This thesis is a cross-discipline research between Chinese economy, Chinese sport and the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games is the biggest mega sport event in the world. With its commercialisation and development since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the Olympic Games can potentially have a significant economic impact on the host nation. Although the Olympic economy has come to research attention recently, few researchers have focused on the economic impact of the Beijing Olympic Games. There are mainly three areas have been explored in this thesis. First, it discusses what the Olympic economy is about. Second, it explores how the Olympic economy was reflected through the Beijing Olympic Games in China. Third, it examines in what ways the Chinese economy was affected by the Olympic economy, and vice versa.

The Beijing Olympic Games and the development of the Chinese economy have an inseparable relationship. Under the economic reform and opening up policy which was initiated in 1978, the Chinese economy has developed rapidly with a constantly increasing GDP. Meanwhile, the economic reform has led to the reform of Chinese sport both in policy and practice. The economic and sport reformations are still an on-going process with unique Chinese characteristics. This thesis examines the complexity of the relationship between China’s economic growth and the ambition to host the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, and also the economic legacy of the Beijing Olympic Games and its impact on China’s rise to an economic and political power in the world in the 21st century. This original research will contribute to the field of Olympic studies in China and the study of the Olympic economy internationally.

g.min@chester.ac.uk

 

Professor Claire Griffiths (Francophone Area Studies)

I am engaged in research projects that focus on the colonial past and postcolonial present of the Francophone world. The longest running of these is the Savineau Archive project. This began in the year 2000 during a fieldwork trip for a book on gender and development. While exploring some sources at the Senegalese National Archives, the head archivist placed a huge and dilapidated paper-bound archive on the desk suggesting it may be more interesting than the documents I had requested. The archive was a rare and fascinating mine of information on colonial French Africa in 1937/38 authored by an employee of the colonial education service, Denise Savineau.

A website was constructed for it at the University of Hull (www.savineau.hull.ac.uk) thanks to funding from the Nuffield Foundation. This past year we started making a new site for it at Chester. With Dr Kaya Davies Hayon (now of the French Department, Bristol University) and Dr Paul Earlie (Postdoctoral researcher, Modern Languages and Area Studies) work is also underway developing visual and educational resources for the French and English national curricula . With the collaboration of Dr Paty Murrieta-Flores of the Digital Humanities Centre at Chester, we produced a searchable version of the corpus to accompany a virtual and touring exhibition Re-exploring the Empire African Lives and Colonial Encounters focusing on how African populations living in countries colonised by France encountered the colonial regime.

The second project Imaging Dissent: Art and Politics in the Postcolony looks at how African artists portray postcolonial modernity in the Francophone African context. Artists participating in the project include Patrick Altès born in Algeria (exhibition below left), Moridja Kitenge (work below) born in Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pélagie Gbaguidi from Benin. The year’s work has involved a talk at the opening of the Nour festival art exhibition in London (below left). More broadly the project engages with postcolonial visual language in the Francophone space, and in relation to French national politics of diversity and inclusion, on the mainland.  

  

A fleeting image: above Banksy’s comment on French intervention in the Calais Jungle, removed within hours from the derelict shop front facing the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, London. Having been involved for a number of years in supervising research projects from masters to postdoctoral level in critical postcolonial studies (particularly with reference to the developing areas of the Francophone world), gender studies, French language studies, and Francophone African and Caribbean Studies, I welcome enquiries for supervision, collaboration and research degree enquiries in any of the above areas.

c.griffiths@chester.ac.uk

 

Dr Jason Hartford (French Studies)

In the early part of the fall I was preparing a conference paper, eventually to be turned into an article, while also readying a book manuscript derived from my thesis. Once the conference paper was delivered, I continued with the manuscript while turning my attention to two article projects, one in its latter stages (corrections received) and one new.

(1) The conference paper is the latest piece in my long-standing engagement with ‘high theory’. In keeping with my training in interdisciplinary cultural theory and philosophy, I explored possible affinities between the ‘archaeological’ approach of Michel Foucault and the systems theory of Niklas Luhmann, a sociologist who drew his ideas from mathematics but applied them to various social spheres, including society and politics but also the arts. 2015. “Discourse Analysis and Systems Theory: Foucault, the Subject, and the Object.” 17 Oct. ADEFFI (17th annual), University of Limerick, IE.

In this brief talk, I outlined how Foucault, in his Archéologie du savoir (1969), and Luhmann, in “System as Difference” (1991), proceed from very different starting points to create strikingly comparable ways of defining the object of history.

(2) The latter-stage article was a piece on a contemporary transgeneric horror film, Ricky, by the acclaimed director François Ozon. It was published in March: 2016. “Angel Wings, Chicken Wings, and the Boundaries of Horror: a Cognitive Analytical Reading of Ricky (François Ozon, 2009).” Studies in French Cinema 16.1: pp. 32-47. This piece uses a psychoanalytic feminist methodology to explain the film’s engagement with such taboo topics as maternal rejection and cannibalism. In a wider view, it uses the film as a test case of the limits to a social-constructivist model of film genre, arguing instead for a cognitive / affective model. Put simply, films can best be categorized by assessing how they make us think and feel, instead of how they are marketed or critically received.

(3) The new article, which was an invited contribution for a journal special issue, triangulated my interests in queer theory and the culture of science with my longstanding work in modern French fiction. It was published in October:

2016. “Towards a Queer Ecology: Science and Nature in Un ruban noir (Vincent Borel, 1995)”.     Fixxion: Revue Critique de Fixxion Française Contemporaine 12: pp. 34-43.

The piece builds on feminist and queer scholarship of popular science, notably the idea of the cyborg, in analysing how Borel’s AIDS novel uses and sometimes misuses the metaphor of Gaia. I make clear that a queer reading, which would break down gender barriers, is not the same thing as a gay reading, which remains masculinist and possibly misogynist. Borel’s attitude towards nature is progressive but his gendering of destructive technology as female remains problematic.

(4) The book is an adapted revision of my DPhil thesis and will be titled Queering the Martyr: Sexuality, Iconography, and Fiction in French. It is a critical history of religiously iconic sexual minority figures in modern France and Belgium. The proposal has received a positive first reaction from Palgrave.

j.hartford@chester.ac.uk

 

Dr Jean-Frédéric Hennuy (French & Francophone Studies)

This past year has been rather an interesting one and a challenging one.

First of all I finished rewriting an article on the Tarnac affair (2008), ‘L’Affaire Tarnac: L’é(a)vénement de deux générations politiques‘. The article deals with the ideological confrontation and two different conception of the world between two political generations. The article has been submitted to the German journal, Lendemains.

Following my interest in political theory and contemporary France, I wrote and sumitted a chapter on Michel Onfray and the Popular University, ‘Michel Onfray’s Engagement with a hammer: Université Populaire and Epimethean Anarchism’.

 

 The article will be part of a book on new engagements in the 21stcentury and it will be published by the University Press of Wales. It deals with the anarchist conception of the pedagogical and political principles at the core of the teaching at the Popular University of Caen

I also had the opportunity to do some research in Brussels at the Centre des Archives de la Littérature Belge in order to do work on two articles. One on the use of the legend in the Belgian and RDC foundational novels of Charles De Coster and Jean Malonga,

    

 ‘Writing the Nation: The Legend in Foundational Novels of RDC and Belgium’, and an article on the Belgian writer and director, Philippe Blasband. This article deals with the representation and the place of the disable person in our contemporary communities. This research trip has in an indirect way brought some positive effects as it allowed me to participate, at the end of October, in a conference in Brussels, Bruxelles – Palerme, capitales de fiction. I will be presenting a paper on Philippe Blasband, Bruxelles, une alteregotopie chez Philippe Blasband.

    

Finally, in the course of the last few months I, in collaboration with Timo Obergoeker, orgarnised a conference at the Chester Literature Festival by the French writers and intellectuals, Edouard Louis and Geoffroy de Lagasnerie.

    

They will be debating on the new engagements of the 21st century in literature, philosophy and politics. This conference will be used as the base for a special issue of a Journal on contemporary France where invited collaborators will be interacting with the ideas presented during the conversation between Louis and de Lagasnerie.

j.hennuy@chester.ac.uk.

 

Dr Christopher Hull (Spanish and Hispano-American Studies)

The calendar year 2016 began with me submitting my chapter ‘Anglo-American Objectives in Cuba from 1945 to the 1959 Revolution’ to Rory M. Miller (Management School, University of Liverpool) and Thomas C. Mills (Politics, Philosophy & Religion, Lancaster University), editors of a prospective book Britain in the Back Yard: The United States and Great Britain in Latin America during the Twentieth Century.

I continue to edit my manuscript for my second book project Our Graham Greene in Havana while continuing to unearth titbits of information about the author’s eleven visits to the island both before and following the Cuban Revolution. For example, at the Bodleian Library Special Collections at Oxford University this July, I read a postcard sent by Greene during his November 1957 trip to Cuba, when he began writing his iconic 1958 spy-fiction satire Our Man in Havana.

With QR funding from RKTO at Chester I was able to begin archival research for the project I began at Chester with the now departed colleague Dr James Clifford Kent on ‘The Foreigner in Cuba’. At the Manuscripts & Special Collections at the University of Nottingham I saw the recently acquired original manuscript for the unfinished short story The Flying Fish by D.H. Lawrence, written in Mexico City in 1925 and based on a short visit to Havana by the British author in 1923, and first published in 1936, six years after Lawrence’s death.

At the British Library I have investigated the longer visit to Cuba in 1922 by Ronald Firbank, reading the letters he sent to his mother during his stay, which inspired his 1924 novel Sorrow in Sunlight (titled Prancing Nigger in its original U.S. version). I presented this research on these writers as an academic paper ‘British literary & journalistic visits to Havana: 1920s & 30s’ at the annual Cuba Research Forum Annual Conference, University of Nottingham, on 7 September 2016.

Along with Cubanist colleague Dr Anna Clayfield, we organised and held a one-day symposium in the Modern Languages Department on Saturday 10th September titled ‘Regarding the Revolution: Cuba and the Foreign Gaze since 1959’. The event saw the presentation of ten academic papers, including two from invited Cuban delegates (one the former president of Instituto Cubano del Libro, and currently the editor of Cuban cultural magazine La Jiribilla). Also presenting were one Portuguese delegate from the University of Edinburgh and one Canadian delegate (via Skype). Cuban troubadour Diego Gutiérrez treated the symposium’s delegates to a musical soirée in Senate House after evening dinner.

Over the summer of 2016 as well, I conducted some initial research into Foreign Office & Commonwealth Records from 1971 at the National Archives in Kew Gardens, detailing the 8-month-long kidnapping in Montevideo of the British Ambassador to Uruguay Geoffrey Jackson. From investigation of the official record so far, it appears that the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath and his Foreign Secretary Douglas Alec-Home were attempting at an early stage of the crisis to enlist Salvador Allende’s government in Chile to act as an intermediary between the Tupamaros left-wing urban guerrilla group holding the British diplomat captive and the Uruguayan government.

c.hull@chester.ac.uk

 

Dr Richard Millington (German Studies)

In the year 2015-16, I continued to work on my ongoing research project ‘Memory and Experience of Non-Political Crime in East Germany’. This study investigates discourses of crime in East Germany and how these shaped citizens perceptions and memories of life under the regime.

I examined the regime’s discourse on the phenomenon of criminality as it appeared in the magazine Neue Berliner Illustrierte. This illustrated weekly publication was the most popular magazine in East Germany, with a circulation in excess of 800,000 every week.

My research shows that the regime attempted to convince citizens that they were safe from crime.

The magazine’s reporting consistently downplayed the seriousness and extent of criminality in East Germany. Moreover, the articles argued that criminality was a societal condition that could only be ‘cured’ by accepting and adopting socialist values and rejecting the lure of capitalism. Thus, the regime’s discourse on crime attempted to construct legitimacy for the Party’s socialist project in the minds of citizens. I presented the results of this research at the inaugural workshop of the NeW Directions in Modern German History Network. A journal article presenting my findings is currently under review and a website including a searchable database of these articles is also planned. 

r.millington@chester.ac.uk

 

Professor Timo Obergöker (French & Francophone Studies)

After having earned a PhD from the University of Nancy 2, I worked as a postdoctoral assistant at Universität Potsdam for 4 years. In 2007, I was awarded my first lectureship at Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz. During this period, I successfully published a number of book chapters and peer-reviewed articles, book reviews and miscellaneous texts and attended international and national conferences. My PhD was initially published in 2004 with a second edition in 2014:

I arrived in the UK in 2013 as a Senior Lecturer and was awarded a Professorship in 2016. My research areas are the following:

  •  Contemporary French and Québécois literature

I published a book on places of and in Contemporary French literature in 2011 and I co-published another on in 2014. I am interested in authors like Laurent Mauvignier, Jérôme Ferrari, Jean Rouaud, Annie Ernaux, Patrick Modiano, Nicolas Dickner, Michel Tremblay, Nelly Arcan and more generally spoken work at the intersection of literature, history and anthropology.

  •  Popular music in France and the Francophone world

Listening to popular music is one of hobbies, which very much informs my research.  I was able to combine my interest in chanson with my passion for cinema by co-publishing the following work with Renaud Lagabrielle.

 

  • Colonial heritage and popular culture

My most recent books focussed on the link between popular culture and colonialism in the early 1930s. The international Colonial Exhibition in Paris made dexterous use of popular culture to enhance the message of France’s grandeur and civilising mission. Songs were used to entertain the public but also to promote a certain image of the African as a potential danger that needed to be neutralised.

I continue to work on Colonial Exhibitions within the framework of a project with Digital Humanities, designed to create a virtual space for both education and research on Colonial Exhibitions.

 My current research focusses on masculinity in French literature and film. I argue that decolonisation had a profound impact on the way the French perceive and perform masculinity after the loss of their (feminised) colonies. This link will be explored in a forthcoming monograph.

t.obergoeker@chester.ac.uk