Research Co-operation Between Oxford Brookes University and Florida Atlantic University
Dr Christina Horvath Senior Lecturer in French has been awarded a £1500 travel grant by the British Council to visit Florida Atlantic University in early September 2010. The aim of the proposed visit is to initiate a new interdisciplinary research co-operation between researchers from Oxford Brookes University, UK, and Florida State University, US. The research expertise of Dr Christina Horvath and Dr Frederic Conrod lie in the field of suburban culture in contemporary France, a fast-growing and dynamic research area in French studies which demands to be explored from a variety of point of views combining approaches in comparative literature, film studies, urban sociology, cultural studies and architecture. Infamous for the riots in November 2005, the most serious civil unrest France experienced since the Algeria war, ‘banlieues’ are troubled suburban communities. Isolated from the centre, these huge housing projects built in the 1950’s and 1960’s to relieve housing shortage, have gradually become ghettos containing a dense concentration of minority ethnic populations. These disadvantaged neighbourhoods are suffering from high unemployment and crime rates and insufficient social services. Narrative works concerned with their representation are today a vibrant part of the rapidly growing field of post-colonial culture in France.
Given the French academia’s initial reluctance to address issues relating to colonial memory and acknowledge contributions of ‘immigrant’ or ‘second-generation’ artists to French national culture, little critical attention has been devoted to the suburbs in France. The most significant research expertise in the area has been developed in Britain and the United States where researchers such as Carrie Tarr or Richard Derderian dealt with the topic of the French suburbs within various disciplines including history, film studies, cultural studies. However, until now no significant interdisciplinary research has been undertaken in this dynamic and exciting field of research. The aim of the proposed collaboration is to fill this gap and question the validity of the concept of ‘banlieue culture’ in contemporary France by studying, from a variety of points of views, the despised urban peripheries’ attempts to integrate into mainstream society and the ways in which they fuel the imagination of contemporary artists. This institution to institution co-operation is expected to promote research in the field of post-colonial culture in France and develop the basis of a future international network.
The planned visit is expected to facilitate dialogue between the future partner institutions, which is crucial for the integration of the suggested research co-operation into an overall institutional partnership strategy. Although the suggested research collaboration is initially based on the co-operation of two departments, the Department of Modern Languages at Oxford Brookes University and the Department of Languages, Linguistics and Comparative Literature at Florida Atlantic University, the interdisciplinary nature of the studied area makes the participation of further departments and schools within the partner institutions possible and desirable (such as the involvement of the Department of Film Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature or the School of Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University and the College of Architecture, Urban and Public Affairs and the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University). The visit would enable the partner institutions to discuss how the planned research activities could be broadened across multiple areas and departments.
On the other hand, Dr Conrod will be visiting Oxford Brookes University at the end of September 2010. This preparatory visit is expected to be an important opportunity for the partner institutions to address the issues of long term sustainability, the broadening of the co-operation across schools and departments within the partner institutions, joint applications for institutional funding, identification of further partner institutions in France and other European countries and the broadening of the bi-lateral collaboration into an international research network. Dr Christina Horvath has been also awarded £1000 funding by the Research Grants Sub-Committee to organise a one-day workshop at Oxford Brookes University on 27th September with the aim to present the collaborative project to the academic community and other partners. The ultimate aim of the event is to determine which departments and schools of both partner institutions would participate in the collaboration, how they would contribute to the partnership and how they would benefit from it. The workshop is also vital for the strategic planning of the activities to be developed, the identification of the expected outcomes and the coordination of measures to be implemented to ensure that the planned outcomes are met.
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