On 21st of March the Research Centre in International Relations hosted the inaugural workshop for the newly created cross-national PhD research network POSTPONE (Postgraduate Poststructural Research Network)at King’s College London’s Strand campus.
This network has been initiated by PhD students from various UK universities, which – apart from King’s College London- include the University of Manchester, the University of Sheffield, The University of Warwick and The University of Aberystwyth. The aim of the network is to offer a way for PhD students to connect more informally with both students and staff at different institutions across the country in order to foster collaborations, idea- and skills sharing, and to create a peer- review network. It builds on excellent initiatives such as the annual Aber-Lanc Colloquium and Gregynog’s Idealab by enabling more continuous contact and relationships through regular events throughout the year. The focus will be on low-key events for work-in-progress, peer review and research methods in the form of workshops and discussions both face-to-face and online. Other ideas include day-long institutional visits for students and the establishment of an annual award for best paper by a PhD student.
The inaugural workshop was a very successful – both challenging and fun- day-long event with around 20 participants and 11 presentations. Attendants included staff and students from King’s College, as well as PhD students from Manchester, Keele, Sheffield, St Andrew’s, York, Warwick and Queen Mary.
The workshop took the form of three panels, chaired by King’s College London’s Dr Leonie Ansems De Vries, Alister Wedderburn, and Dr Claudia Aradau respectively. Each of these panels was followed by 30-45 minutes of Q and A in which the workshop participants engaged in-depth with the papers presented. Presentations ranged from, for example, Davide Schmid’s (University of Sheffield) defense of Theodore Adorno’s notion of negative dialectics, to Emmy Eklundh’s (University of Manchester) findings on the Spanish Indignados’ mobilisation of emotional signifiers in Twitter and Facebook conversations, to Katherine Mycock’s (Keele University) exploration of how problematic heterotopias of nature are constructed through environmental education programmes for children.
Some of the discussions and questions that the presentations sparked were, for example, how much does Adorno’s idea of negative dialectics differ from some of Foucault’s writing?; whether researching “the online” is significantly different from traditional research methods; and, what constitutes “the outdoors,” and what are the implications of such conceptualisations? Other questions and ideas raised during the workshop included: whether there is an outside to tragic language in IR (building on Derrida’s statement that there is nothing outside of the text); if truth can be anything (if it is always produced in a back-wards loop, as Henrique Furtado from Manchester suggested); and how Israel is vindicating new landscape through justifying afforestation with narratives of redemption.
The spirit of the workshop was friendly and collaborative, but at the same time critical, and thus managed to provide the type of platform that the network aimed for. It was an excellent opportunity for presenters to get feed-back from students working within similar theoretical frameworks, but also to socialise, share experiences, and network with PhD’s from other institutions. Looking to the future, a second workshop will be arranged in the autumn- either at King’s College again or at a different institution. The idea of institutional visits will also be further developed with the aim to materialise these in the coming months. During the summer, the Aber-Lanc Colloquium and Gregynog’s Idealab will provide excellent opportunities for PhD students who are engaging in critical and poststructural theories to meet.
On behalf of the Research Centre in International Relations, and the convenors Alister Wedderburn and Josefin Hedlund, we would like to thank all attendants for coming and for contributing to a productive and enjoyable day. Special thanks also to King’s College DTC, who funded refreshments throughout the day, as well as travel arrangements for participants.