RLI fund

Conference Review: Sights and Frights – Interdisciplinary Conference on Victorian Visual Culture, Horror and the Supernatural

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The Sights and Frights conference took place at the University of Sussex on Thursday 19th June 2014. The conference was sponsored by The Centre for Visual Fields at the University of Sussex & supported by the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) Fund. Today’s blog post has been written by the organisers of the event.

Sights & Frights

The aim of this one-day conference was to explore and interrogate cultural cross-currents between nineteenth-century visual culture and the literature, science and social practices of the period, particularly where these were concerned with attitudes to and instances of, the supernatural and horrific.

The conference attracted a variety of international delegates, including research students and academics, as well as professionals working in such diverse fields as museum curating, fiction writing, publishing and contemporary art – evidence that the ghostly and ghoulish is a widely popular area of interest.

Professor William Hughes of Bath Spa University commenced proceedings with his keynote lecture Talking Heads: Reconfiguring Post-Mortem Testimony in the Ghost Story. This fascinating talk discussed how the supernatural and evidential converge in the ghost-story trope of the re-animated corpse.

The six panel discussions showcased the inter-disciplinary nature and exciting range of research being conducted in the field. The topics covered included spiritualism, ghost fiction, werewolves, mummies, phantasmagoria, enfreakment, miasma and spirit photographs – to name but a few.

A very special and unique addition to the conference was a magic lantern demonstration (pictured above), delivered with great humour and erudition by Trevor Beattie. Delegates were treated to an hour of genuine nineteenth-century slides, including ‘chromatropes’ or fake fireworks; a ‘smoking monkey’ and a ‘man swallowing rats’(!) – a spectacular and memorable show that was definitely one of the highlights of the day.

The final keynote speech of the day was given by Dr. Tatiana Kontou, a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and Sussex alumnus. In The Haunted Lens: Mourning and Proof in Post-Mortem and Spirit Photography, Dr. Kontou examined how the aesthetics of the post-mortem photograph permeated other kinds of nineteenth-century imagery. A particularly sensitive and touching observation was how the post-mortem photograph – particularly those featuring children – facilitates mourning by reconfiguring bereavement as a new kind of relationship – one with a dead, rather than a living, loved one.

We are very grateful for the support of the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative Fund, which enabled this conference to take place. For more information and full abstracts of all papers please see www.sightsandfrights.com.


Researching Sex and Intimacy in Contemporary Life: An Interdisciplinary Symposium – 18th July

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Researching Sex and Intimacy in Contemporary Life:

An Interdisciplinary Symposium

July 18th, 9:00 – 18:00

School of Law, Politics and Sociology

Friston 108, University of Sussex

This symposium brings together researchers across the disciplines to address some key current questions and explore ways of researching and thinking about sex and intimacy. It will reflect a wealth of exciting, innovative research and thinking currently in this area. There has been a recent proliferation of research and publication spanning such diverse areas as mediated intimacies, mapping intimacies, asexuality and intimacy, enduring love, liquid love, intimacy and living alone, living apart together, seduction communities, cross-national intimacies, intimacy landscapes, intimate citizenship, sexual citizenship, plastic sexuality, sexualisation, sex work, sex and material culture. There is scope for interdisciplinary thinking and researching from a range of disciplines including Sociology, Cultural studies, Gender Studies, Anthropology, Politics, Law, International development, Education, Psychology and beyond. It is anticipated that future networking and opportunities for collaboration will arise from this event.

Confirmed speakers include Professor Andrea Cornwall, University of Sussex and Dr Meg Barker, Open University.

For more information please contact Charlotte Morris on cam40@sussex.ac.uk

Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/researching-sex-and-intimacy-in-contemporary-life-tickets-11756218165

Limited places available – book early to avoid disappointment.

This event is supported by the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative Fund.

Musical Materialities in the Digital Age Interdisciplinary Conference: 27th – 28th June

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With support from the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative Fund, Music Materialities in the Digital Age is a 2 day interdisciplinary conference taking place at the University of Sussex on 27th and 28th June.

Music, while summoning notions of intangibility, transience and loss, is also associated with material objects that serve to ground the musical, make the transient permanent and defer loss. Unearthing music’s association with materiality reveals a fascinating array of artefacts, including instruments, scores, transcribing devices, sound recordings and much more. Such artefacts provide vital reference points for historical research as well as inviting new creative uses, rediscoveries and (re)mediations. They also add to the ever-growing archives of past objects, whether stored in ‘physical’ or digital forms. Music’s material traces serve as vital ways of mediating memory, whether in private collections or public exhibitions. Furthermore, the use of musical ‘ephemera’ such as record sleeves, programmes, flyers and posters as a primary means for putting the popular musical past on display in museums and galleries has highlighted the ways in which such objects are not so ephemeral after all.

 The persistence of musical artefacts and musical materialities following the period of their initial use value poses interesting questions. What is the fate of musical artefacts once they become obsolescent? What becomes of music and its objects once relegated to archives? What is the role of musical artefacts in helping us to understand the past? What is the relationship between the physical and the digital in terms of music’s objects? To what extent does a focus on music’s objects challenge the idea of music as a social process? Conversely, what role does musical materiality play in the maintenance and development of rituals long associated with music? What rituals reformulate musical materiality? What does the remediation of the musical past via ‘media archaeology’ have to tell us about present desires, anxieties and needs? What is the role of museums, galleries, sound archives and libraries in these processes?

Working from the premise that musical materiality matters, the aim of this two-day interdisciplinary conference (welcoming speakers from media studies, music studies, cultural studies, museum studies, memory studies and other cognate disciplines) will be to reflect upon the materialities of music objects/technologies in the digital age, with an emphasis on:

  • Processes of remediation
  • Residual media of ‘dead media’
  • Cultural waste
  • Media archaeology (and particular manifestations relating to sound and music, e.g. ‘vinyl archaeology’)
  • The recycling of memory and material culture
  • The digital archive
  • The future of music creation and consumption
  • Nostalgia and ‘retromania’
  • Music as ‘thing’ and/or ‘process’
  • Commodification


Scheduled papers cover a variety of topics, including contexts of reception, production and circulation of digital objects; analysis of residual media and formats (playback devices, vinyl records, cassettes, etc.); the meanings and implications of digitisation; archives, museums and sound curating; musical materiality and digitality in education, the implications of streaming for producers and consumers of music; the evocative power and physicality of music objects. The full programme will be published on the conference website later in May.

Keynotes will be provided by Professor Will Straw and Dr Noel Lobley.

Will Straw is Director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada and Professor within the Department of Art History and Communications Studies at McGill University in Montreal. Dr. Straw received his BA in Film Studies from Carleton University (Ottawa) and his Masters and PhD degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of Cyanide and Sin: Visualizing Crime in 50s America, and co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to Pop and Rock.  He has published widely on music scenes, the music industry and the relationship of music to media.

Noel Lobley is a sound curator who is currently working as an ethnomusicologist Research Associate at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where he is developing the music and sound collections through a series of curated experiential sound events.  His interdisciplinary research in the anthropology of sound and music explores recorded heritage as a key method for understanding the relationships between archival field recordings, culture and environment.

The conference will include a specially convened panel featuring sound curators Andy Linehan and Cheryl Tipp of the British Library. This session, convened by Professor David Hendy (University of Sussex), is in collaboration with the British Library and the Sussex-based Public Culture Hub.

Registration and Fees

Registration for the conference is now open. Please register by completing the booking form and paying the appropriate fee using one of the payment methods listed on the registration page.


The organisers of the conference ‘Musical Materialities in the Digital Age’ are delighted to offer up to 30 Sussex students the opportunity to register for this 2-day conference at the reduced rate of £25. This represents a 50% saving on the current early-bird student rate and a 60% saving on the regular student rate. The reduced rate is open to any student currently registered at the University of Sussex and covers conference registration, delegate fees, lunch and refreshments on both days of the conference.

To request an application form for the reduced rate please e-mail R.Elliott@sussex.ac.uk.

Completed forms must be received by 13th June 2014 to be eligible for the fee reduction, but bear in mind that applications will be dealt with as received so early submission is advised. Details of how to pay the reduced fee (£25) will be provided with confirmation of successful applications.

For more information please visit the Music Materialities In the Digital Age website.


Call for Applications to the Researcher-Led Initiative Fund: Apply by Friday 2nd May 2014

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Researcher-Led Initiative Fund

The Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) fund has been established to fund peer-led professional development activities for researchers. We are keen to sponsor initiatives that benefit a broad range of researchers (across disciplines and career stages). You may seek funding for activities that expand, complement or build on current provision for researchers

The current call is for activities that are already in progress that you are seeking some support for and the funds must be spent by the 31st July 2014.

We are looking to support activities which:

–          Enhance the professional development of researchers

–          Can be opened up to researchers in more than one School

–          Address areas within the Vitae Researcher Development Framework

Applications to the RLI fund are invited from researchers of all career stages: doctoral researchers, research staff, and members of faculty. However, funding will not be given for travel, course or conference attendance, or staffing costs. Similarly, research projects are outside the scope of this funding stream.

We would normally expect applications to be for less than £1,000, although applications that exceed this amount will be considered.

The Doctoral School will call for applications to the RLI fund again in the Autumn Term.

Please refer to the guidance notes and application forms at: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/doctoralschool/internal/funding/rli

Get in touch with us at researcher-development@sussex.ac.uk with any queries.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 2nd May 2014.

Organiser perspective: Herstmonceux Drosphila Retreat 2012

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Today’s guest post is written by Dr Sarah Newbury, Reader in Cell Biology in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). Dr Newbury gives us her perspective on the organisation of the 2012 Drosphila Retreat, an interdisciplinary event organised by her team, and partially funded by the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) fund.

Sussex Drosophila Retreat 2012
Dr Sarah Newbury

Drosphila Retreat 2012 delegates
Drosphila Retreat 2012 delegates

In December, 2011, Juan Pablo Couso in Life Sciences, pointed out to me that it was my turn to organise the Annual Sussex Drosophila Retreat.  I first of all asked my two very efficient technicians, Clare Rizzo-Singh and Karen Scruby, to help me out. We then checked out the venue which was Herstmonceux Castle, near Hailsham.  The conference organiser there was very helpful and explained the costs of each facility and the options we had available. In particular, the conference room was very pleasant with alcoves, an anteroom where refreshments could be served and windows overlooking the moat.

Karen then set about inviting the participants using Googledoc which is very handy as it puts the information straight into a Excel spread sheet. The next big job was to try to get sponsorship.  We persuaded a number of industrial companies, e.g. Qiagen, Fisher, Brand, each of whom sponsored a A4 advert in the abstract book. Agilent also agreed to pay £200 to give a seminar by an expert in high-throughput techniques. We tried various other sources for funding. The Company of Biologists did not fund our small grant application, but the Biochemical Society gave us £200. At this stage we were getting a bit desperate for funding and were thinking of introducing austerity measures such as the group leaders having standard rather than en-suite rooms!

At that point we were fortunate enough to be awarded £2444 from the Doctoral School. This meant we could cover the costs (including the minibuses to the venue, which were surprisingly expensive), the printing of the abstract books and the travel costs for the invited industrial speakers. The organisation of the abstract book took a number of reminder emails but we managed to get all the abstracts together and the booklets printed at the Sussex print room.

In the end, the Sussex Drosophila Retreat went very well. The minibuses turned up, all the invited speakers arrived and the talks were interesting. The anonymous survey showed that the PhD students and postdocs found the event useful and thought it improved their research and transferable skills. A number of people found it very useful to talk to the industrial experts about new techniques. There were criticisms was that there was not enough free time for informal discussions and/or walks around the grounds.  We can address this next time.

We would sincerely like to thank the Sussex Doctoral School for providing us with funding under the Researcher-Led Initiative fund.

Researcher perspective: Herstmonceux Retreat 2012

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Today’s missive is a guest post from Samantha Hodges, 1st year PhD student in the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS). Sam talks about her experiences at the 2012 Drosphila Retreat, an interdisciplinary event organised by Dr Sarah Newbury’s team, and partially funded by the Doctoral School’s Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) fund.

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Monday 30th July 2012

Today, all of the Drosophila research groups from Sussex are heading out to East Sussex to Herstmonceux Castle for the annual Drosophila Retreat. The Retreat consists of three days of presentations and break out discussion groups. This year 23 delegates will be attending and three outside speakers will also give presentations on two evenings.

As a first year PhD student I do not know what to expect and I can say I am quite nervous about what it is going to be like. We had a lovely drive to Herstmonceux Castle which is set in beautiful countryside and I was quite eager to have a walk around the grounds.

The first day got under way as soon as we arrived with presentations by Dr Claudio Alonso’s research group. This was followed by a discussion group session where we broke out into smaller groups to discuss individual presentations and then to present our views back to the group as a whole. This was a really good opportunity to discuss techniques and to gain feedback and advice from colleagues. As a first year it was a great way to get to know other researchers working for the University and to know what research they were involved in.

The evening’s activities involved a pub quiz created by Chris Jones and Joe Waldron. This was a fun activity and a great way to relax with the group. There were several rounds, some science related where we embarrassed ourselves with our lack of general science knowledge, some general knowledge rounds and a special Olympic round. It was great fun and I even managed to be part of the winning team, along with Richard Kaschula, Chris Sampson and Wan Liu!!

Tuesday 31st July 2012

I arrived early for breakfast to make sure I could get some energy for the day. Food was served at set times in a main canteen and the choice was excellent. Each day we had coffee and biscuit breaks in between sessions, so I can safely say none of us went hungry! Tuesday was filled with presentations and discussion groups from Professor Juan Couso’s group. In the evening we welcomed Konrad Paszkiewicz and Karen Moore from the University of Exeter to talk to us about RNA Sequencing.

Wednesday 1st August 2012

Wednesday was the last full day of the retreat and the day I had to present my work to the group. The day started with presentations and discussions from Dr Ted Morrow’s research group. I found this session particularly interesting as Ted’s research is more evolutionary than any of the other groups and it was great to get advice from a different research perspective.

After a quick lunch it was the turn of Dr Sarah Newbury’s research group and I was the second presenter. Everything went well and we had a very useful discussion about our work afterwards. We then were all excited about the end of retreat party!! Balloons were blown up and everyone headed to the pub for a few rounds of pool and darts before the balloon volleyball got underway in the castle. No clear rules or tactics made for a fantastic (and loud) game of balloon volleyball which involved using a balloon as a bat to hit another balloon to the other side of the room (far more fun than you would expect!!) We then hit the dance floor for another chance to embarrass ourselves in front of our colleagues!!

Overall I can say the retreat has been a great few days. It was a great opportunity for me to meet fellow Drosophila researchers and to get help and advice on my project; it will be interesting to see what new advances people have made at next year’s retreat.

TRASH Art evening and PG conference: registration now open

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Sussex Centre for Cultural Studies presents:


An evening of art, film and sound at The Basement, Brighton
Thursday 13th September 2012


A one day postgraduate conference at the University of Sussex
Friday 14th September 2012

Registration is now open on the TRASH blog, where you can also find out more information about the two events.

Conference fees: £10 or £5 (students)

Thursday evening tickets: £5

Email: sccs-conf@sussex.ac.uk

Twitter: @SCCS_

Trash operates as a physical and symbolic manifestation of consumer society and its associated debris; it celebrates the filthy, excessive and grotesque; and it expresses how power communicates and classifies abject bodies. It not only describes the devaluation of trash culture, but it also refers to the material practices and processes through which we deal with ‘waste’ in all its forms.

In this one day postgraduate conference participants will rummage through the trash heap of history, art, media, culture, politics, and society in order to uncover new scholarly approaches and methods that continue to appropriate and recycle theories of trash.

A range of papers from postgraduate researchers will consider the decayed, disposed of, degraded and decried from a range of academic disciplines.

To coincide with TRASH at the University of Sussex there will be an evening of art, film and music at The Basement in central Brighton on Thursday 13th September from 7.30pm. A range of practitioners will exhibit their work, providing the opportunity for researchers to engage with the theme of trash outside of the academy.

Doctoral School logoTRASH is supported by the Doctoral School’s
Researcher-Led Initiative (RLI) fund.