Video interview with Alison Blunt, Deputy Vice-Principal for Impact, and Professor of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London
June 27, 2022
"I’m Alison Blunt. I’m Deputy Vice-Principal for Impact with a particular responsibility for Culture, Civic and Community at Queen Mary, University of London. I’m also a Professor of Geography."
How important is it that students think about the applications of their research?
"I think it’s really important. I think PhD research has such potential to really make a difference in the world, providing new evidence, new ideas, new engagements, new ways of communicating with different audiences in terms of wanting to make a really positive difference, wanting to affect positive change beyond the academy. I think also it’s quite difficult, as PhD students sometimes to do that, in terms of the time constraints, the funding constraints of completing a PhD. Sometimes, I think - from the very outset of a PhD project - to think about what the desired impact of that might be, and thinking about what networks, what collaborations, what partnerships might help in beginning to achieve that impact, and to think about building these relationships all the way through a PhD programme. And also - hopefully with the support of the supervisor - to really value a sense of research being outward facing, being in and off the world, and really wanting to make a positive difference, and a positive impact on the world."
Is it common practice for funding bodies to encourage students to think about applying their research, or is Bonnart doing something unusual?
"I think the Bonnart Trust is really distinctive, and really inspirational in terms of the priority that it places on wanting to achieve a society that’s tolerant, and a society that’s inclusive, and seeing that as core to the research that it’s funding. I think that makes it really distinctive, and enormously inspirational, and valuable. I think there are other PhD funding bodies that fund - for instance collaborative projects - that have real potential in terms of working with collaborative partners, and providing some additional research capacity to make a positive difference through that embedding the process of collaboration all the way through from the very design of the project onwards, but those collaborative projects aren’t necessarily focused on particular priority areas. I think the Bonnart Trust, really drawing out the values, and the importance and the sense of why research matters - is really crucial and something to be hugely admired."
Video interview with David Feldman, Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism
June 27, 2022
"I’m David Feldman. I’m the Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Study of Antisemitism. I’m also a Professor of History at Birkbeck, part of the University of London."
Has working with the Bonnart Trust influenced the way you think about your postgraduate students?
"I think working with the Trust has influenced the way I think about my students in at least 2 ways. First of all, there’s the way in which applying to the Trust requires candidates to think about - not only their subject - but the relationship of their subject to the world outside of the academy. And that’s unusual to have as a presence from the very inception of the research project. So that’s one point of difference. The other point of difference is the Trust itself as a funder. Of course, a number of research students do have funders - the Research Councils for example - but the relationship with the Research Council is not a personal relationship, it’s not an interaction in the same way as it is with the Trust, and the way in which one feels the responsibility to the Trust as well as to the student, that things ought to go as well as possible.
How do you think Trusts like Bonnart will have to evolve in the next few years?
"The Trust has already changed in a sense that it’s taken ideas about toleration - which is not a language that we use so much now - to talk about inclusivity, for example, and social justice. The ways in which these ideas are interpreted now are not the same as they were interpreted 10 or 15 years ago, or certainly 20 years ago. So I think the ways in which the Trust will change in the future will – to some extent - depend on the ways in which we continue to reinterpret ideas about inclusivity and diversity and pluralism in modern society."
Video interview with Shereen Hunte, Scholar, MA Student in Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity, Birkbeck, 2020 to 2022
June 27, 2022
"Hi there! My name is Shereen Hunte, and I'm a Masters student on the Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity Masters at Birkbeck College, University of London."
What is your research about?
"Now, my research. My research centres both the black community and the Jewish community in Britain. Throughout history, throughout British history, both of these communities have been largely defined by their racialized identities, or their status, but also by their histories of oppression and migration. Despite this, little research has been done in Britain to centre these communities, and to understand the potential for allyship and collaboration. That is where my research lies. Throughout my Masters, I have been studying on the role of whiteness, to both of these communities, I have looked into the relationship between the Shoah and history of colonialism as well. For my dissertation, I will be focusing in – on the potential for allyship for the Black community and the Jewish community in Britain going forwards. I truly believe that if we continue to learn and understand this potential, then we will be able to truly disrupt the foundations of racial and religious intolerance in this country today."
From BAME to ‘Ethnic Minority in Britain’ – a changing approach to ethnic disparities
September 2021 Newsletter
September 30, 2021
The Trust is pleased to share that Satyadev Gunput is a runners-up prizewinner for the Heywood Foundation's Public Policy Prize.
His submission, From BAME to ‘Ethnic Minority in Britain’ – a changing approach to ethnic disparities, seeks to find an innovative answer to a challenge or opportunity within society.
The impact of covid-19 on research
September 2021 Newsletter
September 30, 2021
Zehra Miah is a PhD student at Birkbeck. Her work considers the impact of religious, racial, and ethnic labels on Turkish-speaking migrants in Britain in the twentieth century.
Support from the Bonnart Trust has meant that I have been able to study and research full-time for the first time in my academic journey. I’d completed my BA and MA part-time due to work and caring responsibilities. No longer would research activity be relegated to annual leave and the odd weekend when I was able to secure childcare.
I knew that researching Turkish-speaking migrants in Britain would mean prioritising oral history as a methodology. Turkish speakers seldom appear in the archives of migration scholarship and I was very much looking forward to my new status as ‘historian’ and delving into the sort of archival work I had only dreamt of; days (or weeks) sitting at the Hackney Archive in Dalston or in Kew flicking through files, scrolling through miles of microfilm piecing together the Turkish speaking experience.
I was nervous about starting the interviews so had put that off. And then, Covid.
The archives made great efforts to help researchers, particularly with digitising collections or making already digitised collections more freely available. Sadly, this (whilst greatly appreciated) was not very productive when researching marginalised groups who are almost invisible in the archives; hidden between the lines of long council minutes and newspapers and, only available on microfilm and large Cabinet papers.
The pandemic reiterated what the literature had told me – that Turkish speakers were ‘silent’ and ‘invisible’. As archives and libraries reopen with booking processes and limits to ensure fair access, I have had to rethink my archival practice. Gone are the hours of speculatively calling up file after file.
However, I am an eternal optimist and for me, there have been some positives in being forced to reevaluate my approach. When you have two hours to collate as much as you can it really focuses the mind. The very helpful archivist who kindly showed so much interest in my work when I got back to the Hackney Archives, helpfully pointed out that I might like to identify key dates before I tackled the non-digitized Hackney Gazette. I’d put off starting my interviews before the pandemic because I was nervous. Now, there is a sense of urgency because it has really hit me that (i) this work does not exist, (ii) this group is marginalised, (albeit with some privilege), and (iii) this really is an important intervention in the scholarship of migration in Britain.
Ultimately, I think what I am saying is that maybe all this upheaval has made me a better scholar.
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