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British Association for American Studies


Collaboration in American Studies: Rachael Alexander’s Report of the BAAS Postgraduate Conference 2015


Collaboration in American Studies: Rachael Alexander’s Report of the BAAS Postgraduate Conference 2015

[vc_row margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][dt_banner image_id=”6564″ bg_color=”rgba(0,0,0,0.14)” min_height=”270″][/dt_banner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column width=”2/3″][dt_quote]The 2015 Postgraduate BAAS conference brought together two academic associations (HOTCUS and BAAS) for a two-day event to promote postgraduate and early career research and explore, as the conference title suggests, “Collaboration in America and Collaborative Work in American Studies”, says conference organizer and BAAS Postgraduate Representative Rachael Alexander. The conference was striking, from start to finish, in the generosity of support and advice from both established academics and fellow postgraduates and early career researchers.[/dt_quote][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][ultimate_heading main_heading=”HOTCUS Postgraduate Workshop and BAAS Postgraduate Conference” spacer=”line_only” spacer_position=”bottom” line_height=”1″ main_heading_font_family=”font_family:|font_call:” main_heading_margin=”margin-top:17px;” sub_heading_font_family=”font_family:Roboto|font_call:Roboto|variant:500″ sub_heading_style=”font-weight:500;” sub_heading_margin=”margin-top:10px;”]Hosted by University of Glasgow

4 – 5 December 2015[/ultimate_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]As is common with academic endeavours a brief conversation about a cosy American Studies get-together snowballed into something much larger last year. Jointly organised by researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Strathclyde, the 2015 Postgraduate BAAS conference brought together two academic associations (HOTCUS and BAAS) for a two-day event to promote postgraduate and early career research and professional development. Centered on the theme of “Collaboration in America and Collaborative Work in American Studies”, we hoped the event would address collaboration as a theme and a practice in American Studies research, as embodied in the organising committee who represented different academic associations and institutions. It is fair to say that the event surpassed the expectations of the committee—Danielle Fleming, Nicole Cassie and Bianca Scoti.

Hosted at the University of Glasgow, the first day was sponsored by HOTCUS and took the form of a career development workshop.  We were overwhelmed by the number of established academics willing to get involved and the advice they offered was very well received.  Each panel was thematically designed to address specific areas of concern for PGRs and ECRs. The day began with “Public Engagement and Collaboration”, where Phillips O’Brien (University of Glasgow), Simon Newman (University of Glasgow) and Cara Rodway (British Library) discussed potential opportunities for taking your research out with your institution.  This was followed by Mark Ellis (University of Strathclyde), Felicity Donohoe (University of Glasgow) and Zoe Colley (University of Dundee) who provided practical advice on approaches to teaching and module design. The final panel of the morning addressed what is, perhaps, one of the most crucial elements of academic career development: publications.  Bevan Sewell (University of Nottingham), Martin Halliwell (University of Leicester), Michelle Houston (Edinburgh University Press) and Michelle Green (U.S. Studies Online) provided a wide range of information and advice on academic publishing, from the traditional monograph to journal articles to blogging.

After a particularly cosy lunch—a testament to the excellent number of attendees—and some generously donated Tunnock’s biscuits, Jonathan Bell (UCL), Sue Currell (University of Sussex) and Marina Moskowitz (University of Glasgow) resumed proceedings with advice on the job market from the perspective of the interview panel.  This panel offered a rare and candid insight into what interviewers are looking for and, of course, what they are not. The final panel of the day was equally open, with Blair Smith (University of Dundee), Nick Witham (UCL) and Malcolm Craig (University of Edinburgh) providing their insight into life after the PhD, particularly the relatively undiscussed first year after completion.  Once we had made it through the rain, the conversations continued at a wine reception in the Picture Gallery of the Glasgow City Chambers, generously hosted by Glasgow City Council.  For me, the day was striking, from start to finish, in the generosity of support and advice from both established academics and fellow postgraduates and early career researchers.

While our hopes for a change in the weather for the second day proved futile, the BAAS postgraduate conference got off to a wonderful start with a panel comprised of two collaboratively produced and presented papers.  Malcolm Craig (University of Edinburgh) and Mark McLay (Glasgow Caledonian University) discussed practical approaches to podcasting, using the particular example of their own “American History Too!” podcast, while Rosemary Pearce (University of Nottingham) and Timo Schrader (University of Nottingham) presented on the organisation of academic events, asking us to question the prevailing models of academic events and encouraging increased engagement beyond academia.  The panels which followed covered a variety of areas of interest in American Studies including: collaboration beyond borders, literary pairings and influence, collaborative spaces and places, contemporary politics and/in popular culture, collaborative activism, and intertextuality. The diverse nature of the panels demonstrated the way in which American culture, society, history and politics have been, and continue to be, shaped by collaborative endeavours.

To close the event with a solitary speaker would have seemed incongruous considering the theme, so we were most fortunate that Jenny Barrett (Edgehill University), Faye Hammill (University of Strathclyde), and Warren Pleece (2000AD/DC Vertigo) agreed to be our collaborative keynotes, and more fortunate still that they all agreed to let us film it! Each addressed a particular aspect of the theme, “Collaborative Texts: Film, Magazines, Comics”, before responding to each other’s contributions prior to questions from the room.  I will refrain from a detailed description, since it can be watched in its entirety below. Suffice it to say it served as an excellent end to the BAAS PG conference and the event overall. The value of collaboration, of support and cooperation, cannot be exaggerated, particularly at a time when academic life seems to be becoming increasingly competitive. The particular successes of this event, in my opinion, lie in the questions it raised, the connections it forged, and the supportive and generous environment it fostered.

Rachael Alexander is a PhD candidate at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. Her research focuses on a comparative study of American and Canadian mass-market periodicals in the 1920s, considering them as both collaborative texts and cultural artefacts and bringing together literary perspectives with aspects of Consumer Culture Theory.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][dt_fancy_image type=”from_url” media=”″ lightbox=”true” width=”700″ margin_top=”15″ margin_bottom=”15″ align=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row margin_top=”15″ margin_bottom=”15″][vc_column][dt_fancy_title title=”Want to read more about the PG BAAS conference 2015?” title_color=”title” separator_color=”custom” custom_separator_color=”#d6cb6f”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”6450″ onclick=”custom_link” link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Head over to U.S. Studies Online to read Christina Brennan’s review of PG BAAS 2015. 

“In what ways do we understand academic collaboration and wider engagement? How do these understandings fit within contemporary research agendas? How, to expand this contemporary focus, do these understandings also have historical resonances in relation to American diplomacy, culture, and politics? These are a selection of the challenging, yet fascinating questions which delegates debated at this year’s British Association of American Studies Postgraduate Conference in Glasgow.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]