Learning from Others: Reflections on the Project Presentations

As an opening remark, the breadth of all the presentations I have witnessed surpassed the vocal range of the legendary Axl Rose (Guns and Roses) with a whopping 6 octaves. Spanning both geography and time (or to put it in academic terms, Trans-spatial and temporal), I saw a breathtaking range of research, historiography and analytical perspective. I’m not one to usually pick favourites, but Naomi’s presentation on representations of Asian Masculinity struck a very personal chord with me. It’s likely because it’s a topic I have thought about extensively before, being someone that has lived the East Asian male experience. It was heartwarming to see the historical development of how Bruce Lee (in vernacular) “made it better” for us. There were also some fascinating links to the 1882 ban on Chinese Exclusion Act that I coincidentally read in the University of Edinburgh’s Law Library.

On a completely different turn, Rory’s Black Metal presentation beautifully combined Intellectual and Cultural History with a touch of Aesthetics was beautifully done. Again, I may be slightly partial to this due to my love of Batushka, one of the artists featured in his presentation I resonate very strongly with the benefits of combining Anthropology and history as a new methodology. Because of this, I am re-evaluating my decision on whether I wish to employ Actor-Network Theory.

In a moment of introspection, I will have to think a little bit more deeply about what the path I wish to take with my own project. It has been an eye opening experience looking at what others have been doing.

Thoughts on Presentation

I found all the presentations fascinating, and it seemed like everyone had engaged well with their secondary readings and primary sources. Unfortunately, I am down with covid, and I don’t have the energy to discuss everyone’s presentation. I hope to recover before class on Tuesday.

Morven, I enjoyed your presentation a lot. I like how you questioned the western hegemony of Shakespeare by asserting its non-western production and consumption. I also found it interesting when you discussed that Shakespeare was introduced to India to spread progressive principles of western liberalism. Later you discussed how the literary figure was reclaimed and rewritten by the oppressed. I am excited to see how you’ll use your primary sources. Finally, you mentioned that the director of Omkara had not read much of Shakspeare play himself. This made me realise that most of the Indian audience watching Omkara was also unaware that it was an adaptation. This lack of awareness creates a unique space for the legacy of Shakespeare in a post-colonial context. I hope I get to read your project at some point.

Presentation Comments

I really enjoyed seeing all the presentations that everyone has uploaded and I have a few comments about my own thoughts.

Hannah, I found your presentation on the “Narratives of Journey” deeply interesting and it led me to reconsider my own thoughts and beliefs surrounding refugees. Your initial slides, asking what we see when we think ‘refugee’, made me realise the expanse of the topic and the narrow perspective that is delivered in the Western world.

I liked your shift to the conceptual aspect of the study of refugees, allowing you greater scope to achieve the transnational aims of your project. Further to this, the link that you illustrated between zombies and refugees once again made me reconsider my own experience and interactions with this topic. I live down in Dover, on the South coast, a short ferry away from Calais and I feel that the general understanding of refugees and their situations are shaped and moulded by our geographical position and by the information we are exposed to. The matter of ‘visibility’, whereby you mentioned that refugees are either invisible, or hyper-visible, to the point where those two concepts amalgamate as zero recognition. Overall, I found your presentation deeply thought-provoking and I would urge anybody who has not yet seen it to do so!

Angus, I equally enjoyed your presentation on the Welsh Subaltern, a concept and a field of history with which I am shamefully unacquainted. Whilst I found your presentation interesting in its content, it was my resonance with your thoughts on comparative methodology that stood out to me the most. Your desire to compare the characteristics between subaltern groups is very sound in theory and will hopefully deliver a fruitful result. The methodological benefits and possibilities that come from employing a comparative aspect are myriad I am very intrigued to see what your findings are.

On the matter of source collection, you mentioned a difficulty with regards to finding truly subaltern sources. Whilst I wish I had more advice to give on this issue, my only suggestion would be to find the more mainstream sources and, by way of analysis and comparison, figure out what their impact filtered down onto those below. I hope this helps and thank you again for your presentation!

End of the Semester

We are almost at the end of this semester and what a semester it has been!!  I’ve have really enjoyed both of my classes this semester and this one in particular I have really learned a lot.  It was really nice to learn about new topics that are not really talked about in first and second year.  I think the highlights of the course were the Saturday unconference and the group talks in the breakout rooms, as I think it is really important to listen and talk to others.  I feel that you learn more by doing this and I love hearing other people’s opinions about topics, as it gives you a better understanding of all sides and helps you identify different areas that you may not have thought of before.  I was initially very nervous about going in to third year, as I’m the type of person who tends to stay in the background (that is where I feel most comfortable).  However, this year has pushed me out of my comfort zone, taught me to be more confident in myself and not to be scared of voicing ideas or opinions in the classroom.  Whether this changes back to before, if we go back to person to person teaching in fourth year I do not know, but I sincerely hope not.   

Presentations

I have watched all the presentations and really enjoyed them.  I did have a few technical issues with a small amount of them and could not hear all of the slides, but I read them all, which filled in some of the gaps.  It has been great to see the diversity of the presentations, I have learned a lot from this and know a little about subjects that I had no clue about beforehand.  The presentations also gave me a few ideas about my own project and how I can improve on it.  I do not have a huge amount of comments, but I will detail some of the ones that I have just now. 

Rory – Your presentation was brilliant!!  From start to finish your presentation was full of really interesting information and I really think you should have your own radio show or podcast, as you have a great presenting voice and you kept it going till the very end, which made it even more interesting.

Angus – I really enjoyed your presentation and your section on the sources that you will be using was great, you have given me some ideas for my own project, especially on visitor accounts, as I found this particularly interesting. 

Naomi – Your presentation was excellent as well.  I particularly enjoyed the section on his biography, which you detailed about Bruce’s confliction between his duty as a father, husband and son, and his desire to be an actor.  I found this really interesting and would like to know more about it.  I also think you have found some gaps in research that you can help to fill in with your project, specifically on Asian/ American studies and gender studies.    

I would just like to say a massive well done to everyone for their presentations and good luck for your final project/essay.  One last thing before I go, thank you to everyone who has gave me feedback on my presentation, it is greatly appreciated and I will take all your comments onboard.   

Ponderings on Project Presentations

Firstly, how have we reached the end of week eleven? Where has this semester gone? It seems only yesterday that we were grappling with the AHR conversation and other, notable, introductory texts, and feeling pretty ropey trying to get to know one another over Teams and its dodgy connection.

Secondly, I just want to say how enjoyable it was watching all your presentations – I love the diverse range of content, and how each one of us have settled on something that interests and excites us – and that really comes through in the presentations. Like a number of people have commented on already, I hope we get to share our final projects/essays – as, with the blog posts and our two presentations, I feel invested in the journey – and want to see how they end.

Anyway, without further ado, I’ll crack onto some comments – and I’m sure I’ll have more by the time we meet again on Tuesday, so if I don’t have a comment for your presentation written here, don’t worry, I’ll get to you!


Grace – Transnational Reproduction

Wow! What a really interesting topic. I take my hats off to you, especially in regards to the challenge of balancing the ethical implications of transnational reproduction, while wanting to look at history, policies, and methods behind it. This is just my curiosity, but do you fall on one side of the ethical debate? And if so, how do you plan to investigate it and run your project? Is it something you feel you need to try and remain neutral and not allow your bias to cloud your research, or, will your research benefit from your own feelings about the topic? I realise that was a lot of questions, but its something I’ve been wrestling with as I read more about refugees, and wondered if you had any thoughts.

The points you made about the challenges and benefits of doing a project with present-day implications were also really good. I’d love to know the title of the Potter and Romano article you cited – I think the last page of your bibliography got cut off – but it’s a challenge I’m similarly facing. Balancing the past with the present; and trying not to afford one or the other too much importance. I wish you all the luck with finding sources, and can’t wait to hear the findings (even if they do come at the end of a dissertation, rather than in three weeks time!)

Morven – Race in Othello

Lovely and concise – what an introduction to your project. I’d possibly have appreciated a couple of definitions – but then, it could just be me who doesn’t understand what “rhizomatic” means in the academic (non scientific) setting. How much context do you plan on bringing in? When were the two plays written? I know you mentioned Suzman’s Othello being written in Apartheid South Africa, but when was Omkara written? How much does its time influence its performance and reception? As I was listening, I felt like I would have benefitted from a comparison between the two different Shakespeares – the Western Shakespeare, and the one you find in these two adaptations of Othello – but also a simple similarities and differences list between Omkara and Suzman’s Othello. Despite all those questions (sorry), it’s a really fascinating topic, and one that I think only scratches the surface on what is out there. I can’t wait to read your conclusions, and what happens to the Bard who has for so long, been a household name.

Roger – Migrational Masala

Lovely clear structure of your presentation – and I think that’ll be really helpful for your essay too! I’m such a fan of good organisation and preparation. I did have to wonder though, what were the specific anthropological tools you mentioned? What are you drawing from other disciplines? Also, thank you for identifying the gap in the scholarship; this is really helpful. How do you think you’re going to tackle the challenge that oral history presents itself, and the “knowledge loss” and alienation of culture that you mentioned? It makes me think of using the absence of something as a tool for identification, and when we’re told to look for what the source doesn’t say, as much as what it does say. I hope you’ve been able to sample a number of masala mixes during your research though – and have had some edible benefits to the project!

Douglas – French and American Revolutions

Hey Douglas – great presentation. I loved the bit where you talked about communication in your sources section. It reminded me of something we looked at in my module last semester, MO3349, ‘The American Metropolis’. During it, we looked at the growth and development of the American city, from Pilgrims through to present day. So, evidently, we looked at the Revolutionary period too – but the reason for mentioning it here, was that Newspapers were actually a big source of spreading revolutionary ideas. They managed to cross borders, printers shared stories, and ideas spread, far more effectively than the British government realised. If you want a specific article/chapter, let me know and I can share the details.

I found your overview of the historiography really helpful, so thank you. My other question, is how does the “worldwide revolution” relate to the transnational approach to history? And how much will it play a part in your project?

Naomi – Bruce Lee: Fist of Fury

What a really clear structure to your presentation, and a really interesting range of sources. I love that you’re bridging the gap between cinema, academic scholarship, and ethnographic interviews for your research. It’s another way of celebrating the less typical sources used in academia, and I love it (I’m partial to rocking the boat slightly!). Have you considered looking at the conceptual history for “masculinity”? I know you’ve looked into gender studies, but I wonder whether the conceptual approach may help too. I had a few questions in response to your presentation: How do you propose to join the Western and Eastern cinema powers? Does “masculinity” look different in Hong Kong – i.e., is there a “Western masculinity”, or is it something more universal? Has this new trope of masculinity that was introduced by Bruce Lee’s films been influential on the current thoughts about masculinity in Hong Kong? I wish you all the best with your reading, researching, and interviewing – for what sounds like a really exciting topic.


I hope some of those reflections have been helpful – and if not, please ignore them! For those of you I haven’t gotten round to yet, I’m sorry – and even though our blog posts have to be in to MMS tomorrow, I’ll try and add another post with the second half of the presentations.

Thanks for being such a great group of people to study with – who have challenged my thinking and constructively challenged my writing. I’ve certainly enjoyed being in this module together – and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcomes of MO3351.

Response to Presentations

After watching all of the presentations, I am struck by the sheer amount of new information I have learned, thank you all for producing such interesting material. It is obvious that all of us have fallen head first into research on our topic, and I found myself feeling inspired after watching these engaging presentations. 

Hannah 

Keeping with your performance in class this semester, you eloquently narrated your presentation, flowing from one point to the next almost seamlessly. You were able to effectively draw the audience’s attention to the theoretical and real-life aspects of your topic, without creating a divide, but by incorporating these two aspects almost simultaneously. I found your source base especially creative and thought provoking. In particular the slides covering the art experience “Virtually Present, Physically Invisible” stood out to me. This installation, and the short video you included about it, literally gave me goosebumps, and were fantastic additions to your presentation. I think my reaction to this part of the presentation attests to the power that non-academic sources can have in communicating the lived experience of groups such as refugee’s to readers. Beyond explanation, you have done a really nice job of showing your audience how perceptions of refugees do not match the lived experience Anyways, I really enjoyed listening to your presentation, thanks for the contribution! 

Carmen 

Hi Carmen, thanks for your presentation, as someone who knows very little about Chilean history or politics in general, it was great to get an overview of significant political and economic developments in the last thirty years or so. You did a nice job of explaining how the Mapuche people have been negatively affected by neoliberal policies during the period of democratization and since then. In addition I like your decision to include non-human aspects into your research, in the form of Spirit Politics. I look forward to reading about how these movements shape Chilean society and specifically how they have the potential to re-shape political goals in order to meet the demands of the Mapuche people. One aspect I was a little unclear on was how exactly you plan to carry out a transnational history. In your original proposal, the transnational aspect of your project was linked to the international presence of the catholic church, now the transnational aspect is less clear. You point out that the Mapuche people are located in one region and are almost universally opposed to the state, however it would be great if you could clarify exactly how you will categorize the Mapuche. Are they an autonomous group looking to be a state (?), a sub-state group looking for political change (?) or something else all together? I think you have a really good start here but to cement the transnational aspect in your essay you might benefit from some clarification. Thank you again for the informative presentation, I look forward to reading your essay and learning even more! 

Karen 

I really enjoyed your presentation, it was just fantastic. Your extensive research and resulting knowledge on the topic is crystal clear. Your presentation was incredibly well thought out and coherent in its organization and elucidation. I really liked how you organized your slides so that the audience was easily able to point out the similarities and differences in the Jute industry in Bengal and in Dundee even before your neat summary at the end of the presentation. I also thought that your inclusion of other historical events outside of your immediate research area, such as your comments on the different causes of migration into Dundee, to be a nice touch. It might be interesting to look at other transnational factors which could contribute to the degree of poverty in these two areas that your analysis focuses on. This might allow you to compare the Bengal and Dundee in relation to regional differences in addition to local ones. However this is just a thought, your research looks really great so far and I understand this investigation may be beyond the scope of what you are focusing on. Thank you Karen, it was really nice to learn a bit more about Dundee, and super interesting to hear about the city’s connections to Bengal which I had no idea existed before this semester! 

Thank you all again for providing such great presentations for me to watch, and for a great semester 🙂

Presentation round-up

I think it’s a strength of the module that everyone has a unique perspective on how to do transnational history and this is evident in the sheer diversity of the projects presented. These presentations also gave me ideas on how to improve my own project going forward. 

Here are a few comments I had about a couple of the presentations.

Poverty and Labour in the Jute Industry: Home and Away (Karen)

I thought this was a fantastic presentation, which clearly showcased the depth of your research. I also really liked the main factors of comparison which were clearly defined. After watching your presentation, I realised that this is something that my project is lacking, and I hope to implement some clear categories of comparison into my own project. Your historiography is clearly part of your project in your discussion of wages disparities and living conditions especially between the genders and locations. Perhaps a suggestion would be to briefly comment on the historiographical fields of social history, feminism or postcolonial studies. However, this is only a minor suggestion as the historiographical influences on your project are clear. 

The Enlightenment: Connections between US and French Revolutions (Doug)

Another really good presentation which has been well thought out and has clear arguments outlined. The flow of ideas and their interactions is clearly a transnational in scope. You also showed that you had taken on board feedback in order to address the impacts that these revolutionary figures had on lesser-known actors. You also displayed a really good range of sources which were clearly split into a wide range of categories. Overall, this was a great presentation! Perhaps you could have maybe spoke a bit more of the lesser-known actors, however in a short 10-minute presentation there’s a lot to pack in so I wouldn’t worry too much about that!

Fist of Fury: A transnational guide on how Bruce Lee punched his way against Asian stereotypes in Hollywood (Naomi)

Again, another excellent presentation which transnationally spans beyond just Bruce Lee’s impact taking into account the Cold War political environment as well as how global definitions of masculinity developed and changed. I really liked your use of sources. Whilst most of them are not traditional academic sources they clearly support the argument you are making and its great see such a wide variety of sources being implemented into your project.

My initial reactions to some presentations

Here are my initial reactions to some of the presentations! I have only included four here, but I have watched them all and will gather my thoughts for what I am sure will be a great discussion in our final ( 🙁 ) class next Tuesday.

Hannah on the Refugee

I will try to answer the question you ask us in your presentation: what do you picture when I think of the word refugee? For me, you hit the nail on the head with the image of alone, worn out women, often with children; the picture of poverty. Also, I really liked how you brought in the negative media depiction of the refugee, as that is also something I definitely think about when I hear the word. I definitely don’t think I have seen any positive headings about refugees, though maybe that is because those don’t jump out as much as the negative ones with their punchy, natural disaster-like titles. This is indeed a very interesting analysis you present. I also really enjoyed your presentation of Ahmed’s cartoons, pointing out the lack of the neutral definition of the refugee. The transnational nature of your topic and its link to the movement of people is sure to provide some really interesting insights, and I am excited to read your final project! 

Tanushree on Feminism 

I found your presentation really enthralling, as coming from the British education system we studied exclusively British suffragettes/suffragists. As soon as you mentioned that the movement was not originating in the west and migrating outwards, but rhizomatic and globally erupting, it seemed like an obvious thought, but definitely one that I was unaware of. It will be great to read more into the intricacies of the relationship between the two movements in your final project. I also liked how you link to work on the fight against colonialism and how these processes/movements interacted, as general dissolution was increasing in the inter-war period. Again, the inter-connections pointed out between suffragettes and upper-caste women were really interesting, and provides another avenue for connections and comparisons, making this a true transnational study of the development and movements of Indian suffragettes!

Roger on Migrational Masala 

I loved how you outlined the research gap straight from the beginning, adding a clear question to this already very well-thought out and well explained presentation! Transnational food history has definitely been something I haven’t thought about before this module, but your blog posts and presentations have been really insightful. One aspect of your presentation which I found super interesting was the link between the culture of convenience and spice blends, and how, perhaps, in Britain these families pay more care to preserving the spice mixes of their family, given the physical space between them. Your use of interviews will also be great, and really help to provide a study which hasn’t really been touched on before, so I look forward to reading your final project and discovering the real experiences behind spice blend consumption today, and how they are interconnected and differ.  

Rory on Black Metal

Firstly, Rory, thank you for your comment’s on my presentation! I thought I would say that here as when I was watching your presentation I definitely found the similarities in our presentations and their focus on art really interesting. I must say, black metal is not something I have much (any!) experience with, but your presentation was clear and drew interesting parallels between music and politics which I never would have considered. I liked that you spoke about how music is not a self-contained human experience, but that it relates to everything- the political, social, cultural backdrop upon which it is produced and also consumed. This makes the music not a self-contained entity in itself, but, as you mentioned, there is a ‘micro-reflexity’ between the individual fan and their conception of the subculture. This is something which makes me think of how the people who watch the performances I study in my project are all experiencing something different, too, and so I am interested to read your final project!

Presentation Responses

Looking forward to seeing everyone again next week, here are a couple notes on each presentation.

Naomi

Really cool topic, “Asian masculinity in the Western gaze”, and your intonation during the presentation was so emotive that it both showed your own personal engagement with the topic while also encouraging me to do likewise. One question I had, just because I don’t think I got it clearly in the presentation, was about the difference between masculinity and the hyper-masculinity that is presented in traditional filmography, and outlining the differences between the two would help me understand more about what made Bruce Lee so ground-breaking. However, your analysis of race as well as gender showed his uniqueness enough without having to go into this gender question too specifically. The graphs were also really fun and visually engaging, so they worked well as springboard into other discussions on the topic. I also appreciated the focus on multiple forms of art, rather than being an essay on films you brought in video games and other media.

Roger

A very clinical and clear presentation, I am left in no doubt as to what you aim to achieve with your project. One thing I was slightly confused about was the choice of photos in each slide, while I think you explained them well in each case this usually came midway through the slide’s narration and so I was left questioning why an ant was on the screen for a few seconds. Another point, if using oral history, which clearly works well for this investigation, I think giving a rough time period as to when you believe the historical change under investigation took place would help us understand how useful oral history can be to this case. Overall, just a very cool project with fantastic political implications for the survival of cultural traditions.

Grace

I really liked how the secondary sources were organised by their political angles, really showing the emotive significance and political potential of any investigation on this topic. Equally, I enjoyed your exploration of each type of primary source that you will be using and your analysis as to each of their utilities. One question I was left with, simply because I am left interested by your presentation, is why this has to be a transnational history? Do ART practices differ on the transnational scale to the domestic scale? Is the difference one of national exploitation? You sold me on the topic and so that is why I am curious about such questions.

Hannah

The first few introductory slides were really effective, leaving us in no doubt as to the layout of the presentation. Your narration was flawless, and I only wish I could present as calmly and as communicatively digestible as you did here (I feel I’m rather too manic to be able to do this). Since you raise the political implications of the issue throughout your piece (that portrayals can’t be neutral; that there is a need for ethically informed decision-making; that we need to reorient the debate away from Europe), will your piece take any specific political positions? I also want to ask as to what extent art analysis will play a role in informing your project, considering you do it so convincingly throughout the presentation? I also enjoyed the multimedia aspect of the presentation. Finally, on discussing the creation of “the refugee”, I’m not sure whose construction of the identity you are trying to analyse, is it the construction of it by hegemonic media, by other people, by the artists critiquing this, or by the refugees themselves? Just not sure who the object for analysis is in this piece.

Angus

Really cool topic. One question I had, if there was a Welsh sub-altern that was highlighted in the 18th Century, when did this sub-altern cease to exist or change? I feel your comparative model, which shows great sensitivity to the issue of likening two differing sub-altern communities, offers a good methodological base to analyse this and allows you to bring in plenty of historiography which you may have otherwise been lacking had you focused purely on the Welsh sub-altern. I like how you define the Welsh sub-altern and I really look forward to hearing more on the topic. I wonder whether there is potential for the identification and revival of cultural traditions in this investigation?

Douglas

I enjoyed how clearly the introduction laid out the progression of the presentation, and your clear and calm narration throughout made each point more effective. I think you present the transnational nature of the topic convincingly, that these ideas offered connections to varying communities who interpreted them differently based upon their unique historical context. I also really like your methodological choice of focusing on lesser-known pieces, and I hope this will help you pinpoint precisely which discursive events proved the most significant in driving the actions surrounding these revolutions. Just to pedantically quibble on methodology though, while the choice of sources is identified, I’m not sure I quite picked up the aim, the final goal, of this analysis and I’m unsure whether to liken this method to Foucault or to the Cambridge School or to something else.

Morven

You present really interesting questions, ones similar to those raised by Clare Anderson’s piece on Jim Crow across the Anglophonic world which we read earlier in the term, and I think you present a really cool nuanced point on how these play adaptations offer a reflexivity in the master/servant dialectic which these plays are performed within. Your diffusionist methodology looks like it can effectively deconstruct Eurocentric perspectives on Shakespeare and diversify the narrative, showing that there are many different authentic interpretations of Shakespeare that exist outside of its original form; these being the recontextualisations to specific cultural coordinates. The in-depth analysis of the Omkara vs. Suzman’s Othello was brilliant, and I love the role which art plays in informing your analysis.

Karen

I like the “home and away” aspect of the piece, connecting two completely different communities which exist across the globe from one another, and how a specific market force can have such similar, and dissimilar, effects on each of them. It’s a well laid out piece with clearly spoken narration. The statistics are absolutely fascinating and shocking, and the role of migration is interesting because I wonder what transversal exchanges occurred as new rural migrants entering the city encountered the existing inhabitants, and similarly with different Indian communities coalescing in Bengal. Ultimately, I think your method and choice of primary sources can show us how these two global cities of Empire were created by the working people who lived hard lives around them. It would be interesting to hear some more about the secondary source historiographical discussions surrounding the lives of these people.

Carmen

I enjoy the refreshing focus on transcultural meetings without state borders and the look at the power of the state. It’s obviously an interesting subject, hence why you have so many questions surrounding it, but by narrowing the questions you wish to focus on we can get a lot more from each of these questions individually. You effectively narrated what you wanted to achieve with this piece, however, visual cues accompanying the slides discussing sources and a more explicitly laid out methodology and analysis of sources would make the presentation more interesting.

Tanushree

I enjoyed your analysis of the use of the term “feminism”, and I enjoy how you complicate and create a postcolonial account of the hegemonic British bourgeois notion of women’s liberation. By outlining that these liberation movements began on a national level before the transnational scope existed, you justify your analysis. The analysis of sources surrounding feminism and caste was great and I would have enjoyed hearing your analysis of some more secondary sources if there was more time in the presentation. I thought your critique of the methodology was great, however I would have liked to have heard more about what you will be applying as the methodological foundation of your piece more because of this. One final point, I thought the presentation was great and I think as a general project its really cool, but I wasn’t quite sure as to what your specific question for investigation was.

There we have it. I really enjoyed everyone’s piece because they’re all so interesting and everyone is clearly very engaged in what they’re writing about. The awkwardness of facing everyone after giving feedback definitely eases the sadness that comes with this being the final week of term!

Presentation comments

Angus’ Presentation Comments

Hey Angus, great presentation!

I like how you laid out your questions at the start and followed with your historiography and how it relates to your questions.

You raised good points on asymmetrical comparisons and how it’s asymmetrical to make sure there isn’t any “competition” between comparing the two groups. Therefore, your justification is well made, and I appreciate that you understand there may be troubles in conducting an asymmetrical comparison as your methodology, yet it’s worth trying as there’s still a high chance of understanding similarities and differences between the two groups you’re trying to compare.

I also really like how you’re being creative in your primary sources such as using court documents and visitor accounts.

Keep up the good work!

Karen’s Presentation Comments

Hey Karen,

Your presentation was super great and informative! You made a super clear start and told us your methodology right at the beginning, which was comparison. Your topic is highly complex; therefore, you did a really great job in stating which three areas your project will focus on to keep a straight and concise thesis.

I really liked how concise you were with your facts and gave us all a thorough background of migration, wages and living costs, and working and living conditions in both Bengal and Dundee.

Your bibliography was superb, using both primary and secondary sources. However, I think from your presentation I would have liked to have seen how you used them in your findings so far. Besides this, it was a truly great presentation and highly informative!

Rory’s Presentation Comments

Hey Rory,

Really cool topic! I was immediately engaged to your presentation just by your presenter voice, it was super clear, and you enunciated very well (your title slide sounded like you were a pilot lol).

It’s very clear that you have done a lot of research already, and it was very noticeable when you talked about the author of the blog – it showed great engagement with your sources.

I think it would have been cool to see some examples of primary source analysis, for example, you said analysis of the art from Black Metal artists would be seen in your essay, but perhaps an example of how you would go about that would really enrich your presentation in my opinion.

Your engagement with historiography is great though, especially how you went through each type of study and stated some of their arguments.

Great presentation!

The Dark Side of ART

Before embarking on my current exploration into transnational surrogacy and the use of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART’s) more broadly, I had no real conception of the potential these technologies held. I knew that parents could select traits that desired their children to have, but this was only because I have personally encountered this trend. A couple I know have recently become the parents of a set of twins whose characteristics they had chosen (including their sex, eye color, height, etc.) prior to the implementation of their embryos into their biological mother using in vitro fertilization (IVF). Although hearing that this level of choice in offspring was alarming, I did not stop to consider all of the far-reaching effects this kind of technology can have. After doing some research, it seems that ART’s have the capability to create a dystopian reality in which babies are produced as a result of selective breeding based on socially constructed realities instead of scientific fact. Considering that I personally know about half a dozen people who were born using IVF (surely more that I am just not aware of), it seems strange that I am only now learning some of the significant negative effects this process can have on the women and children involved. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2012), an infant born of IVF is two to four times more likely to have birth defects than a naturally conceived baby. This is absolutely shocking to me, for this seems like a very big risk to take, especially considering that there are so many children without birth defects who are desperately awaiting adoption. Furthermore, when IVF is talked about in the media and in informal social settings (in my experience), it seems that these significant risks are not discussed or even acknowledged. This points to the strength of the desire parents have to obtain children who are biologically related to them, and the social construction of biological-relatedness as an utmost priority. Furthermore, in the case that the eggs used in an IVF procedure are harvested from a separate female (other than the women who will carry the embryos to term), the egg donor must undergo hormonal stimulation, and the long-term implications of this process for women’s health is still unknown (Swerdlow and Chavkin, 2017). It seems preposterous that doctors and their associated clinics are allowed to market egg ‘donation’ to college students without first having an understanding of risk (Jordan, 2013).  In the case of surrogacy, women who are implanted with embryos from a third-party, are at an increased risk of incurring gestational hypertension and preeclampsia (Klatsky et al., 2010). Finally, and what surprised me most, was that although research is still ongoing, there have been studies which show that the gestational environment has the potential to alter a fetuses epigenome (Swerdlow and Chavkin, 2017). I am not sure what shocks me most, that surrogates can have a genetic impact on the baby they give birth to, or that ART’s have been so widely used despite a lack of conclusive evidence in regard to its long-term effects. Clearly more research needs to be done before these technologies can be employed safely and ethically. It is preposterous that the transnational surrogacy, which completely depends on the use of ART, flourishes globally despite a lack of real data on the effect of these processes. 

Bibliography 

Jordan, Emily Rose, ‘An Awful Alternative to Work-Study’, Columbia Spectator, New York, 27 March 2013, <https://www.columbiaspectator.com/2006/11/20/awful-alternative-work-study/> [accessed 17 April 2021].  

Klatsky PC, Delaney SS, Caughey AB, Tran ND, Schattman GL and Rosenwaks Z, ‘The role of embryonic origin in preeclampsia: a comparison of autologous in vitro fertilization and ovum donor pregnancies,’ Obstetrics & Gynecology 116: 6 (2010), pp. 1387–92.

Swerdlow, Laurel, and Wendy Chavkin, ‘Motherhood in Fragments: The Disaggregation of Biology of Care’, in Miranda Davies (ed), Babies For Sale? (London, 2017), pp. 19-32.

Colonial Curriculum

A particularly interesting aspect of my project has been looking at the American Revolution from a British perspective. It is an area that I was relatively unaware of before Rory’s comment on one of my earlier blog posts, but has now become a central aspect of my project. The Whiggish perspective, outside of the usual accounts of Thomas Paine, is a very complex and historically appealing area of study.

One book that was recommended to me, Robert Tombs’ The English and Their History, has made me ponder the question of why the curriculum is compiled in the manner that it is. Within the British education system, very little is generally taught on the subject of the American Revolution. On top of this, even less is mentioned about the Whiggish sympathies for the American case of independence, an area that, as I have mentioned, is worth its weight in gold when it comes to historical case studies. The complexities of teaching such a topic, whereby British parliamentarians and people felt that the agenda of the Crown and the State was flawed, are undoubtedly the reasoning behind their absence from the mainstream curriculum.

There is an interesting scene in The History Boys, whereby the discuss the morality of studying the Holocaust. Whilst I am not comparing the two, I am highlighting the fact that material that would be sensitive to those studying it is often left by the wayside and forgotten about, especially in mainstream education. A line from that scene states the need to “distance ourselves”, that “there is no period in history more distant than the recent past”. Whilst the American Revolution can no longer be called ‘recent history’, the consequences of British colonialism are very much recent, if not ongoing. Whilst this is very much beyond the limits of my project, it is something that is definitely worth exploring and was included in my dissertation proposal – fingers crossed it is approved!

Indian Academia and Transnational History of Feminism

I spent all of last week trying to look for primary sources. It was a bit of a hassle because some of the most important sources aren’t accessible to undergraduate students. However, I was able to look into some other essential ones such as old newspapers, speeches and British parliament papers. The important task now is to discern the important elements from the sources and corroborate it with my other research which has been drawn from secondary literature. It is way harder than I anticipated. I had dealt with primary sources before but it was assigned by the tutor and I knew exactly where and how to use it. Last week wasn’t really productive in terms of progress- at this point, I feel a bit stuck since I have done most of my research and I don’t how to put it all together. With the aid of the essay question I have always managed to structure my essays- but for this one, I am confused about what is relevant and what is not.  

As I see some of the most prominent Indian academics being forced to resign from their positions at Indian universities for criticizing the government, I feel nervous and disillusioned. It makes me wonder what kind of an academic culture will I return to. The reason why I am bringing this up here is to discuss Maitrayee Chaudhuri’s article that highlighted the importance of Indian academia in correcting the narrative of the post-structuralists scholars in the west. Chaudhuri points that in the past few decades, non-western scholars in western institutions have had an amplified voice within the academic discourse. The post-colonial studies departments in western universities have flourished over the past years. However, she discusses “what post-colonial theory fails to recognize is that what counts as ‘marginal’ in relation to the west has often be central to the foundational in the non-west[1]” (p.20) She later on elaborated on this by discussing the complexity of the Indian feminism and the unique set of problems faced by Indian women. Such concepts have often been ignored by Indian academics in the west.  While discussing the relation of women and imperialism they often overlook the nuances of intersectionality based on caste. Her allegation has been that departments of ‘subaltern studies’ situated in the west erased the history of lower-caste women. They only focused on the racial and gender dynamic while blaming everything on the epistemic violence of the west.  As Tanika Sarakar has also mentioned before, one of the shortcomings of the ‘Siadian magic’ has been of overlooking the hegemonic structures that existed in India. While studying about the suffragists, and looking into the primary sources, one of the major things I noticed was the lack of mention of Dalit women. Almost like their voices didn’t exist. Because non-western academics start using the same conceptual framework that is used in west, they ended up writing a western history of the subaltern that was bereft of any analysis on power structures within the colonized societies. While analysing racial relations is important, it is equally important to keep in mind the inequality that persisted within India which had started long before the colonizers entered, and exists till today. This made me realise the importance of having a thriving Academia in India which can produce work on topics like imperialism which post-colonial studies have failed to produce despite having so much more funding and academic freedom. In today’s India it seems like there is not enough freedom to produce work that could challenge Hindu Brahmanical patriarchy which western academia has has also failed to address.  Transnational history of imperialism and feminism is extremely complex and layered- it is important to keep in mind the ills of imperialism while it is equally important to study how the inequalities that existed in India also reflected on an international level.


[1] Chaudhuri, Maitrayee. (2019). Feminism in India: The Tale and its Telling.

Truly Transnational Thoughts

Firstly, I want to apologise for the alliterative title. Sometimes, I just can’t resist those basic linguistic turns that we were taught about oh so long ago, in primary school.

Secondly, please forgive me if this sounds too like Douglas’ most recent post. The ideas had been brewing before hand, I just hadn’t quite managed to get them down on paper yet. (or, more realistically, “on screen” [is that the suitable alternative to paper?]) Let’s say this could be posited as my own response to Douglas’ blog post, where he talks about his brain entering “transnational mode”.

I have to agree, and say that I’ve found exactly the same. Be it in my other module – Russia – Real and Imagined: Ideas, Identity and Culture, or just in general life, I’ve found that I’ve become attuned to seeing the “transnational” where before I would have glossed over these possible connections.

It’s become somewhat of a routine for me to bake at weekends. Over the last semester, I’ve looked forward to spending some down time away from the readings and my laptop, and creating something edible. Often, I’ve given the product away, to bless a local family. But all this baking, as well as my re-discovered love for the TV series, Masterchef Australia, has really lit a flame when it comes to conversations and connections about food.

Like Roger, I find myself fascinated by food history. How is it, that one day someone decided to whisk egg whites, and add some sugar, and create something called meringue? What about, the initial creation of alcohol? Was that really just someone who tried to make bread, and it went a bit wrong or they left it too long, and then decided to drink the fermented yeast-y liquid?

Throughout Roger’s blog posts, and the latest, “Transnational Tuber” is no different, he has spoken about the special nature of food, and the development of family recipes. Mostly, this is evident in how he talks about the unique blends of spices that form “garam masala” – a blend that is held close to the chest of family members, and yet treasured through many generations. These connections, the way cuisines have travelled (authentically, at least, rather than the street-corner-knock-off attempts), are just one of the many ways in which our world is connected. Perhaps, if I’d have been truly in the “food business” at the beginning of the semester, I would have chosen my project topic around the history of tea – but I fear that opens too many cans of worms that I wouldn’t be able to control them all.

In my latest piece of coursework for my Russian module, I’ve been looking at the influence of Russian émigré literature on Western perceptions – and I can’t escape the transnational. It also feels, at times, as if I’m reading with a dual purpose – because these people were also some of the first 20th century refugees. I really shouldn’t be surprised by now…but everything is quite remarkably, interconnected.

I’ll end with this – I’m so thankful that I stuck with my gut and chose MO3351 when my original module was cancelled last semester. It may have looked like an immense challenge (and, I’m not going to argue that it isn’t), but the practices I’ve learned so far (and I’m not even finished yet) have changed the way I study and read history, and changed it for the better.

We often talk about “lenses” when it comes to historiographical approaches. In this case, MO3351 has successfully placed a filter over my reading glasses, helping to identify connections, and informing my analysis of material. In such an interconnected world, this can only be a good thing.

Connections Everywhere

In the blogs this week a few have commented on the way this module has demonstrated that there are connections everywhere.  I am in total agreement!  My other module this semester is on The Medieval Castle and we have done readings and research about castles all over the world.  One thing that has caught my interest is the idea of trends and influences that have moved from one area to another, for example from the east to the west or vice versa.  Although, we have not gone into this in great detail, it has intrigued me and is something I would like to know more about.  Like the others have said I am also starting to see more and more connections, whilst reading and researching in other modules and even within my working life.

One last push

As the semester is drawing to a close and it has got to that time where deadlines are very tight, there is a distinct one last push to have everything completed.  It has been hard at times trying to study, work and home-school etc, all at the same time, but we are nearly there.  One thing that this semester has taught me is that whether I get an 11, 13, 15 or whatever mark it maybe, it is an accomplishment in itself for anyone to be able to complete and pass modules in the face of extreme pressures and circumstances brought on by a worldwide pandemic.  It has been a privilege to get to know everyone in the class, even if it is only online, rather than in person and I wish everyone the best of luck in the future.