Film Screening: THE MAYOR’S RACE

Film Screening: The Mayor’s Race

Followed by q&a with filmmaker Rob Mitchell

30 October 2019 at 3pm

Arts Building Main Lecture Theatre

University of Birmingham

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In celebration of Black History Month, the School of History, Arts, and Cultures together with BRIHC is holding a special screening of THE MAYOR’S RACE, a new documentary film about local politics, race, and society.

Marvin Rees is a ‘mixed race’ man in his 40’s. Having experienced poverty and racism in his life, he wants to shape the society he lives in and believes political office will give him the power to do so.

In 2012 he runs for mayor in Bristol, UK. The journey into politics hits him with rejection, failure and an inner struggle that eventually leads to the biggest challenge of his life. THE MAYOR’S RACE is about the desire to overcome doubt and the boundaries between social background and power.

Post Conference Feedback and Contemporary British History Prize for Best Postgraduate Paper

It’s raining gently as I write this, but I’m still feeling the warmth and energy from last week’s conference, when sunny coffee breaks seemed to give way to electrifying panels in regular succession.

If you were there, could you:

a) fill out the survey asking for feedback

b) if you like, nominate a paper given by a postgraduate for the prize sponsored by the Contemporary British History journal (email me m.moulton at bham.ac.uk, or tweet at CBH)

If you weren’t there, but care about the project of MBS, fill out this survey anyway, with a focus on the final page. We’re looking for co-conspiritors to make #MBS2021 (and beyond) sustainable and pertinent.

One week to go! An introduction to the opening roundtable on de-centering British Studies from the peripheries

By Jacob Fredrickson and Martha Robinson Rhodes on behalf of the MBS postgraduate and early career researcher group.

With MBS 2019 only a week away, the programmes have gone to print, name-tags are on their way, and Birmingham is bracing itself for the biennial arrival of hundreds of British studies scholars for three days of vibrant, inspiring and challenging conversations. We thought it was a good time to introduce in a little more detail what will kick off this year’s conference, a half day session organised by us, postgraduates and early-career researchers working within the Centre for Modern British Studies here at Birmingham.

We firstly want to thank the Centre for again inviting us to kick off discussions and frame the intellectual agenda for the next few days.

This year, we’ve titled our workshop ‘Decentring British Studies From the Peripheries’. In doing so, we’re hoping to both provide a welcoming and productive space for junior scholars, and articulate the value and importance of our voices within the field as a whole. This is particularly important at a moment where postgraduates and early-career researchers face increasingly hostile conditions and labour practices.

The issue of precarity and casualisation in academia has been central to our discussions as postgraduates and early career researchers over the last few years. In January 2015, we published a working paper where we argued, “The ongoing shift to a market-based education system (which can be characterised as the neoliberalisation of the University) continues to re-imagine and re-construct the material conditions in which we work…Young academics setting out to write original and insightful PhD dissertations also appear to be the most obvious potential victims of job scarcity, declining research funding and pervasive long working hours.” To explore these issues in more detail, we have hosted a number of conferences exploring the relationship between our working conditions and the sorts of history we’re able to write.

This year, we want to harness the energy of our previous discussions towards a slightly different intellectual enquiry. For our roundtable, ‘Decentring British Studies From the Peripheries’, we have asked the speakers to consider contributions that are focused on an aspect of their own research, with precarity as a category of analysis – rather than presentations about precarity per se.

In line with the theme of the wider conference, we want to think beyond boundaries by returning to one of the most vexed historiographical boundaries in our field, the periphery. In this roundtable, we want to return to the periphery in the time of precarity.

Firstly, the ‘time of precarity’ draws our attention to the pressing need to return to the periphery in post-Brexit, neoliberal, imperially nostalgic Britain. Thinking through the boundaries of Britain and of British identity – who gets to be British, who gets to set the boundaries of the periphery itself, where these boundaries are drawn – all of this has a pressing political purpose at a time when national identity is at the centre of a toxic and pernicious politics, with worryingly increasing appeal.

We also want to consider the ‘time of precarity’ in a second sense; the temporalities of our precarious labour. Postgraduates and early career researchers are increasingly expected to do more in less time. This impacts what research we can conduct. From having the time, and money, to visit archives, to balancing teaching with writing on exploitative contracts, precarity marginalises. As MBS PGRs wrote in 2015, ‘we stand on the edge of the academy, it is our precarious position of becoming historians that most keenly reveals the relationships between academic and non-academic, between experts and non-experts, between history and our present moment’.

The periphery in the time of precarity is a useful heuristic to reflect on the impact of our working conditions. We want to stimulate discussion of the periphery utilising precarity, and precarious labour, as a category of historical analysis. How, and in what ways, does our own knowledge becomes privileged or marginalised? How does this shape what can be told about modern Britain?

We have invited six scholars across career stage to reflect on these themes in relation to their own work. It is our hope that this session stimulates a conversation on the relationship between our labour, our working conditions and the limits to what it is possible to know about modern Britain.

Speaking on the roundtable will be:

Lara Choksey, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter

Jonathan Saha, Associate Professor at the University of Leeds

Laura Sefton, Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Birmingham

Olivia Havercroft, Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Manchester

David Geiringer, Associate Lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London

Ruby Daily, Postgraduate Researcher at Northwestern University

Following the roundtable, we will be hosting a number of smaller workshops that will run co-currently. These will focus on the practicalities of becoming a scholar within British Studies, including sessions on journal articles, book contracts, and job applications to universities outside of Britain. We have also organised a session for more senior colleagues, exploring practical ways established academics can build solidarity and support junior scholars. Please see the programme for full details on this.

We hope that those who are attending the conference over the three days will attend, even if you aren’t a postgraduate or early-career researcher. Precarity affects us all, and we hope to make clear that the political and historical questions it poses are of pressing importance to the field of modern British studies as a whole.

See you next week!

 

A Guide to Travel, Accommodation, and Food & Drink in Birmingham

All of us at MBS look forward to welcoming you to Birmingham in July.

We are lucky to be able to share with you the Brum Secrets Zine, produced by MBS’s own Ellie Munro. We draw your attention especially to pages 6-10 for great restaurant, café and bar recommendations. Scroll down for more links on accommodation, travel, and food from the University’s main site as well.

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University of Birmingham’s information on accommodation

University of Birmingham’s information on travel

University of Birmingham’s information on food & drink

Registration Deadline Extended

We have extended the registration deadline. You can register here.
All presenters must register before the conference.

Please be advised, if you require a visa invitation letter to attend the conference we cannot now guarantee that we will be able to provide you with one with enough time for you to apply for the required visa. You register at your own risk and we are not able to provide a refund for late applicants.

For folks who aren’t presenting — we can take payment and register you on arrival, but you would need to bring the correct amount in cash or pay with a cheque. We do not have the facility to provide change or take payment by card.
And that’s all the technical formal stuff! Can’t wait to see you in July!