New TORCH series to shine academic spotlight on diversity

‘Humanities & Identities’ will be the theme for a major academic series of research projects and events coordinated by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) this year.

The series will focus on multiple research areas relating to diversity, not only the sometimes more prominent areas such as race, gender, class and sexuality, but also disability, poverty, religion and other forms of inequality. There will even be discussions of linguistic inequality. The series will run for the whole of 2017.
The ‘Humanities & Identities’ activities will bring together researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, creative thinkers and wider communities interested in forms of self-identity past, present and future.
The launch event takes place today (January 25) in the Mathematical Institute, from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.
Introduced by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, this opening event will bring together a panel of experts from across the Humanities and the cultural and political sectors to discuss "What does diversity mean to me?
‘In light of political developments in Europe and the United States, people on all sides of the political spectrum have shared fears that their identity and way of life is under threat,’ says Professor Elleke Boehmer, Director of TORCH.
‘So there has never been a better time for us to bring together writers, academics and cultural practitioners from around the globe, not only the western world but also the global south, to hold open and honest discussions about any and all areas of difference and identity, about accepting our differences, yet not compromising our equality.
‘We want to make this a conversation which genuinely involves everyone. Although it will be physically located in Oxford, a place with historical connotations that have been criticised by groups such as Rhodes Must Fall in recent years, our discussions will bring together scholars from all backgrounds and all corners of the world.
‘With support from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, we are particularly pleased to be able to offer Visiting Fellowship positions to academics from the ’Global South’, from outside the richer northern countries, and hope that these talented individuals can bring fresh eyes to the way things are done in Oxford and leave their mark on the University and the city for years to come.’
Throughout 2017, there will be high profile talks, workshops, performances, conversations, and a diversity-themed Book at Lunchtime series. There is also funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a two-year post-doctoral research fellowship, which began in October 2016 who is working on the literatures of the black Americas.
Public and wider engagement is a core part of the ‘Humanities & Identities’ theme with a ‘The Gaps Between’ installation in Oxford during the Summer, that will display images that represent Oxford’s alternative and often hidden people and stories.
Funded by the IT Innovation Fund, TORCH is also collaborating with the Pitt Rivers Museum in creating a new app platform from which two mobile apps will be created. ‘Oxford Alternative Stories’ app will have trails of the lesser known people and places of Oxford - challenging the common perception of what is Oxford.
‘The aim is to highlight and braid together the alternative, fringe and lesser known stories relating to people and places in and around Oxford,’ says Professor Boehmer.
The Pitt Rivers app will enable Oxford undergraduate and graduates to create alternative museum trails and interpretations of the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collections, and assert new connections between the Museum’s objects and their object, biographies, use and contemporary significance.
Visitors will be able to follow this alternative trail around the Museum through a mobile app.
As well as the Visiting Professorships and Fellowships for academics in the ‘Global South’, there will also be a series called ‘Great Writers Inspire at Home’. This brings together a number of contemporary British writers to discuss how literature in different genres shapes readers’ perceptions of the contemporary world, and their identities within it.
As part of the Series, a DPhil studentship has been created in memory of Professor Stuart Hall, in a collaboration between TORCH, the Stuart Hall Foundation and Merton College.
Many of TORCH’s research networks will be discussing themes related to the Series, including networks on Women in History, Race and Resistance, Ethnicity and Gender and Gender and Authority.
A research project called Empires of Faith, based at Wolfson College, Oxford and the British Museum, will examine imagery from religions across the world to develop a method for doing a global comparative art history of religions.
For more information, visit:­identities