UCL academic announced as BBC New Generation Thinker

Dr Kirsty Sinclair Dootson (UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society) has been recognised as one of 2024’s New Generation Thinkers by the BBC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The annual scheme provides ten of the UK’s most promising arts and humanities early career researchers with a platform to share their ideas with a wider audience via BBC Radio 4 and other outlets. Each recognised academic has a passion for communication and a unique programme of study that will resonate with listeners over the airwaves.

Hundreds of researchers applied this year, from which 60 were invited to day-long workshops with the BBC to develop their ideas with experienced BBC producers. From these workshops, tenáhave been given the opportunity to share their pioneering research and benefit from bespoke training and support from AHRC and the BBC.

Dr Kirsty Sinclair Dootson joined UCL in 2023 as a lecturer in film and media, having received her PhD in History of Art with Film and Media Studies from Yale in 2018. Her work explores the politics of making images in colour, with a particular focus on the global history of Technicolor.

Dr Dootson pitched a show on ’The Dark Side of the Rainbow’ for which she was selected for the New Generation Thinker scheme, exploring the raw ingredients, labour and technologies that go into making colourful images.

Her research will ask listeners whether colour can be immoral, dangerous or even bad for the environment, and help them understand that while some colours may appear to be frivolous distractions, they may also harbour deep political power.

In 2023, Dr Dootson published her award-winning debut book ’The Rainbow’s Gravity’, which reveals how modern colour media technologies transformed the way Britain saw itself and its empire. She also currently co-convenes the AHRC research network ’Bombay Film Colour’.

Dr Dootson said: "I’m delighted to be part of this cohort of brilliant scholars. I’m excited to share my work on colour with wider audiences and overturn some commonly held assumptions that colour is trivial, superficial and ’fun’.

"My research shows colour is a very serious matter and that once we know more about where it comes from and how it’s made, we can start to understand its importance and seriousness. I hope that listeners to my broadcasts will never look at a Technicolor movie again the same way!"

The 2024 New Generation Thinkers will bring new insights into diverse topics, with other research projects including the possible existence of the multiverse, the future of black literature, and the search for the greatest philosopher who never existed. The names of the tenáresearchers were announced as part of a New Thinking episode of the Arts & Ideas podcast hosted by former New Generation Thinker Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough.

Matthew Dodd, Commissioning Editor, Arts, BBC Radio 3 and 4, said: "We’re looking forward to working with ten of the most promising early-career academics. Each year the New Generation Thinker scheme brings radio production teams a wave of stimulating and thought-provoking contributors who have a passion for public engagement.

"After over a decade of successful partnership with BBC Radio 3, it’s great to be bringing their ideas to a new home of listeners on BBC Radio 4, the biggest speech radio station in the UK, where they’ll find a wide audience."

The New Generation Thinker scheme has been running since 2011 with over 100 academics having passed through it. Dr Christine ’Xine’ Yao (UCL English) was the last UCL academic to be named in the scheme in 2020 for her work on whether reading helps us with empathy and understanding of oppressed peoples.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair said: "The New Generation Thinkers programme brings interesting, important ideas into the public consciousness, shaping thought and discussion.

"From fundamental questions about the nature of reality to how political propagandists harnessed the seductive power of Technicolor, and the impact of imprisonment on mothers and children, and the most challenging problems of our day, these are ideas of thrilling originality and importance. These ten brilliant, original thinkers demonstrate the ability of the arts and humanities to help us to better understand both ourselves and the world around us."

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