ReX 6: Applied Enlightenment

ReX6: Applied Enlightenment

Kelvin Hall, 27-28th October 2016

Professor Murray Pittock

Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of English Literature

Murray Pittock, Bradley Professor of English Literature and Pro-Vice Principal of Special Projects at the University of Glasgow.

Re: Enlightenment ( is an international research network founded in 2009-10 by New York University in association with New York Public Library. It holds its regular meetings (called Exchanges) annually, and the meeting in Glasgow is its sixth, following previous meetings in New York, London, California, Virginia and Oslo. It is still run from New York University with a steering committee based at the universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Oslo, California at Santa Barbara, London and the British Museum. Continue reading

Photography © Rachel Walisko

Reach 08: Africa in Motion

Africa in Motion | Afraga a’ Gluasad

Dr Lizelle Bisschoff was a South African postgraduate when she came to Scotland to study African Cinema. It wasn’t until her research began that she realised just how difficult it would be to source African-made films. When she contacted the then UK Film Council asking for some statistics on distribution of African cinema she discovered that a regrettable nine African films had been on general release in this country between 1995 and 2005. Bisschoff had to make do with the few VHS tapes and DVDs she could purchase, at extortionate prices, otherwise her only other option was to travel to Parisian archives to see African voices and stories, produced and directed by Africans, on the silverscreen. Continue reading

Reach 08: Build n Burn

Build n Burn | Tog is Loisg

Dr Kenny Brophy’s perspective on his own place within the field of archaeology admittedly perplexes some of his colleagues. Brophy’s research is largely concerned with prehistoric monuments from the British Neolithic period, and yet rather than referring to himself as a ‘prehistorian,’ he considers himself a ‘contemporary archaeologist’ with an interest in the traces of prehistory and how it is used in the modern world. He is particularly interested in how the prehistoric past can have an impact on peoples’ lives today.

That’s why Brophy began a collaborative project with Dr Gavin McGregor at Northlight Heritage, and a Corinna Goeckeritz a National Trust forest ranger at Brodick Castle on Arran to organise a prehistoric festival. The festival took place on Arran in the summer of 2013, and it involved designing and building a huge Neolithic style timber circle. The circle was built specifically using Forestry Commission timber, and it took the team a full week to construct the monument. Then they burnt it down. Now, whilst this may sound extreme, the burning of the monument was not just a spectacle for festival-goers, the burning mirrored prehistoric rituals and so the burning was accompanied by a talk from Brophy on the meaning and purpose of these monuments in prehistory. Continue reading

The Big Questions: Philosophically engaging with illness, disability and identity

Na Ceistean Mòra: Feallsanachd a’ sgrùdadh Tinneas Ciorramachd agus Fèin-Aithne‌

Philosophers are not sitting in dusty old offices writing books in dense, archaic language for a specialized academic audience, although ‘philosophers can be their own worst enemies’ in that respect, insists Professor Michael Brady. As a professor of philosophy particularly interested in the philosophy of emotions, morality and human suffering, Brady sees philosophers as having a crucial role in getting to the heart of some the biggest issues and questions regarding what makes us human and the formation of our very identities. Yet all too often, he admits, philosophers probing these big questions about our identity don’t ask ordinary people what they mean by identity.

That is one of the reasons Brady has endeavoured to apply his philosophical expertise in a way which engages with the wider community, and not just academic circles. His current research is focused on suffering, as part of a three year Templeton-funded project, based at Glasgow, and working with co-PI Dr. David Bain. Brady’s work on this, and his earlier work on emotion, has led him to become a philosophical adviser for a number of theatrical productions by Quarantine, an independent theatre company based in Manchester. Brady has since been approached by the director of SICK! Festival and was asked to form an advisory group to discuss the relationship between illness, suffering and identity. Launched in 2013, SICK! Festival is an event ‘dedicated to exploring the medical, mental and social challenges of life and death and how we survive them (or don’t).’  The festival organisers attest to their own philosophy of talking about the bad times in an ‘unflinching, informed, irreverent and humane’ way, through partnerships with arts organisations, charities, community groups, medical and academic institutions. Continue reading

Reach 08: Situating barkcloth production in time and place

A’ Suidheachadh Dèanamh Clò-Rùisg a’ Chuain Shèimh ann an Tìm is Àite


Misa Tamura (centre) Research Conservator, displaying barkcloth at a Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Arts History open dat, 18th March 2016. Photo by Sarah Foskett.

Barkcloth has been used to make clothing, furnishings, garments and ritual masks in the tropical islands of the Pacific, such as Samoa, the Cook Islands and Hawaii for around 5000 years. It was made by beating the raw tree bark until it became a soft, tactile, non-woven textile. Although Western styles and fashions are now more common in the Pacific, the material is still used across the region as an expression of cultural identity. Yet very little is known about the material itself, and about how best to display, store and preserve barkcloth collections.

Frances Lennard, a Senior Lecturer in Textile Conservation, is leading a new AHRC funded project to study bark cloth as an art form. Lennard’s team includes Misa Tamura, a specialist in the conservation of ethnographic collections, material scientist Dr Margaret Smith who is studying the material properties of the cloth, and art historian Dr Andrew Mills who will be placing the artefacts in their historical context. The broader aim of the project is to ‘find out whether materials, techniques and designs originated from particular islands, how they were transmitted around the region and the effect of globalisation on this tradition.’ Cutting edge techniques will also be used to try and identify which plants were used to make the barkcloth, including protein and DNA analysis and isotope analysis. Continue reading

Reach 08: Religious Life

Religious Life: Beatha Chràbhaidh

Religious Life 11 In memory

‘In Memory’ stone memorial garden St Ninian’s Chapel, Isle of Whithorn. Photograph by George Pattison.

Stand at a bus stop in Glasgow and you’ll see a series of familiar images—a bird, a tree, a bell, and a fish, the four symbols of Glasgow’s patron saint, Saint Mungo. As in many aspects of British life, including many universities and schools, our present bears witness to our religious past. But what part does religion play in the present and what part should it play in the future?  A generation ago, many commentators believed that religion would soon be a thing of the past. Over the last 20 or so years, however, many have discerned what has sometimes been called ‘the return of religion’ in intellectual, political, and cultural life.  Not everyone welcomes this, of course, and this ‘return’ has often been the focus of heated debate. And, undeniably, religion has played a problematic role in many of the wars that have raged in our time, in the Balkans, in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and in the Ukraine. Indeed, it is arguable that many of the policy errors of Western governments in this time have been due in part to their failure to acknowledge the religious dimension.

Religion, it seems, often motivates the worst elements in human beings. Yet, at the same time, religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis enjoy global superstar status, whilst religion continues to inspire endeavour in all areas of human activity, including, art, literature, and music. Many sporting figures celebrate their victories with gestures of prayer and thanksgiving to God.  Religion contributes powerfully to people’s sense of individual and community identity, and often inspires self-sacrificial lives of service to others. And while many Victorian churches are being made over into private homes, theatres or furniture stores, Glasgow has recently seen a striking new Sikh Temple spring up. Even if public policy is increasingly shaped by secular assumptions, it now seems clear that religion in the UK is not going away any time soon—but it is certainly changing. Overlapping and interacting with culture, politics, and ethical life, religion is not identical with any of these.

When he sat down to meditate on the problem of time, Saint Augustine famously said that time was one of those things that he knew a great deal about—until someone asked him to define it. Religion too is ‘one of those things’, and therefore how we define ‘religion’ and how we distinguish between ‘religions’ or between the various aspects of religious life (belief, worship, social service, etc.) is always an ongoing challenge in any university department of religion. But however we define it, religion is a phenomenon that goes to the heart of the questions we ask about ourselves.

Glasgow’s Theology and Religious Studies staff work on a wide range of issues that relate to the wider social place of religion. These include development work in Africa with the UN and Catholic development agencies, involvement in NHS training, developing an archive of Jewish life and history in Scotland, and helping museums develop the religious elements in their collections as well as wide-ranging involvement in Church life, including training for ministry in the Church of Scotland and the development of policy in a range of areas in the Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the Church of England. Members of the department have spoken on Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ and contributed to a number of radio and television broadcasts.

If you would like to find out more, or if you are interested in developing or supporting a project in collaboration with the subject area of Theology and Religious Studies please contact Professor George Pattison.


Reach 08 – Runaway Slaves: Exploring Britain’s Multiracial Past

Tràillean a Theich: Rannsachadh Eachdraidh Ioma-Chinneach Bhreatainn

Runaway Slave advertisment (see bottom central column): 'London', Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1786. Image copyright The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

Runaway Slave advertisement (see bottom central column): ‘London’, Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1786. Image copyright The British Library Board. All rights reserved.

In 1752 an enslaved teenager named Jamie was brought from Virginia to Beith in Ayrshire, where he was trained as a joiner. Then in 1756 Jamie’s master decided to send him back to Virginia and sell him, at which point the young man escaped to Edinburgh where he found work as a journeyman carpenter, before being captured and imprisoned. Jamie’s story raises some significant questions: was he exceptional, or were there other enslaved people in Britain who chose to escape, and why would he and others choose to pursue a life in Britain rather than a return to their families and communities in North America and the Caribbean? As Professor Simon Newman has discovered, there were a significant number of enslaved people in eighteenth-century Britain, and a good many of these did try to escape and seek out new lives for themselves.

The Leverhulme Trust has funded a large scale research project entitled ‘Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century,’ which aims to enhance our understanding of those who escaped bondage in the British Isles prior to the legal ending of slavery. Newman is joined by two co-researchers, post-doctoral research Dr Stephen Mullen, and postgraduate research assistant Nelson Mundell. When Jamie escaped, his master placed advertisements describing the runaway and seeking his return in both Glasgow and Edinburgh newspapers, and other slave owners routinely did the same thing. The first stage of this project has involved a great deal of research in the newspaper archives of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Liverpool, to locate, transcribe and photograph these kinds of advertisements.

In many cases these short advertisements constitute the only surviving documentation about enslaved people who were brought to Britain during the eighteenth century. The advertisements include details about the slaves’ physical appearance (including occupational injuries, West African ritual scarification, and whip scars), clothing, demeanour and mannerisms, age, gender and the motives for and circumstances of their escape. Not all enslaved people in Britain were of African descent, and some of the advertisements depict Native American and Indian slaves. Newman believes that research into runaway slaves can illuminate the multi-racial nature of eighteenth-century British society, and the various ways in which Britons interacted with enslaved people of other races, both as masters and as allies in their efforts to secure freedom.

Blow up of image above. All rights reserved.

Blow up of image above. All rights reserved.

Runaway slaves provide a window onto Britain’s long and complex historical relationship with racial slavery in the early modern era. Slavery helped build eighteenth-and early-nineteenth-century Glasgow, and the profits of the plantations helped shape and name the Merchant City. Nevertheless, people have little knowledge or understanding of this darker chapter in our history, or the multiracial and multicultural nature of British society almost three centuries ago.
The Commonwealth Games in 2014 was a huge catalyst for change in this respect, as museums and cultural institutions sought to highlight Glasgow’s imperial history, including its historic ties with slavery. During the games period Newman and Mullen consulted on the ‘How Glasgow Flourished’ exhibition at Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery, helping to ensure that slavery was featured. Mullen also received a major grant from Glasgow Life in order to adapt his book on Glasgow and slavery into a series of dramatic performances in and around the Merchant City. Mullen’s work on this, and his participation in the Empire Café (which was co-organised by Professor Louise Welsh) reinforced his belief in the importance of detailed historical research when dealing with such a controversial and sensitive topic as slavery and its place in our history.

There is great popular interest in this subject. BBC Radio will devote an entire episode of their forthcoming ‘Blacks in Britain’ series to the research of the Runaway Slaves project (to be broadcast during Black History Month in October 2016). Prof. Newman spoke about several of these runaways, including Jamie Montgomery, in Glasgow University’s first James McCune Smith Lecture. Dr. McCune Smith was the first African American to receive a medical degree when he graduated M.D. from Glasgow in 1837.

The ultimate goal of the Runaway Slaves project is the development of a fully searchable online database of eighteenth-century runaway slave advertisements, so that researchers, school learners and the public can access them. Furthermore, the project team will develop these resources for teaching, and Mundell, as a former teacher, is helping to foster links with a network of teachers. Greg Murray (St. Mary’s School, Edinburgh) notes that ‘Slavery is already one of the most taught topics in Scottish schools, but to many students it happened far away involving people very unlike them – runaway slave adverts will perfectly illustrate to our students that Slavery wasn’t just in the Americas.’ The team is also collaborating with a renowned artist from DC Comics in creating a graphic novel about a Scottish runaway slave, to be used in Scottish schools in conjunction with primary sources and teaching materials.

To access the growing Runaway Slaves database, learn more about the project or contact the research team, visit the project website.

Reach 08: Ownership of Scots Dialects

Wall or wa’ but not tall or ta’ – Ownership of Scots Dialects

‌Wall neo wa’ ach chan e tall neo ta’ – Seilbh air Dualchainntean Albais

Our speech gives away many clues to our identity, such as: where you are from, how old you are, who you spend time with. All of these factors affect the way that we sound. How we sound also impacts on what other people might think of us: posh, Geordie, young, not from around here. Professor Jennifer Smith is a sociolinguist who studies just how this happens, in other words – what is the interface between the social and linguistic in language use?

Over the past two decades Smith has been investigating the use of Scots and so she has recorded preschool children, grannies and everybody in between across a number of communities in Scotland. She has examined the structure of Scots through these recordings and finds that, just like standard English, these varieties have a set of complicated rules of use. For example, why is it that you might be able to say wa’ for wall and ca’ for call, but not ta’ for tall? And why might you say I cannae do it but not Cannae I do it? Despite these complicated rules of use, people often claim that speakers of such varieties are less intelligent and simply can’t speak English “properly.”

It is important to dispel such myths, and a starting point would be through the study of Scots in the classroom. However, Smith points out that one of the main concerns for teachers looking to integrate the study of Scots in the classroom is access to resources. The Scots Language Co-ordinators at Education Scotland and other education planners have done a tremendous job in developing such resources, particularly in the context of the Scots Language Award. Smith would now like to build on these resources by having pupils create their own resources for the study of Scots. This would involve three main stages:

  • 1. recording speakers
  • 2. transcribing the speech and
  • 3. describing what they have found

Such a process will have a number of benefits. By paying close attention to what they’ve recorded and transcribed, the pupils will begin to pick apart the do’s and don’ts of the language they hear around them, and uncover the systematic rules therein.  In addition, it would provide the pupils with a sense of ownership of Scots – it’s not something archaic, but alive and well all around them, whether spoken by themselves, their grannies and granddads or even on the TV. Finally this would demonstrate that there are many different varieties of Scots in terms of words, sounds and sentences, providing a rich tapestry of language use throughout Scotland.

Smith, in collaboration with other education planners, plans to trial this type of hands-on approach in a small number of schools. She realises that teachers are already extremely overloaded, thus the necessary tools and training in how to do this small scale research would be provided, with students from the University of Glasgow on hand to help. This would make a small contribution to the study of Scots in the classroom and will hopefully build towards a larger resource through a dedicated website populated by the recordings and transcripts gathered by pupils across Scotland.

If you are interested in hearing more about dialects in Scotland, please contact Prof Jennifer Smith.


Reach 08: Learning Polish is as easy as 1+2

Still taken from animation ‘The Star of Copernicus’ courtesy of The Animation Film Studio LLC

Still taken from animation ‘The Star of Copernicus’ courtesy of The Animation Film Studio LLC

Ionnsachadh na Pòlainnis cho furasta ri 1+2

There are currently over 15,000 Polish speaking children in Scottish schools. According to the Scottish government’s new education policy primary school children will now be taught two foreign languages as part of the ‘1+2’ scheme. The policy stipulates that children will be taught in their native tongue (1) and subsequently they will be exposed to their first foreign language in primary one and acquire some basic knowledge of their second foreign language by primary five (+2). For those 15,000 Polish speaking children that usually means learning three foreign languages, rather than two. There are ready prepared packages available for teachers to introduce their pupils to French, German, Spanish and Italian, but there has been no comparable Polish language unit and yet, Polish is now the second most common language in the United Kingdom.

Dr Elwira Grossman, from the School of Modern Languages and Culture, and her research assistant Iza Rudzka have been working in partnership with the Glasgow University Arts Lab (led by Professor Dauvit Broun) and Shona Hugh at Education Scotland to create an original Polish Language Unit for Scottish primary schools. Grossman attributed the growing interest in teaching Polish as a foreign language to ‘the pressure of the currently changing linguistic landscape. As you know, a lot of Polish migrants have come to this country since 2004.’ The intention is to introduce Polish as a foreign language taught to primary school pupils, which Grossman believes could have wide-reaching benefits for both Polish speaking and native-English speaking children.

Unfortunately young Poles growing up in Scotland are all too often made to feel like second-class citizens because they do not share the mother tongue of their peers. Not only are they given the impression that they should forget their native tongue in order to learn English immediately, their language is routinely marginalised in favour of Western European languages. Grossman argues that learning Polish in classrooms could actually improve Polish children’s self-esteem, as they would be in a position of knowing something their peers find worth studying. Furthermore, considering the majority of teachers might not speak Polish, native-speaking children could also assist their teachers, ‘we thought there could be an element of empowering Polish children through this particular exercise,’ she said.

As for Scottish children, learning Polish, in addition to their native English or Gaelic and a more pre-established foreign language unit like French, could actually help to dispel the commonly held belief most Scottish children have that if they can speak English, they do not need to learn other foreign languages. On the contrary, Grossman feels that learning languages is an enriching experience in itself, but Polish could offer young Scots a wide-range of job opportunities and a more cosmopolitan, European outlook. Scottish communities today are all the more vibrant because of their multiculturalism and multilingualism, and teaching school children Polish could help to enhance integration and feelings of community spirit.

Education Scotland were keen for the Polish language unit to be based upon a film, and thus Grossman and Rudzka began by identifying a film considered suitable for an audience of ten to eleven years olds which could be used as a platform for teaching. The film they selected is an animation entitled ‘The Star of Copernicus,’ based upon the astronomer’s life, which slotted into the primary five curriculum perfectly. The film will be used to introduce pupils to Polish vocabulary and basic phrases in a way that is fun and relevant to their class project on the solar system. The language unit will be available as a third foreign language choice for primary school teachers beginning April 2016.


Reach 08 – College of Arts Industry Engagement Newsletter

The eighth edition of Reach is here! The KE team have worked tirelessly over the past couple of months to provide you with an insight into some of the exciting knowledge exchange and industry engagement partnerships which have recently been fostered by the College of Arts. You might notice that this edition is a little bit different to previous Reach newsletters. The case studies in Reach 08 don’t fall under the same thematic categories as previous editions, because we have decided to refresh these themes. This decision was partly inspired by the rich interdisciplinary nature of the projects featured in this edition, which we think reflect the ethos of the College of Arts itself.

As ever, the aim of the newsletter is to give you an insight into the range of ambitious projects and partnerships that academics from the College have been involved in. The articles cover a range of times and places spanning from the early 18th century until the present day, from islands in the Pacific and the South China Sea to Caithness and right here in Glasgow. These collaborative partnerships have involved a range of public, private and third sector organisations from all over the world.  The articles explore aspects of life in the past from pre-historic rituals and ancient performance, to the plight of runaway slaves in the British Isles. They pose questions about some of the  issues facing our society today, like how we engage with illness and disability, and what role religion could and should play in modern life.

In this edition you will find that the College collaborates with a range of external partners, from Glasgow Life, Education Scotland, Kew Gardens and Creative Scotland. Public engagement is also central to the being of the College of Arts as exemplified by the unique relationships we have with established venues like the Glasgow Film Theatre and the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Film-makers, engineers, musicians, the Forestry Commission, photographers, geographers, and even a Kenyan restaurant help demonstrate the broad range of partners that are considered vital to the College of Arts. Three of the articles are focused on enriching the educational experiences of children in Scottish primary schools and high schools by working directly with educators. Some of the projects aim to offer the next generation a more representative view of Scottish society. For instance, offering children an insight into the diversity of Scottish society in the past, an understanding of the complexity of their native dialect, and the opportunity to learn Polish as a second foreign language.

You can read about all of these projects in the e-version of Reach 08 here. We hope that you find the articles featured in Reach 08 interesting and inspiring. These projects are ongoing, and some of them are only in their initial stages, and so we are still keen to develop future partnerships. If you would be interested in sponsoring or becoming involved in any of the projects you’ve read about in Reach 08, you can contact the KE Team at To receive a hard copy of our newsletter and to be notified about news and upcoming events you can sign up here.