Keeping you up to date with all the goings-on at TORCH

TORCH Newsletter Michaelmas Term

Weeks 9 & 10 (4 December– 17 December 2017)

As we wrap up Michaelmas Term, we are thinking about our highlights and successes, and what lies in store for next term. 

From the hugely successful Curiosity Carnival, to seminars on everything from re-imagining disability, to LGBT representation in museums, to faith in modern Britain. We also had conversations on the latest books in the humanities resulting in a packed term which we hope you've enjoyed being part of.

We'd like to draw your attention to a call for papers from the Oxford Centre for Life Writing for their 1-day colloquium on Everyday Matters: Writing Obscure Lives and to the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2018 which is now open for entries.

We will get into the swing of Hilary Term with a Book at Lunchtime discussion on A History of Algeria by James McDougall (Associate Professor in History) which you can register for here

Imagining the Divine: Art and the Rise of World Religions with Mary Beard and Neil MacGregor is now sold out however we will be live-streaming the event. You can watch the live-stream by clicking on this link here at 6pm 17 January 2018. 

Our Networks and Programmes will also bring you events and opportunities to get involved with in the new year. Keep an eye on the TORCH website and our Twitter and Facebook pages for updates over the break.  

For now, have a wonderful break and festive season!

Highlighted Event

Ancient Medicine

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 5:30pm
Barclay Room, Green Templeton College, 43 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HG

This Ancient Medicine seminar will be comprised of two half hour papers and will be followed by some seasonal cheer. The papers will be presented by Brandon McDonald (Lincoln College/Archaeology) on 'Climate Change and the Antonine Plague' and Solmeng-Jonas Hirschi (Lincoln College/Classics) on 'Philosophia Medicans and Empowerment: Mental Health as Processual Happiness in Epicurus' Letters'.

These interdisciplinary research seminars are intended to bring together those inside the University and elsewhere who have an interest in disease and medicine in the ancient world.

For further details and to be added to the mailing list please email

Please click here for more information

News and Blogs

Video: Unflattening

The TORCH Comics and Graphic Novels network hosted an event with Nick Sousanis, author of ‘Unflattening’ (2015), where he talked about his use of the comics form to develop new ways of critical thinking. Run in collaboration with the TORCH ‘Critical Visualisation Network’.

Watch the video here.

'Yaas and...': Drag, Improv, and Play

In this blog Edward Scrivens (DPhil student in Egyptology) examines how his own experiences as drag artist and improviser are an expression of play.

At the age of five I took to dressing up as Dorothy Gale from The Wizard of Oz. Obsessed with the classic 1939 film, I longed not only to watch Dorothy, but to be Dorothy and in turn, to inhabit the wonderful world of Oz. Taking two tea-towels, I placed them around my head and waist to simulate long hair and a skirt. I danced, played and sang my way around our kitchen, transforming the floorplan of our West Midlands home into the landscape of Oz.

These childhood practices of make-believe and play have continued to shape my experience of the world, even into that stifling thing referred to as ‘adulthood.’ Now as a twenty-six-year-old researcher, improviser, and drag artist, they are at the very root of my performance practice. For me, drag and improv is (in a sense) ‘child’s play’. However, my experiences have taught me that this play is not an infantile indulgence that must be forgotten along with dolls, teddies and dress-up. Rather, it is an inherent creative and cognitive mechanism, the socialised barriers to which should be unlearned.

Read this Queer Studies Network blog in full here

Video: Hidden Beneath the Surface: Untold Tales of Neurodivergence and Mental Difference in Oxford

Oxford can be a place where those who are neurodivergent or have mental ill health can often go unseen and unheard. This event brought together a panel of students, staff, and researchers to address this in two ways. Miranda Reilly shared her experience of creating a Disability Trail for Oxford's museums, helping to bring some of those hidden stories to light. Sonia Boué has undertaken groundbreaking work with the Arts Council to make the mechanisms that fund research accessible so that those stories can make themselves heard. Dan Holloway talked about the business case for institutions such as Oxford both enabling and supporting individuals in the workforce and removing barriers to recruitment and progression so that all of us can benefit from the value of a mentally diverse workplace.

This event was chaired by Marie Tidball (Knowledge Exchange Fellow, TORCH, University of Oxford) and marked World Mental Health Day 2017.

Watch the video and read transcripts of the talks here

This event was part of the Humanities & Identities series.

Commemoration: Shaping Collective Memory

The second workshop of the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar Series 2017-2018, ‘Post-War: Commemoration, Reconstruction, Reconciliation’ took place at a time of special significance, Remembrance Day (November 11th) which marks the end of one of the biggest tragedies in History. On this date the panel led by Professor Helen Small explored the concept of textual commemoration and addressed the commemorative needs that arise after conflicts and catastrophes.

Award-winning novelist Rachel Seiffert delivered a moving speech on dealing with the past from what she called ‘the wrong side of history’, that of the perpetrators. She explored the complexity of reconciling complicity and guilt with the suffering experienced and the desire to move on. Her take helped us understand the weight of legacies of culpability in the family and how they can coexist with love.

Read this post here.

New Opportunities

Graduate Scholarship on World War One

One scholarship (2018-2021) is available for applicants who are ordinarily resident in the UK/EU/European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and who are applying to a D.Phil. in History, specialising in the First World War.

The scholarship will provide at least £18,000 per annum to cover course fees, college fees and a grant for living costs. Awards are made for the full duration of fee liability for the course. The scholarship is funded by the Rothermere American Institute (RAI) in association with the Faculty of History’s Globalising and
Localising the Great War (GLGW) programme and Pembroke College, and is made possible thanks to a generous donation from the Rothermere Foundation.

For more information click here.

New Network Scheme

The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) seeks to stimulate and support research activity that transcends disciplinary and institutional boundaries. To this end, the Centre invites applications from colleagues seeking to establish, or consolidate, multi- or interdisciplinary research networks to be based at the Radcliffe Humanities Building.

TORCH encourages imaginative cross-disciplinary applications, and will not sponsor research groups whose activities could be supported by a single college or faculty. Applications from cross-divisional research groups and from groups engaged with non-academic partners are also welcomed. Lead applicants must include postgraduates and postholders or early-career scholars from at least two faculties and colleges.

For more information please click here

The next deadline is midday Friday 16 February 2017.

Oxford Playhouse Spotlight Discussions

An opportunity for an Oxford humanities researcher to lead a Spotlight discussion event.  

Spotlight is for anyone aged 50 or over with an interest in theatre. Each session is a friendly and relaxed lunchtime meet-up to socialise and talk all things theatre.

Spotlight is led by a member of Oxford Playhouse staff, joined by a researcher to talk more about their role in the current show, or themes and issues explored in this season’s productions.

Researchers will be asked to give a short introduction of 10-15 minutes exploring themes in the play, the writer, significant historical productions, adaptations etc.

Event dates and details are as follows:

• Thursday 8 February: The Kite Runner

• Thursday 15 March: The Winslow Boy

• Thursday 19 April: The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk

All sessions run from 12:30pm - 14:00pm.

For more information please click here.

For the full list of current opportunities, please see our website

Upcoming Events

A History of Algeria

Covering a period of five hundred years, from the arrival of the Ottomans to the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, James McDougall presents an expansive new account of the modern history of Africa's largest country. Drawing on substantial new scholarship and over a decade of research, McDougall places Algerian society at the centre of the story, tracing the continuities and the resilience of Algeria's people and their cultures through the dramatic changes and crises that have marked the country. Whether examining the emergence of the Ottoman viceroyalty in the early modern Mediterranean, the 130 years of French colonial rule and the revolutionary war of independence, the Third World nation-building of the 1960s and 1970s, or the terrible violence of the 1990s, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers in African and Middle Eastern history and politics, as well as those concerned with the wider affairs of the Mediterranean.

Author James McDougall (History, University of Oxford) joins an expert panel to discuss the book and its themes. James is joined by: 

Eugene Rogan (Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History, University of Oxford)

Laleh Khalili (Professor of Middle East Politics, SOAS) 

This event is chaired by Robert Gildea (Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford) 

Lunch will be provided at 12.30pm. Discussion from 1-2pm. 

Booking is essential. Please register here for your seat. 

Part of Book at Lunchtime, a fortnightly series of bite sized book discussions, with commentators from a range of disciplines.

Please click here for more information

What is Dance without an Audience?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 6:00pm to 8:15pm
Heritage Learning Centre, Town Hall, St Aldate's, Oxford OX1 1BX

The Dance Scholarship Oxford (DANSOX) programme are hosting an event on 'What is Dance without an Audience?'.

When non-dancers dance: considerations of audience and performer in contemporary British community-dance events.

Please email to reserve your place.

Please click here for more information

Gender, Identity, Iconography

Monday, January 8, 2018 (All day) to Wednesday, January 10, 2018 (All day)
Corpus Christi College, Merton Street, Oxford, OX1 4JF

The 2018 Gender and Medieval Studies conference is on 'Gender, Identity, Iconography'. This event is being organised in association with Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

The glittering beauty of the Alfred Jewel, the rich illustration of the Lindisfarne Gospels, the dominating Great West Window of York Minster, the intricate embroidery of the Bayeux Tapestry, the luminous Maestà of Duccio, the opulent Oseberg ship burial, and the sophisticated imagery of the Ruthwell cross are all testament to the centrality of the visual to our understanding of a range of medieval cultures.

Constructed at and across the intersections of race, disability, sexual orientation, religion, national identity, age, social class, and economic status, gendered medieval identities are multiple, mobile, and multivalent. Iconography – both religious and secular – plays a key role in the representation of such multifaceted identities. But visual symbols do not merely represent personhood. Across the range of medieval media, visual symbolism is used actively to produce, inscribe, and express the gendered identities of both individuals and groups.

The 2018 Gender and Medieval Studies Conference welcomes papers on all aspects of gender, identity and iconography from those working on medieval subjects in any discipline.

Please click here for more information

Looking back

As we move swiftly through the new academic year, we look back at some of our past highlights. 

Storming Utopia: More's Utopia in the Age of Brexit

Organised by Professor Wes Williams (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) and Professor Richard Scholar (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages) as part of Knowledge Exchange project Storming Utopia.

Thomas More’s ground-breaking island fantasy, first published in 1516, asks us all what brave new world we are to wish for. What would a society better than ours look like? Who ought to be allowed in? And on what terms? It may seem timely to return to the traditional reading of More’s text as a blueprint for political change.

A group of East Oxford residents have come together to develop a creative contemporary response to More’s text and Shakespeare’s Tempest in the form of a new theatrical show, Storming Utopia

Watch here

Unsilencing the Library

The Knowledge Exchange Project 'Unsilencing the Library: An Exhibition at Compton Verney' participated in the Knowledge Exchange Showcase. In this talk they look at research into how books make us feel.

Watch here

Events Calendar, Weeks 9-10

Tuesday 5 December


The second in a three part seminar series as part of Dance & Adademia: Moving the Boundaries

Wednesday 6 December


Speakers: Brandon McDonald (Lincoln College/Archaeology) and Solmeng-Jonas Hirschi (Lincoln College/Classics)

Tuesday 12 December



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