‘Speedy’ insight into rich diversity of Arts research

Published 28 July 2011

shamisenAspects of pre-colonial African societies and traditional Japanese music are among the many topics that will be concisely explored during the University of New England’s first “Speed Research Day”.

The “Speed Research Day”, on Monday 1 August, is in fact the 2011 School of Arts Research and Postgraduate Conference. The format of the conference, which comprises 17 research papers, is a new venture for the School of Arts – and for UNE – in restricting the length of the presentations to 10 minutes each. The presenters will be both postgraduate researchers and academic staff members within UNE’s School of Arts.

John Adeleke, a Nigerian writer with seven published novels to his credit, is working on his eighth novel as part of his PhD project at UNE. The novel will expose aspects of pre-colonial African societies, such as kidnappings, ritual killings, and the ostracism of osu (albino) children, that survive to the detriment of African societies today.

Catherine Hallett is conducting research on the music that accompanies traditional rakugo storytelling performances in Japan. “Rakugo is a form of comic storytelling that developed from Buddhist teaching stories,” she explained. “The music ensemble includes the three-stringed shamisen (pictured here), flute, and percussion.” Among other things she’ll be talking about the gender of the performers – the role of women being usually confined to the shamisen. The rakugo storyteller is, traditionally, male.

Later this year Catherine will be spending three months at the Research Centre for Traditional Japanese Music within Kyoto City University of the Arts in Japan, working with an authority on such music.

The one-day conference, in this new experimental format, has been organised by Dr Anne Pender and Dr Tom Bristow. As Dr Pender said, it’s “very demanding to have to speak for only 10 minutes”. And those presenters who will also be participating in the UNE School of Arts round of the international “Three Minute Thesis” competition, to be staged at noon as part of the “Speed Research Day”, will have to focus their thoughts even more sharply in order to interest the audience – and the judges – in their research project in a talk of no more than three minutes.

“The conference program includes papers from all over the School,” Dr Pender said. The subjects include a comparative study of The Divine Comedy and The Chronicles of Narnia, cultural elements in the bilateral relationship of Australia and China, and “connectivity and the unconscious ends of the Internet”.

Several of the presenters – including John Adeleke – are preparing doctoral theses in the recently-introduced “creative research practice” format, which comprises a book-length piece of creative writing as well as a critical analysis of the creative writing project and issues arising from it.

The “Speed Research Day” will be held at UNE’s Oorala Centre, beginning at 9 am and continuing till 4 pm. Everyone is welcome.