Ripping up the rule book: doing scholarship in arts and humanities ways

On Wednesday the 19th April the School of Media Arts and Humanities (MAH), in collaboration with Educational Enhancement (EE), hosted an event celebrating the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) from arts and humanities perspectives. The symposium established a space of resistance to the monopoly that the social sciences have over SoTL. We examined teaching and learning through cultural artefacts, archival research, punk music, film entrepreneurship, and community activism.  

The presentations

When a dolphin is not a dolphin: Odi Oquosa, University of Sussex

Odi with an object he created in response to the colonial symbolism on the University of Sussex coat of arms.

Odi’s work examined the colonial symbolism of the dolphin: a key feature of the University of Sussex’s coat of arms and the Victoria Fountain in Brighton’s Old Steine. Alongside the dolphin, Odi focused on other cross-form symbols, like the Knight Commander of St Michael and St George medal, and examined the effects they have on collective wellbeing. Odi presented some of the objects he created in response to these imperial symbols, and showed us how this type of awareness and artistic creativity can bring opportunities for the academic community to collectively heal from colonial oppression and support difficult, cross-cultural dialogue. 

Learning to unlearn via postcolonial library legacies for decolonial educational futures: Alice Corble, University of Sussex

Alice presented her AHRC-RLUK-funded research project, which explores the foundational role of Sussex Library and archives in the University’s postcolonial origins, institutional development, and what this can teach us about contemporary calls to decolonise the university and its curricula. Alice demonstrated the importance of critically engaging with the library as a learning space and as a site of institutional memory (and forgetting). Realising that the library is not an inert space but, through the diversity of both its collections and users, libraries become spaces where knowledge can be rethought.  

Decolonising and praxis: Rachel Stenner and John Masterson, University of Sussex

John and Rachel spoke about their experiences of teaching and trying to decolonise modules that treat colonisation in very different ways and in different periods. They discussed the need for a decolonial approach to teaching and learning at all cohort levels, but especially at levels three and four, when students first enter into the University. John and Rachel explained that the current tendency to leave decoloniality to final year modules fails to understand decolonisation as a continual political response. 

Embracing authority – when punk pedagogy met the Hare Krishnas: Mike Dines, Middlesex University

Mike spoke about punk as a pedagogical tool, which in his youth taught him to interrogate authority, and become politically engaged in issues related to gender, race, animal rights, pacifism and anti-capitalism. Mike then asked the audience what happens when ‘rules’ are embraced and when punks turn to established institutions for guidance? Drawing specifically on his research on Krishnacore, this keynote looked at the complex interchange between punk pedagogy and the Hare Krishna Movement and opened up discussion about the tensions of bringing punk approaches to learning into Higher Education institutions.  

Silverstone Productions: A fast, self-financing course ranking booster: Jeremy Sheldon, University of Sussex

Silverstone Productions logo

Jeremy spoke about his film production company Silverstone Productions which, among other things, develops, finances and produces work by Sussex University filmmakers and writers. Silverstone Productions has strong links to the film industry and the support of leading practitioners in the field. Jeremy is calling for Silverstone Productions to be positioned alongside the curriculum at Sussex, allowing students to develop and produce their own films to a level that is professionally credible and persuasive. The opportunities provided by Silverstone Productions will provide an invaluable learning experience for students wanting to enter into the film industry, as well as add to the profile of the university’s filmmakers more generally. 

Learning by doing – innovative models for fostering community connection: Katherine Kruger, University of Sussex

Katherine has been exploring community engagement as a tool for improving the experiences of students from groups which are under-represented at the University of Sussex. Katherine spoke about how her students have the opportunity to become involved in various forms of community engagement, such as charities supporting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in Brighton and Hove. Katherine spoke about the advantages community engagement brings to student confidence, belonging, satisfaction, and learning.  

Find out more 

We have started putting together a Padlet wall collating the scholarship of teaching and learning from arts and humanities perspectives. This is a growing resource. Please feel free to add to it. 

What next? 

This is the first of these types of MAH scholarship events. We hope this will be the first of many. The day established links between people who undertake teaching and learning through arts and humanities approaches. Collaborative ways of working were identified, and ideas and resources were shared. Please don’t hesitate to contact Viki Walden or Sarah Watson if you would like further information about the event or support with producing scholarship within an arts and humanities context.  

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