Transformations Discussion: November 18

Summary by Ariell Ahearn, DPhil Candidate

Sofya Gavrilova (Dphil) gave a presentation of her recent film and exhibition of photographs depicting the post-soviet Russian landscape and built environment. She raised the question of how to bring together an artistic perspective with an academic one. Are the roles compatible and mutually intelligible/legitimate?

An issue raised in the discussion around the feasibility of combining art and academic was the problem of differing ‘markets’ and conventions for valuing contributions in both arenas. Academic contributions are dictated by the peer-review process and journals publication, which often require strict adherence to accepted norms in framing arguments. Sofya pointed out that finding ways to combine artistic and academic approaches to ‘knowing’ is in itself a contribution to ways of understanding subjects, breaking down boundaries, and developing new methodological and theoretical tools. In response to Sofya’s mention of the “territories of art,” Ian K made an insightful comment on how art is often based on demarcating physical spaces wherein objects become art, almost like a sovereign state, where outside and inside are clearly delimited. Anything inside the designated “space” can be considered to be art. Even some of Bansky’s street art has been protected with plexiglass, an effort to separate art space from street space, and signifies the perceived market value of his name. As discussed during the meeting, both artists and academics need to ‘sell’ our goods in our respective economies, to publish or show in certain spaces, be in dialogue with other bodies of work, and abide by certain conventions and rules to be ‘seen’ (in journal or galleries) and accrue value in our work.

Another point discussed at the meeting was on the topic of how to write a good quality literature review for academic journals. The important points were:

1. Follow your question through and thoroughly “unpack” the questions.
2. Be generous toward other people’s work.
3. Make sure to include literature in the middle sections and refer back to it in the conclusion so that there is an interaction between your material and the already existing work on the topic. The goal is to be in dialogue with other scholars working in the area.
4. Ian calls this a “dialogue between empirics and theory, “ or “theory-infused empirical analysis.”
5. Use the literature that is the most inspiring and relevant.
6. Write in an engaging, well-crafted way and avoid writing a list of argument summaries.


About ariell

A GCRF-ESRC postdoctoral fellow in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. Researching changing patterns of work, social relations, and value in rural and suburban Mongolia.
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