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Research at PSERG currently pivots on its three central research foci - ideology, gender and the enigmatic - categories central to contemporary innovative research in the humanities and social sciences. PSERG engages with these broad issues through both theoretical scholarship and creative practice, responding to broad research questions by investigating the synergies between disciplinary perspectives:
1. What role does ideology (or 'myth') play in determining or forestalling meaning? What are the processes of signification deployed within the construction and maintenance of subjugated knowledge?
2. What role does gender play within the processes of signification? Is signification gendered?
3. What is the role of the enigmatic in signification?
4. In what ways do the important categories of ideology, gender, and enigma - separately and combined - inform understandings of the processes of signification within contemporary culture?
The three foci of the PSERG are applied and pressed within the ongoing collaborative research projects involving the Group's members:
Surreal City: Urbanity and Enigma in Contemporary Visual Arts
Dr Deborah Walker and Dr Keith Beattie
When Baudelaire specified Paris as an 'unreal city' (Fourmillante cite) he did not anticipate that a subsequent inquiry - in the form of twentieth century surrealism - would apply and extend his phrase to a variety of experiences and environments. The 'unreal city' of the twenty-first century is defined as such in part through reference to theoretical and critical positions attributable to surrealism. More particularly, the concept of the enigmatic enriches the study of visual representations of urban experience through the incorporation of perspectives on metaphysics and epistemology that extend, inform and, in places, supersede surrealist perspectives. This project maps a range of contemporary visual representations of urbanity and identifies characteristics central to the resultant corpus. These characteristics form the basis of an analysis of the ways in urban environments are figured in contemporary visual culture.
Monitoring the Mobile Subject: New Media as Social Observation
Dr Adam Brown and Dr Keith Beattie
The rapid rise and proliferation of social media contributes to the formation of a mobile subject: dominantly definable as a consumerist citizen whose subjectivity is constructed within and through the new media. In a related way, the relationship between the subject and new media implicates the practices of monitoring and social observation - by and of subjects in their application of new media, in particular social media. In turn, the connections between subjectivity and social monitoring implicate the role of power and ideology.
These relationships are implicit within the research questions which motivate this project:
who monitors whom, and why?
in what ways, if any, do the ideological predispositions of the new media differ from those of 'old' media?
are such experiences the horizon of a reconfigured citizenry and altered subjectivity?
Imag(in)ing Gender and Gendered Imaginings
Dr Kim Toffoletti and Dr Adam Brown
This research project considers representations of women on the screen in areas that are particularly under-researched: women and sport, and women and the Holocaust. In her capacity as a Research Associate at the Five Colleges Women's Studies Research Center, Mt. Holyoke, Mass, USA, Dr Toffoletti's research considers the representation of women followers of sport in popular film to critically examine the influence of prevailing narratives of gender and sexuality on cultural imaginings of sports fandom. Critiquing similar prevailing narratives of gender and sexuality, Dr Brown's research explores filmic representations of female perpetrators and bystanders, and depictions of rape, during the Holocaust. Dr Brown will continue to draw synergies between this research and public film screenings/panel discussions at the Jewish Holocaust Centre and has been invited to give a paper on this subject at a major international Holocaust conference, Lessons & Legacies XII, in Chicago in November.