Schools Collaboration: Teaching Zobel & Le monde francophone

In the last few months, Zobel Project has been focusing on a new phase of collaboration with local schools. It has been wonderful to work with local teachers to develop and trial  resources on “Zobel & le monde francophone”.

Here’s a write up of recent activites – you can also read this report on the University of Birmingham webpage.

Collaboration with University of Birmingham: the Zobel Project

Local French teachers are collaborating with researchers at the University of Birmingham to develop new teaching materials to inspire pupils to learn French, at school and beyond.  Modern Languages study is an exciting and strategic choice, as graduates enjoy excellent employment prospects, with 90% entering work or further study within 6 months of graduation.

The new teaching materials reposition French as an internationally significant language, offering pupils the chance to learn about French in North America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. To challenge pupils’ perceptions of French as a European language, the teaching materials develop a case study of a renowned French Caribbean author, Joseph Zobel.  1 teacher workshop Jun 17

Throughout 2017, French teachers throughout Birmingham have been providing feedback on Zobel Project teaching materials at meetings, workshops and networking events on campus. A group of local teachers have taken on leadership roles as Project Advisors: Clare Haley (University of Birmingham School, Selly Oak), Dennis Preware (George Salter Academy, West Bromwich), Amy Whetstone (King Edwards VI, Aston) and Raheem Zafar (Holte School, Lozells).

The teaching materials have been developed as part of a research project on Joseph Zobel led by Dr Louise Hardwick, Reader in Francophone Postcolonial Studies in the Department of Modern Languages. The research is UK Government funded through the Arts & Humanities Research Council, as part of the priority area ‘Translating Cultures’. To date, Zobel Project has involved communities in the Caribbean, France and UK, and activities are recorded on the project blog: www.josephzobel.wordpress.com

A CPD workshop held at the University of Birmingham campus in June 2017 (pictured) offered the Project Advisor teachers a guided demonstration of the materials from the research team. The teachers provided detailed, invaluable feedback, drawing on their own extensive experience of teaching French in Birmingham schools.2 teacher workshop Jun 17

The workshop led to lively discussions, with excellent feedback and practical suggestions about maximising the compatibility of the resources with the National Curriculum.

As part of this flagship collaboration with University of Birmingham French researchers, in the academic year 2017–2018, Zobel Project resources will be trialled in schools. The Project Advisor teachers will continue to play a leading role in trialling resources and gathering data. This important collaboration strengthens the connections between the University of Birmingham, the University of Birmingham School, and wider schools in the local community.

Find out more about the excellent employability prospects enjoyed by Modern Languages graduates in this University of Birmingham ‘Why Study Languages?’ video: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/news/2016/excellent-employability.aspx

Find out more about Postgraduate study at UoB in Modern Languages

As Easter approaches, many people are considering undertaking postgraduate studies in the future, whether they are moving straight from Undergraduate studies or have had some time away from the University environment and are considering a return.

My PhD student Antonia Wimbush runs an online PG Open Day page, where she answers your questions about graduate study in the Modern Languages Department, and I wanted to make that fantastic initiative the main focus of today’s post.

Antonia’s page can be found here: http://pg.bham.ac.uk/mentor/antonia-wimbush/

She is currently in her third year, and is fully funded through the AHRC Midlands 3 Cities consortium, a doctoral training programme. Antonia is co-supervised between the University of Birmingham (where she is based for 80% of her time) and the University of Nottingham (20% of her time).

Last but not least, a photo which is a throwback to my fieldwork in Martinique over Easter 2015. Antonia accompanied me on my work with schools, libraries, local interest groups and in the archives. The image is of Sainte-Luce – however, our trip there was not in our itinerary at all…

At the end of our fieldwork, when we arrived at the airport to leave, as I checked in, I looked across to the next desk and saw Antonia was being told the flight was full and she had been bumped off it! Luckily, I was able to persuade them to take me off the flight, and to put us both on the next flight home, the following afternoon! So we had a few extra hours in the beautiful town of Sainte-Luce, which after the frenetic pace of the fieldwork offered a welcome chance to relax and appreciate Martinique’s natural beauty.

beach kids 01

 

Caribbean Cinema Guest Lecture

After months of planning and preparation, I am very excited to announce a Guest Lecture on Caribbean Cinema by Dr Jean Antoine-Dunne of the University of the West Indies on 7 March!

The lecture is called ‘Signposts to a Caribbean Film Aesthetic’.

This special guest lecture, in English, will explore Caribbean cinema across a range of languages (English, French, Spanish and Dutch). There is a close link to my current research on Joseph Zobel, as Zobel’s best-known novel was adapted into the award-winning film Sugar Cane Alley by Martinican director Euzhan Palcy.

Dr Jean Antoine-Dunne is an established international expert on Caribbean Cinema – her lecture promises to a unique opportunity, and full details are available here.

The event has been made possible through the generous support of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of London, with additional support from the University of Birmingham’s College of Arts and Law.

 

 

 

BBC Who Do You Think You Are? ft Liz Bonnin

Last night, the popular BBC show Who Do You Think You Are? featured the science presenter Liz Bonnin. I was particularly excited about the programme, because behind the scenes, I had helped the researchers to prepare her episode!

In the spring, I received an email out of the blue asking if I could help with the programme because it was going to include a celebrity with links in Martinique. The researchers had found me online, which was a great surprise, and reminds me of the importance of keeping my staff profile page up to date…!

At that stage, I wasn’t allowed to know who the celebrity was, so my mind went into overdrive 🙂

The emails duly arrived… I helped the team look at some archival documents – birth, marriage and death records – mainly providing contextual advice on the French Caribbean, and also adding some specific comments on the information the researchers had already compiled, to help them deepen their understanding. They had questions about Martinican history, language and culture, as well as specific questions about the documents that they had found.

When I saw the name Gros-Désormeaux, I knew it rang a bell… there is a Martinican publishing house, Désormeaux, whose books I cite in my own research, so I mentioned this to the team… in the end, it turned out to be the same family!

We had a couple of long phone conversations, and I was really impressed by the quality of the research that the WDYTYA? team had carried out – they had clearly used online databases which I use in the course of my academic research.

I was able to use my language skills and knowledge to help the team understand that in the French Caribbean context, the French word ‘l’habitation’ is not translated by ‘habitation’, as it is the word used for a plantation.

They then sent me a further batch of documents, which included the celebrity’s surname, so at that point, I had to sign a disclaimer to acknowledge that I would not spill the beans before the programme was scheduled! This was all new to me, and an exiting development! I was delighted to see it was Liz Bonnin, whose work I really admire.

Last night, when the documents that I had looked at popped up on TV, I was jumping up and down on my sofa! And then the word ‘habitation’ was subtitled as ‘plantation’, which was a bonus 🙂

Liz Bonnin’s thought-provoking story really captures the complexity of societies in Martinique & Trinidad. I am so pleased to have made a contribution to helping her fascinating story reach the UK public!

And I think it’s going to become required viewing for my students… 🙂

Missed it? View at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08501cj

Keynote at SFPS, London

What a weekend!

It was the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies Annual Conference, held at Senate House in London, and I was the keynote speaker on Friday evening.

My talk, ‘Joseph Zobel: Négritude and the Novel’ was a chance to present aspects of the research I’ve been working on for the past few years.

With so much to say, it was tough to narrow it down to a 45min presentation, and rather than talk about one specific novel, I decided to concentrate on challenging the current academic understanding of Zobel’s work more generally, asking why he is so often considered a ‘one-hit wonder’, and showing why this is certainly not the case! I also explained how my book (under contract, coming soon…) aims to reshape the current understanding of Zobel’s relationship to the Négritude movement.

There were lots of questions after the paper on various aspects of my research and my public activities in Martinique.

It was a really valuable opportunity to present to distinguished colleagues, early career researchers and PhD students – and to hear their own thoughts and comments on my project!

The two-day conference was intense and fascinating, with papers on all areas of the Francophone world.

Take a look at my Twitter feed @zobelproject for live tweets about some of the other sessions I attended.

Charity placement with Small Woods Association

It has been a very busy autumn/winter period!

A write-up of my charity placement with the Small Woods Association, which was part of my activities as an EU Climate-KIC ‘Pioneer into Practice’, has now gone live on the University of Birmingham Website.

http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/sections/french/news/2016/hardwick-charity-placement-small-woods-association.aspx

I’ve reproduced a slightly longer version below!

 

Charity Placement with Small Woods Association

Dr Louise Hardwick has recently completed a four-week placement with the Small Woods Association in Ironbridge. The charity is the national organisation for woodland owners, workers and supporters. Louise, an AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow, undertook the placement as part of her EU-funded activities with Climate-KIC, the EU’s main climate innovation initiative. Through the award of a funded place on the Climate-KIC ‘Pioneers into Practice’ scheme, Louise has able to develop the practical applications of her research in Ecocriticism through a specific training programme (workshops, online exercises, and a dedicated coach). Most importantly, through Climate-KIC, Louise applied her knowledge in a real-world situation with Small Woods Association (SWA).

The placement was also part of Louise’s cross-College activities at BIFoR (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research), where she is the Interdisciplinary Leadership Fellow for Ecocriticism. Louise explored the connections between the important knowledge base at Small Woods Association and BIFoR’s ground-breaking FACE facility which uses state-of-the-art science to address the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

Louise at the Green Wood Centre site, part of SWA’s national headquarters.

 

At SWA’s working centre in Coalbrookdale, located in a stunning natural environment, Louise learned about ‘the story of wood’, from the local heritage of coracles to wood’s fascinating role in the construction of the Ironbridge itself. She also enjoyed a number of practical demonstrations of wood craft! During her placement, Louise met with SWA team members to discuss the connections between their work and her research on Caribbean authors whose literature raises urgent questions about human relationships with the land. She developed training and presentation materials to support the centre, and was profiled in the SWA members’ newsletter.

Louise’s placement has established a significant new working relationship between BIFoR and SWA with great future potential. Further collaborative activities such as internships and Scholars in Residence schemes can offer new ways to connect her research and the wider research conducted at BIFoR with important non-academic partners.