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Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS)

Research Degrees (MPhil/PhD) in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies

Overview

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The SOAS Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies (CCLPS) will welcome applications from MPhil/PhD students wishing to undertake research in the disciplines of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies. The Centre has developed its own MPhil training programme which will enable research students to be registered in the Centre rather than in specific regional Departments or those of other disciplines. The Centre places its emphasis on the acquisition of critical theoretical skills and in-depth regional, linguistic and cultural knowledge with specific reference to Asia, Africa and the Middle East, but also to literatures written in European languages. Prospective research students will have the unique opportunity to work on an exceptionally wide range of topics, theoretical and critical, supervised according to the expertise of a wide range of academic staff across the Faculty and SOAS.

A research degree in Comparative Literature (Asia/Africa/the Near and Middle East), Cultural Studies (Asia/Africa/The Middle East) or Postcolonial Studies (Asia/Africa/The Near and Middle East) normally takes three years, or up to a maximum of four years should periods of fieldwork/research and material collection be required. Part-time registration is also possible.

Structure

Research will be guided throughout by a research committee of three core CCLPS members, consisting of one primary supervisor (core CCLPS Faculty of Languages and Cultures member) and two supporting supervisors in an advisory capacity (CCLPS core or SOAS members).  Depending on the nature of the research joint supervision is sometimes recommended, under the direction of two supervisors.

In the first year, students prepare for research by following an MPhil training programme convened by the Chair of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, Dr Ayman A. El-Desouky (see below). Students will also be strongly encouraged to attend the core theory courses in the three disciplines, the other elements being agreed between the student, the Postgraduate Tutor (a member of the CCLPS Steering Committee) and the supervisor(s).  Optional elements may consist of specialist disciplinary, language or regional culture courses, attendance of which can be agreed between the student and the supervisory committee.

MPhil students are required to attend a generic research methods course offered within the Faculty of Languages & Cultures, convened by the Associate Dean for Research, Professor Bernhard Fuehrer. The specific elements of generic research training might vary and will be agreed with the supervisor and the research tutor. The generic research methods training includes courses offered by the Learning & Teaching Unit (LTU) and the SOAS Library.

MPhil/PhD students are in addition expected to attend regularly the Centre’s Critical Forum and Lecture Series, details of which will be available on the SOAS web site.

UPGRADE PROCEDURE

Year 1, students submit a core chapter and research proposal (of about 10,000 words) by Friday 10th May 2013, typically including the following elements: 

  1. Research rationale and context of proposed research
  2. Main research questions
  3. Literature review
  4. Theoretical and methodological framework and considerations
  5. Proposed research methods
  6. Ethical issues (where applicable)
  7. Outlining structure of PhD dissertation
  8. Schedule of research and writing
  9. Bibliography. 

Adjustments to one or more of these sections, including additions or deletions where appropriate, are possible by prior arrangement between the students and lead supervisors.

This upgrade proposal is assessed by the student’s research committee, based on a 20-30 minute oral presentation, followed by a discussion, also open to other staff and student members of the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies. On successful completion of the extended proposal, students are formally upgraded to PhD and proceed to the second year. (If the assessors consider there to be shortcomings in the upgrade proposal, students will be asked to revise it to their satisfaction before the upgrade to PhD status can be confirmed.) Students are not normally permitted to proceed to the second year until the upgrade process has been completed.

The second year is normally spent engaged in research. This may be by any combination of fieldwork and research in libraries and material collection as agreed between the student and the supervisor(s).

The third year is devoted to writing up research for the PhD thesis. During this time, students will normally give a presentation to the Postgraduate Research Seminar, comprising a small number of staff members with special expertise in the topic and other research students. During this time students will present draft chapters to the supervisor(s) for comment, before writing the final draft for examination. The thesis – not to exceed 100,000 words in length - will be examined by two leading authorities in the disciplines of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies or Postcolonial Studies, and the relevant region. The external examiner is always a scholar from outside the University of London.

Students studying part time take the MPhil training seminar in the first year and write the Core Chapter & Research Proposal (see above) in the second year. The length of time for field or research and material collection, and writing up, is adjusted accordingly.

Degrees are currently awarded by the University of London (and may be awarded by SOAS in the future) and are subject to the University of London and/or SOAS regulations.

Methodologies and methods in comparative literature, cultural studies and postcolonial studies 

In addition to generic methods training, MPhil/PhD students in the CCLPS are required to attend a training seminar in methodologies & methods in the disciplines of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies in terms 1 & 2. The aim of the training programme is to provide a thorough grounding in theory, methods, regional, cultural, linguistic and any special disciplinary expertise that may be required for the research.

The focus of the CCLPS MPhil/PhD Research Training Seminar will be on the disciplines of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies, and in relation to the literary, critical and cultural practices of Asian and African traditions. The programme of training is planned in coordination with the Faculty of Languages and Cultures faculty-wide Research Training Seminar and the Centre for Gender Studies Research Training Seminar. The programme of training will also be supported by regular CCLPS Critical Forums and Lecture Series. For the academic session 2009-2010, the training sessions, aimed primarily at incoming MPhil students, will be offered on alternate weeks, complemented by the CCLPS Critical Forum.

CCLPS Research Training Seminar 

The training sessions are aimed at incoming MPhil students, and are designed, along with those offered under the Centre for Gender Studies, to complement the faculty-wide RTS. For 2009-2010, most sessions will be open to all research students; in the future some will be reserved for the training of students admitted directly into the CCLPS MPhil/PhD programmes. MPhil students are also encouraged to attend the Critical Forum sessions.

It is important to note one major working principle in the conception of these sessions: students will be active participants as experts in their respective regions and traditions, on which they will be working closely with their lead supervisors and members of the supervisory committees. Their respective critical methodologies can only be outlined in this context; the proposed seminars are conceived as occasions for offering so many tools that will eventually help in the process, but will not supplant the close effort undertaken by the student.

The CCLPS training sessions are designed to offer

  • Presentations on theoretical premises and critical paradigms underlying the three disciplines.
  • Presentations on European and non-European critical traditions.
  • Practical analytic exercises and selective in-depth analysis of certain texts as well as cultural phenomena and institutions.
  • Exercises in the identification of theoretical, critical and ideological assumptions and premises.
  • Modes of engagement with critical scholarship and ways of constructing theoretical frames.
  • Modes of engagement with other European and non-European traditions, deemed crucial for students’ training as scholars in their own fields and a major aspect of the uniqueness of pursuing a PhD at SOAS.
  • Critical contexts in which students are able to identify and pursue figures, schools, theories they deem relevant to their work---the training sessions are not designed to offer general surveys.
  • The skill of identifying and pursuing figures, methods and theories is crucial for the students’ training in constructing their own theoretical frames:
    • Exercises in the application of certain analytic tools and critical methods are significant mainly in this early stage of training.
    • In the current state of research and critical theory, the production of whole projects on the basis of the simple application of a single theory is no longer viable; premises and assumptions are constantly revised and refined as ideological constructs.
    • As potential scholars, students are advised to learn how to choose and to deploy methods, while revising and/or expanding on them.
    • This skill is useful for learning how to engage with existing scholarship, how to identify the unique contribution of their planned PhD projects, and how to place themselves in these scholarly traditions and communities.
    • It is also through this skill that the agency of non-European traditions may be identified and exercised, strengthened by the unique range of research activities and regional expertise offered at SOAS.
    • This is also the envisioned path through which students may be able not only to place their work in a discipline, but also to plan future contributions in this discipline, while expanding the spheres of their respective fields.
CCLPS CRITICAL FORUM

The aim of the CCLPS Critical Forum is to foster a culture of research and critical debate across SOAS in which the idiomatic differences of regional expertise are articulated and brought to a focus through debates over comparative critical methods and the examination of theoretical, critical, ideological and cultural premises underlying the academic disciplines of Comparative Literature, Cultural Studies and Postcolonial Studies.

  • The Forum is designed to be congenially informal and is to be distinguished from other formal seminars and lecture series.
  • The Forum will offer a context for CCLPS members across the faculty and for Second and Third Year PhD Candidates to come together and present briefly on the critical methods and theoretical frames relevant to their research projects.
  • The discussions that are hoped to follow these brief presentations will be guided in two directions:
    • The laying of grounds for future comparative projects and publications, highlighting the unique range of expertise at SOAS, through which veritable contribution to the main stream of critical and theoretical debates in the three disciplines is potentially outlined.
    • Offering and demonstrating a range of research skills and analytic tools through which PhD Candidates are able to place their work and plan their research careers under one of the disciplines.
  • The Forum is also hoped to begin the work of outlining the Agency of non-European critical traditions:
    • First making these traditions available in translation and in debate.
    • Bringing these traditions into genuine debate with western theory and critical methods.
  • In all three disciplines, the state of the art is determined by the powerful imprints of a few figures---e.g., from Auerbach to Said, Foucault, Derrida and others in the discipline of Comparative Literature---offering various modes of engagement and analytic and critical insight. But no one has so far offered a viable and consistent methodological insight as to how to work with different literatures, languages and traditions.
    • The most recent (Moretti, Damrosh, Spivak, Apter) have offered extended critical theses and analytic readings proving the need for methodologies in working across languages and traditions.
    • These can be most fruitfully examined as suggestions toward a methodology.
    • Ultimately, the goal of the CCLPS Critical Forum is to examine the different critical and theoretical attempts, drawing strongly on the unique concentration of expertise at SOAS, in order to begin to outline a critical methodology, which is not an easy task, and certainly beyond the reach of individual scholars (as earlier attempts have confirmed).
    • This will constitute the centripetal force of the Centre’s intellectual and methodological visions, which must involve the work of all CCLPS members.

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Research Training Seminar

Term 1: 
Week 1: Introduction/CCLPS Critical Forum

Week 2: Introduction/ CCLPS RTS

(Open to all research students from faculty)

Week 3: Critical Method and Disciplinary Clarity

Ayman El-Desouky 

  • Epistemologies
  • Hermeneutics
  • Critical Thought
  • Field and Discipline Formations

(Open to all research students from faculty)

Week 4: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55

Week 5: Comparative Critical Method and the work of Area Studies

Ayman El-Desouky 

  • Against Theory!
  • Continuum of Critical Positions and Approaches
  • Area Studies/Regional Expertise
  • Beyond The Comparative: Thai and Amharic?!
  • Out of Fieldwork Modalities: Textual Analysis
  • Abstracting Method

(Open to all research students from faculty)

READING WEEK
Week 6: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55

 

Week 7: Comparative Literature I

Ayman El-Desouky

  • Professing Literature
  • Comparative Literature, The Discipline

(Open to all research students from faculty)


Week 8: Comparative Literature II

Ayman El-Desouky

  • Figures and Schools
  • Working with Concepts
  • Constructing Theoretical Frames

(Open to all research students from faculty)


Week 9: Optional: Short presentations on critical method/Analytic exercises
  • Engaging Scholarship Critically: One example
  • Analytic Exercise: One example

(Open to all research students from faculty)---only in 2009-2010


***Week 10: Optional: Short presentations on critical method/Analytic exercises
  • Engaging Scholarship Critically: One example
  • Analytic Exercise: One example

(Open to all research students from faculty)---only in 2009-2010


TERM 2:
Week 1: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55

Week 2: Cultural Studies I

Karima Laachir

  • Analysing cultural products in a systematic and creative way from a variety of perspectives
  • Researching the data necessary for making literary and cultural judgements
  • Evaluating and apply independent research methods
(Open to all research students from faculty)

W
EEK 3: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55

WEEK 4: Cultural Studies II

Karima Laachir

  • Demonstrating originality in dealing with literary and cultural studies issues
  • Formulating and test interpretations
  • Understanding cultural studies practice and critically examine the social and political contexts of cultural production

Week 5: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55
READING WEEK
Week 6: Postcolonial Studies I

Amina Yaqin

  • Exploring concepts of history, culture, nationalism, migration, gender and race in the context of post-colonial theories and literatures
  • Examining how communities are imagined and created through a sense of belonging in time and place

(Open to all research students from faculty)

Week 7: Postcolonial Studies II

Amina Yaqin

  • Interrogating culture and its relationship with individual memories and familial relationships, and how these emerge in powerful narratives of race and history
  • Developing a critical understanding of colonial and postcolonial constructs such as Orientalism, the global and transnational, the cosmopolitan and the international
Week 8: CCLPS Critical Forum
  • Presentation I: 13:05-13:25---Discussion: 13:25-13:50
  • Break: 13:50-14:00
  • Presentation II: 14:00-14:20---Discussion: 14:20-14:40
  • General Discussion: 14:40-14:55
Week 9: Optional: Long presentation on discipline
  • Critical Paradigms: Relevance to Field
  • Area of Expertise; One Example
  • Definition of Field
  • Placement in Discipline

(Open to all research students from faculty)---only in 2009-2010

Week 10: Optional: Long presentation on discipline
  • Critical Paradigms: Relevance to Field
  • Area of Expertise; One Example
  • Definition of Field
  • Placement in Discipline
(Open to all research students from faculty)---only in 2009-2010

TERM 3:

Candidates prepare their submissions for upgrading, under the guidance of their lead supervisors and members of the supervisory committees. 

A Student's Perspective

One of the most useful aspects of the programme is the weekly training seminar, which is open to all MPhil CCLPS students. These sessions are designed to consider ‘key’ methodological and theoretical texts, to incite debate and reflection upon your own research. The reflective nature of these seminars has been invaluable to my project, as they have allowed me a responsive space to broaden, question and develop my research

Poonkulaly Gunaseelan