SOAS University of London

SOAS academics awarded 6 million euro ERC Consolidator Grants to study decolonising film, pre-modern Chinese court theatre and African philosophy

15 January 2019

SOAS University of London has been awarded three consolidator grants from the European research Council (ERC) totalling nearly 6 million euros for projects on decolonising Film and Screen Studies, pre-modern Chinese court theatre and African philosophy.

Dr Lindiwe Dovey, Reader in Screen Arts and Industries and Chair of the SOAS Centre for Media and Film Studies, has been awarded 1,985,578 Euro for her project ‘African Screen Worlds: Decolonising Film and Screen Studies’. The project aims to centre African filmmaking, the most marginalised regional cinema in Film and Screen Studies, putting it at the heart of the discipline’s future, and asking how our views begin to change when we acknowledge Africa’s presence in the diverse, complex screen worlds that make up audiovisual cultures in our contemporary moment.

This project looks at how we can analyse and theorise screen worlds, starting from positions firmly grounded in contemporary Africa, and what benefits can be achieved for Film and Screen Studies and the film industry by exploring the differences and connections between screen worlds in Africa and elsewhere, on the basis of texts (the films themselves) and industries (encompassing production, distribution, and exhibition). The project also goes beyond conventional theorising by exploring how the use of creative practice (the making of films and audiovisual essays) and activism (the production of toolkits, and cross-disciplinary work) can contribute to the decolonising of Film and Screen Studies. Inspired by a collaborative ethos, the project’s core team looks forward to mutually enriching partnerships with colleagues at the University of Lagos and Addis Ababa University in particular.

Awarded 1,991,777 Euro, Professor Tian Yuan Tan, Professor of Chinese Studies, will be leading ‘Linking the Textual Worlds of Chinese Court Theater, ca. 1600-1800’, a project looking at Court theater which was a core part of Chinese court and performance culture for centuries, The project will build the first digital archive of court drama scripts and related foreign records. Based on this resource, the project will then trace internal links between scripts; draw external links to individuals, occasions, and artefacts; and consider cross-cultural links to situate Chinese court drama in its global context.

Professor Tan’s research team will produce the first textual studies of Chinese court drama, including a court drama textual database, a series of monographs and publications on extended text-based research topics, and an anthology of English translations for the general reader. These outputs will remedy the lack of textual studies on Chinese court drama, contributing towards our understanding of Chinese theater history, dramatic literature and world court cultures.

Dr Alena Rettová, Reader in Swahili Literature and African Philosophy, has been awarded 1,997,762 Euro for the project ‘Philosophy And Genre: Creating A Textual Basis For African Philosophy’ a project which pioneers a multilingual approach to African philosophy, based on an understanding of philosophy as expressed through texts. In contrast to definitions of philosophical texts as solely non-fictional, written sources this project looks at both oral and written texts, fictional and non-fictional ones, public and private ones.

The key premise of the project is that to understand the philosophical meaning of texts, it is necessary to start with an analysis of textual genres. The project examines how genre impacts meaning on several genres of literature in eight African and European languages. The case studies include the essay in Ciluba and French, the novel in Swahili, Shona, Ciluba, Lingala, French, and English, digital texts such as blogs and social media, scenario planning narratives, Sufi poetry in Swahili and Wolof, and Alexis Kagame’s poetic work in Kinyarwanda and French, adapting the traditional genres of dynastic, heroic and pastoral poetry.

ERC Consolidator grants of up to 2 million Euros which are designed to support researchers at the stage of consolidating their own research team or programme. This grant scheme strengthens recently created independent and excellent research teams. The ERC Consolidator grant is a way of addressing the fact that researchers face challenges when they are consolidating their independent careers in Europe. The current situation limits or delays the emergence of the next generation of researchers in Europe. This grant offers researchers a unique opportunity to consolidate their position.