MPhil & PhD in Cultural Studies

On this programme we interrupt theory with practice, and practice with theory – we aim to engage you, intellectually and critically, and with enthusiasm, in a cultural studies project that questions everything.

About the department
Centre for Cultural Studies

Length
3-4 years full-time or 4-6 years part-time.
Funding
If you're applying for funding, you may be subject to an application deadline. Find out more about funding opportunities for home/EU applicants, or funding for international applicants.

Skills
You should develop skills in ethnography and cultural research, and be able to deploy these to articulate your appreciation of crucial debates in the public domains of the media, the culture industries, formal and informal institutions and in the wider contemporary cultural scene.
Fees
See our tuition fees.
Contact the department
Contact Luciana Parisi
Visit us
Find out about how you can visit Goldsmiths at one of our open days or come on a campus tour.

The MPhil/PhD programme offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of culture. We'll introduce you to a wide variety of perspectives and traditions, animated via a creative interface between disciplines.

You'll develop a fundamental grounding in social and cultural theory, cultural studies and cultural research, as well as skills in ethnography, digital media, textual and audio-visual analysis.

The programme encourages you to deploy these methods to articulate your appreciation of crucial debates in the public domains of the media, the culture industries, formal and informal institutions, and in the wider contemporary cultural scene.

Many students write text-based theses, but approximately one third of our candidates produce theses that incorporate practical work in media and/or arts.

Find out more about:

Registration and study

Initially, you register for a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) programme to train you in the research methods you will need to complete a PhD.

You can apply to upgrade to PhD registration when you have satisfactorily completed an agreed part of the research and training programme; this usually happens after 18 months if you are studying full-time, or 24 months if part-time.

You should aim to complete and submit your PhD thesis within an agreed period, usually three to four years for full-time students, and four to six years for part-time.

If you decide not to upgrade to PhD registration, you can submit your thesis for an MPhil after two years if you are studying full-time, or after three years if part-time.

With the agreement of your supervisor, you can change your registration from full to part-time or vice versa; the necessary form is available from the Student Records Office.

North American applicants especially should note that the British system does not include preparatory taught classes or examinations as part of the MPhil/PhD programme, except for an initial course in research methods.

Research supervision

Research students are normally co-supervised by one staff member from the Centre and a staff member from the academic department whose expertise is best suited to your needs.

Often one supervisor will see you for a term or two and then the other co-supervisor will take over for an extended period, depending on the sort of work you are undertaking at the particular point in time.

Some students are single-supervised by a member of the Centre's staff. In cases of co-supervision, you will normally meet with one co-supervisor at a time.

You'll be able to draw on wide-ranging and interdisciplinary supervisory teams and if your thesis is partly by other media, specialist supervision will be provided. For example:

  • A student of consumer culture might be supervised by a media studies analyst of material culture and a specialist in digital design.
  • A student investigating postcolonial cultural forms could be supervised by an art/architectural historian and an anthropologist versed in hybrid cultures in Brazil or India.
  • A student inquiring into performativity may have one supervisor who is an expert in theatre studies and another who is an expert in the sociology of the body.
  • An inquiry into the sources of European identity could be supervised by specialists in the history of English and European literatures.
  • A thesis presented through multimedia installation could be co-supervised by a practitioner from the Department of Art.

Research topics are wide ranging; from the historical and comparative study of literature, art and architecture to the future of digital media and the informational city; from border cultures in Malaysia, Mexico or South London to the future of the self-organizing city; from philosophical considerations of Heidegger's idea of Technik, to empirical studies of new forms of work in the information society.

Find out about current PhD projects in the Centre for Cultural Studies.

Research training

A College-wide programme of research training is provided, which involves an induction course (which all students should attend), introduction to information technologies and the use of library and bibliographic resources, basic training in qualitative and quantitative research methods, and sessions on research planning, presentation skills and ethics.

Find out more about research degrees at Goldsmiths. 

Assessment

Written thesis and viva voce. It is possible to submit work in other media, by arrangement.


Application procedure and requirements

You can apply directly to Goldsmiths via the website by clicking the ‘apply now’ button on the main programme page.

Before submitting your application you’ll need to have: 

  • Details of your education history, including the dates of all exams/assessments;
  • The email address of your referee who we can request a reference from, or alternatively an electronic copy of your academic reference;
  • Contact details of a second referee;
  • A personal statement. This can either be uploaded as a Word Document or PDF, or completed online;
  • If available, an electronic copy of your educational transcript (this is particularly important if you have studied outside of the UK, but isn’t mandatory);
  • Details of your research proposal.

You'll be able to save your progress at any point and return to your application by logging in using your username/email and password.

Before you apply for a research programme, we advise you to get in touch with the programme contact, Luciana Parisi. It may also be possible to arrange an advisory meeting.

Before you start at Goldsmiths, the actual topic of your research has to be agreed with your proposed supervisor, who will be a member of staff active in your general field of research. The choice of topic may be influenced by the current research in the department or the requirements of an external funding body. 

If you wish to study on a part-time basis, you should also indicate how many hours a week you intend to devote to research, whether this will be at evenings or weekends, and for how many hours each day.

Research proposals 

Along with your application and academic reference, you should also upload a research proposal at the point of application. 

This should be in the form of a statement of the proposed area of research and should include: 

  • delineation of the research topic;
  • why it has been chosen;
  • an initial hypothesis (if applicable);
  • a brief list of major secondary sources.

When to apply 

We accept applications from October for students wanting to start the following September. 

We encourage you to complete your application as early as possible, even if you haven't finished your current programme of study. It's very common to be offered a place conditional on you achieving a particular qualification. 

If you're applying for external funding from one of the Research Councils, make sure you submit your application no later than 31 January.

Selection process 

Admission to many programmes is by interview, unless you live outside the UK. Occasionally we'll make candidates an offer of a place on the basis of their application and qualifications alone.

Entrance requirements 

You should normally have (or expect to be awarded) a taught Masters in cultural studies or in a related field with good results, especially in the dissertation. 

You might also be considered for some programmes if you aren’t a graduate or your degree is in an unrelated field, but have relevant experience and can show that you have the ability to work at postgraduate level. 

We also accept a wide range of international equivalent qualifications, which can be found on our country-specific pages. If you'd like more information, please contact the Admissions Office.

English language 

If your first language is not English you need a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (including 7.0 in the written element) or equivalent. 

Please check our English Language requirements for more information.

Find out more about applying 

Contact us 

Get in touch via our online form 

UK/EU
+44 (0)20 7919 7766
course-info@gold.ac.uk 

International (non-EU)
+44 (0)20 7919 7702
international-office@gold.ac.uk

Student profiles

 
 

Video: Click to play

Daisy studied for her PhD at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. She now works as a Research Assistant Professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University.

Alix

"I have met a real mix of people, including those who have also spent some time in the world of work, who are still working or/and are not from a ‘traditional’ higher-educated background. This has really helped me gain confidence and build some great support networks. I have made some firm friends on the course, which I did not expect from a PhD. You need a lot of self-belief to pursue a PhD, and I really think I couldn’t do it anywhere else."

Cristobal Bianchi

PhD Project title: Bombing of Poems: Poetics of a Plural Event
Nationality: Chilean
Undergraduate degree and course: Licenciado in Psychology at Universidad de Santiago de Chile
Postgraduate degree and course: MA Interactive Media at Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Job: Member of the Casagrande art collective (www.loscasagrande.org)

“The Centre for Cultural Studies was an interesting place to develop my PhD. It gave me the opportunity to consider that it was possible to write a thesis about the Bombing of Poems in the first place. I found out, for example, how the Bombing of Poems can be thought of as a practice that deserves research because it can bring out ideas and relations between concepts and different fields. It made me think of it as the tip of an iceberg, with most of its structure hidden. My thesis perhaps illuminates a crack within this hidden geography.

The bombing of poems is a symbolic intervention, and as such makes references to other acts of air bombardment - indiscriminate death raining from the sky – and in this way confirms the brutality of total war. The use of such bombing oscillates between being proscribed by international treaty to being used for 'just war', as well as for pedagogical purposes in which the waging of war against civilians becomes legitimate. My thesis takes these air bombardments as critical background for the research, but also points to a different type of air bombing – that is to say, one realized using poems. The Bombing of Poems takes place in cities that have experienced aerial bombing during military confrontations and has so-far been carried out in Santiago de Chile, Gernika, Dubrovnik, Warsaw, Berlin and recently in London.

Following one of Umberto Eco's ideas, the Bombing of Poems, in my understanding, is an open act (Eco, 1989), and as such is located in an intermediary space that permits it to be studied from different perspectives. For example, the Bombing of Poems is situated within a tradition of practices that use the sky to form an image through movement from high places, without it mattering whether these projects are defined as artistic works, literary scenes, cinematographies, psychological warfare, political propaganda, or marketing strategy. In their own contexts these interventions are both inside and outside of art, politics and publicity. Obviously our work recognizes this ambivalence and plasticity, but it also tries to situate itself as a public intervention and a performance – which is to say in the terrain of the poetic.

The papers that are dropped from the helicopter are poems printed on bookmarks. The bookmarks are suspended in the air before they become gifts – that is, before they arrive to the streets, the people and the buildings. They are a reference to the pamphlets used as propaganda and in psychological warfare to demoralize the enemy. This image comprises the act of bombing and constructs the visual effect of rain or snow falling from the sky. The poems are written by authors who are younger than 42 years-old and who are from Chile and other countries where the event occurs. Poetry is important precisely because it speaks for itself. In this way, poetry is located in the Bombing of Poems as an instance of the poetic, and for this reason there is no specific theme to be found in the particular contents or messages of the poems.

The helicopter over the city poses a dichotomy to the public. On the one hand, it creates a sensation of fear due to the impossibility of escaping from the omnipresence of this machine of war. On the other hand, and in the opposite sense, it gives a sense of rescue and liberation that comes from the sky, partly due to the helicopter's ability to land in difficult terrain. In between the tension of fear and relief, the Bombing of Poems relocates not only the audience, but also urban space. It does this by means of a symbolic intervention that extends a violent event in order to change its meaning within a radical opening of the memory (Opazo-Ortiz, 1997).

CCS gave me the chance to outline a research project, not only as an academic question but also a biographical one related to the past thirteen years of working with poetry in public space as well as experimenting with publishing through different technologies. My classmates made the experience of the PhD much more real, productive and friendly.

I have had the chance to present the Bombing of Poems and share this research at cities in many countries. I did presentations at the New School in New York, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Prague, Wales, Dresden, Guernica, Belfast and Göteborg. In London I presented at Middlesex University, Central Saint Martins Design School, The London School of Communication and This is not a Gateway Festival (2009). This year I will present a paper at Yale University in the symposium Architecture and Performance and at the cultural week in the University of Bristol.”

For further information about the Bombing of Poems project you can e-mail Cristobal at cristobianchi@gmail.com

Interviewed by Leila Whitley

James Burton

PhD Project title: Machines for Making Gods: Mechanisation, Salvation and Fabulation in the Works of Henri Bergson and Philip K. Dick
Nationality: British
Undergraduate degree and course: BA English (1999), Cambridge University
Postgraduate degree and course: MA Cultural Studies (2002), Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Job: Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ruhr University, Bochum (Germany)

"After I finished my undergraduate degree and started working, I found I wasn't very happy sitting in an office, and was increasingly feeling dissatisfied with the politics and culture of the world around me. I didn't think I had the personality to go into politics, but I thought I might have the characteristics of someone who could research and write about it and maybe hope to help change it that way. So, I thought, how can I pursue that further? And I did the MA and PhD in Cultural Studies.

I had previously studied English literature, and the people who taught me were brilliant and very open-minded, quite politically minded and so on, but by the end of that degree I had begun to see traditional disciplinary boundaries as quite rigid and somewhat arbitrary. If I was going to pursue postgraduate study, I wanted something that would let me combine my different interests in philosophy, literature, politics and other fields, and let me experiment with different media and cultural forms. CCS turned out to be just what I was looking for: in the anti-disciplinary cultural studies tradition of figures like Richard Hoggart and Stuart Hall, but with an openness and sensitivity to a wide range of contemporary cultural and political trends, as well as modern continental philosophy and cultural theory (which was particularly important for me).

Studying at CCS can be a bit of a chaotic experience at times, but to an extent that just reflects how much there is going on in terms of seminars, invited speakers and other events. There's a sort of intermingling of theoretical, academic, but also social and activist, activities. We used to organize a lot of things among ourselves, just the students, like reading groups, and the journal (or noctournal) Nyx, which is still being produced by students and ex-students. I think overall it's a lot less of a lonely experience than most people describe as characteristic of doing a PhD. I never felt alone or isolated, and if anything I had to carve out space to be alone to finish writing my thesis.

On the surface, my PhD was about philosophy and science fiction – specifically, the philosopher Henri Bergson and the science fiction writer Philip K Dick. More thematically speaking, it developed a theory about the relationship between mechanization and salvation in modernity, how modern culture is beset by contradictory imperatives, caught between immanence and transcendence, materialism and spiritualism, and the way fictionalising or fabulation, might function to mediate those difficulties, to enable what I termed a form of 'immanent salvation'. On another level though, it was just a reading of two thinkers/writers who I love and think have a lot to say to each other.

Now I'm doing a postdoctoral research fellowship in Germany at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. My research here is geared towards producing a book on the concept of metafiction as a central category in contemporary cultural theory and experience. I'm also rewriting aspects of my PhD for publication as a book called The Philosophy of Science Fiction."

Interviewed by Leila Whitley

Christine

PhD Project title: Colonizin’ in Reverse! The Creolised Aesthetic of the Empire Windrush Generation
Nationality: British
Undergraduate degree and course: BA Hons Fashion and Textiles University of West of England
Postgraduate degree and course:MA Fashion and Communication, University of the Creative Arts Epsom
Previous job before MA:Fashion Design Consultant
Current Job:Freelance Exhibitions Researcher/Curator and FashionDesign Consultant

“I became interested in doing a PhD whilst I was completing my MA at Epsom. I realised that academics and artists with a Goldsmiths connection wrote many of the texts that I was reading and being inspired by, for example, Gilroy, Mercer, Jefferies and Shonibare. Goldsmiths has always had a reputation for creativity, for robust critical debate, for the breaking down of boundaries and that to me was really exciting. I think it is this ability to embrace a cross-disciplinary approach that makes Goldsmiths unique – CCS typifies this way of working. Speaking as someone who doesn’t really fit into a neat pigeonhole, Goldsmiths CCS seemed to be the right place for me!

Much of my work was and still is underpinned by Stuart Hall’s writings and I knew of his connections with CCS. I was specifically interested in exploring post-colonial studies; no other centre offered expertise in this area.

As a creative practitioner, it was important to me to have a supervisor that also had a practice background as well as someone rooted in post colonial studies. CCS made this possible through it’s links with the then Visual Art department. The relationship with the supervisor is key to doing a research project; they become almost like personal trainers – they have to push you when you need pushing! They also need to inspire. I was very fortunate.

At CCS my eyes were opened to so many different things. I remember being encouraged to present papers and publish articles. The first conference that I spoke at was in St Kitts – exciting and scary in equal measure as this was during my first year as a research student! One of my first articles was published in “Kunapipi: The Journal of Postcolonial Writing”; again, this opportunity came directly from one of my supervisors suggestions.

Since graduating, I’ve worked on a number of freelance projects with INIVA – The Institute for International Visual Arts. Second Skins: Cloth and Difference brought together a dynamic group, working in the fields of textiles, cloth and fashion exploring the role that cloth plays in the re-fashioning of identities in geographical and symbolic border crossing. Similarly, Social Fabric is an exhibition examining the role of textiles in social and economic processes.

Publications include Social Fabric (Iniva Publications, 2012) and Every Mickle Mek a Mockle: Reconfiguring Diasporic Identities in Beyond Borders (Pavement Books, 2012), drawn directly from my research project and examining the notion of dress as a creolized non-verbal “Nation Language”.

My aspirations have certainly changed. My interest in curating came directly out of my time as a research student. Similarly, I now view writing as part of my creative practice.

It’s important to find the right department/centre and the right combination of supervisors that meet your academic needs, your style of working and aspirations. Doing a PhD is a long process and can sometimes feel a little isolating – you have to really connect with your topic; it’s the “spark” between you, your topic, your supervisor and your peers that keeps you going.”

www.iniva.org/exhibitions_projects/2012/social_fabric/

www.iniva.org/events/2009/second_skins

Interviewed by Lee Mackinnon

Richard

PhD Project title: Thinking Encounter with Animals
Nationality: British
Undergraduate degree and course: BA(Hons) Design, University of the Arts London (Camberwell School of Art)
Postgraduate degree and course: MA Writing, Middlesex University
Current Job: writer, tutor

I work mainly at the intersection of Continental philosophy and Animal Studies, which is set to become a key area of radical political change over the next few years. I have a number of articles published or forthcoming, and am involved with a number of action groups concerned with the mutual articulation of apparently disparate oppressions (how speciesism underwrites racism & sexism, for example), and with ending the exploitation and oppression of nonhuman others. At the moment I am working on my first monograph, based on my PhD dissertation, which is to be published next year.

I wanted to do a PhD to prove something to myself, I guess, and because it would give me space and time to study whilst at the same time providing a structure and a goal of sorts (I’ve never been a fan of the “taught at & take notes” style of study). This latter too goes some way to explain my choice of Goldsmiths, which I applied to for two simple reasons: radical politics and creativity.

After an unorthodox interview with John Hutnyk (the main thing I remember was the brooding b&w portrait of Marx on the wall), I started in Sep 2006. The influence of Continental Philosophy and Theory was immediately evident in the seminars, and this immediately inspired me to begin an intensive course of reading that is still continuing today (well, maybe not immediately – during most of the first year, I often felt to be somewhat adrift, that I’d been accepted by mistake, although I guess this was a combination of lack of confidence and of not having the right supervisor). Yeah, so even though I was adrift in the first year, I still read a great deal of Nietzsche & Marx in particular, it was still a productive time. Eventually, at my first panel Bhaskar (who was not connected to my study) basically gave me another list of books to read, which was (no irony intended) incredibly important. In my second year I changed supervisors and, although it was unnecessary for us to meet often, these were the two major events which changed the course of my study for the good.

Doing a PhD revolutionised every aspect of my life, although upon completion it does turn out that old habits die hard. It enabled me to understand and articulate a great number of those things which previously I had perceived only in a vague sense as problematic or unjust, as well as provide ways for trying to change things. At the same time, it made me realise that universities are not bastions of truth and free discussion (an illusion all too quickly dispelled), but both suffer and inflict injustice and reactionary politics.

Choose a subject you are passionate about, and read, read, read – widely, slowly, and in-depth. If you have the passion, you will never get bored. If you simply want to be a Dr., or think you will earn lots of money then don’t bother – there are much easier ways of doing both.

Interviewed by Lee Mackinnon

Joel

PhD Project title: Memory Complex: Competing Visions for a Post-9/11 New York
Undergraduate degree and course: BA English at McGill University and MA Media Studies at Concordia University (both in Montreal, Quebec)
Previous job before you started the course: Senior Research Analyst at iPerceptions
Current Job: School of Arts and Sciences Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Pittsburgh

I was interested in the interdisciplinary openness of Goldsmiths, the college’s emphasis on the study of political and aesthetic theory, and its overall focus on issues of contemporary visual culture. The Centre for Cultural Studies appeared to foster creative research approaches, while also maintaining a high degree of scholarly rigour.

The college’s close connections to galleries, institutions and discussions across London also made the course very attractive.

It may sound somewhat grandiose, but the course helped me better conceptualise the large-scale patterns of cultural, political and economic change that are affecting our contemporary world. Goldsmiths does not shy away from addressing big societal issues and it encourages students to make meaningful links between subjects and disciplines that are often held at a distance in more conservative academic settings.

I was particularly inspired by Professor John Hutnyk’s reading group on Karl Marx, Professor Scott Lash’s seminar on cultural theory, and Professor Howard Caygill’s seminar on the history of contemporary thought. I also greatly enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow PhD students and the various reading groups and conferences we organised together.

The interdisciplinary research skills I gained at Goldsmiths helped me both obtain my current position teaching and researching at the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and work within it. I believe I was granted the fellowship because the faculty at Pittsburgh recognised that I brought an unusual perspective to architectural studies, one informed by political theory, cultural studies and contemporary philosophy.

For perspective students I would recommend being prepared to take advantage of all of the resources Goldsmiths offers that are of interest to you, regardless of what department they reside in. This can require having the courage to knock on a professor’s door or request to be enrolled in a seminar outside your home discipline. The many points of connection between departments at Goldsmiths is one of the college’s strengths.”

PhD description: (My PhD considers the intersection of memory, politics and aesthetics at five distinct architectural sites connected to the events of September 11. These sites range in size from the spontaneous memorials that surfaced in places like Union Square only hours after the attacks to the landscape urbanism project that is converting the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where the World Trade Center debris was deposited, into a public park and wetlands conservation area.  Drawing from architectural theory, political thought, and media and communication studies, I try to explore how memory functions given the scale of international conflict and urban reconstruction involved.)

Interviewed by Claire Shaw

Junko

PhD Project title: Intimations of Photography
Nationality: Japanese/ Taiwanese
Undergraduate degree and course: BA Honours French, University College London
Postgraduate degree and course: Maîtrise en lettres modernes, University of Paris IV - Sorbonne
Previous job: Photographer (fashion editorial/ album covers); Lecturer, School of Creative Media , City University of Hong Kong
Current Job: Lecturer in Photography, Department of History and Philosophy of Art, School of Arts, University of Kent

“I was working as professional photographer in Taiwan and although I had a successful career, there was a part of me which really missed academia. I was invited to teach as visiting artist at City University of Hong Kong. I had always wanted to do a PhD. However, like most people, it was a matter of financial costs and time, which had made it seem difficult and unrealistic after having finished my masters degree at the Sorbonne.

I chose Goldsmiths and CCS because of its excellent reputation, interdisciplinary approach, and also knowing that I would be working with the top scholars in the field. My project could not have happened elsewhere.

The whole atmosphere of CCS was stimulating and exciting. My classmates came from different disciplines. Within the peer group, there was a wide range of projects; we shared ideas and problems- - you get to know one another very closely. There was a real sense of camaraderie. I loved the fact that after the seminars, lectures and talks, the discussion often continued and eventually ended in the pub as the night went on!

There is the opportunity for students to organise conferences and workshops and to meet leading thinkers in their field- you can always discuss ideas with other staff who are very welcoming. There is an inspiring breadth of knowledge from staff members. Every year, students are asked to submit their written work to a summer panel. I found the experience amazing- although it was also terrifying! The annual summer panel was something to look forward to and it provided a wonderful opportunity for students at the end of the year to have three experts giving feedback; staff read your work so thoroughly and give such invaluable advice. It helps you to formulate your thoughts. This is very unique to CCS. I really appreciate the dedication of staff members who support and encourage students to pursue their individual projects.

You have to be very passionate about your research project even though it may be quite nebulous in the beginning. CCS enabled me to realise my project. I guess doing a PhD allows you to learn about yourself- and how far you can push yourself intellectually. Once you have done a PhD, anything is possible! You learn how to analyse various phenomena and discourse; you understand how your mind works.  The writing process is fascinating; it is intensely cerebral as well as physical. The experience opens up new possibilities regarding how you understand your being in the world. I really miss those years, even though there are always worries (financial pressure, being an overseas student, producing work) but to have that support and a critical voice is a great luxury.”

Theresa’s book ‘The Spell of Photography: A Philosophical History of Photography since Plato,’ based upon her PhD research, will be published by IB Taurus in 2013.

Interviewed by Lee Mackinnon

Susan

PhD Project title: VOODOO SPACE: Event Machines & Media Entanglements
Nationality: Swiss-Canadian
Undergraduate degree and course: BA Visual Art at Simon Fraser University
Postgraduate degree and course: MFA Media Arts at University of California, San Diego
Previous job before PhD: Director/Curator of the OR Gallery ― Vancouver
Current Job: Projects coordinator and senior research fellow in Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths College

“It was always my life ambition to do a PHD. I was living in a somewhat isolated city in Canada, so I wanted to move somewhere that was a nexus ― a city where interesting people from around the world would move through on a daily basis ― this is what initially attracted me to London and consequently Goldsmiths.

Goldsmiths is very progressive. The way in which it tackles its objects of study is very innovative, and that was hugely important to me. The demand to think differently about the world is always present, and I do not think I would have had that at any other university.

As a researcher or artist, it is very easy to follow your own interests. But when you come into a programme of study, you have an encounter with people who insist that you engage with ideas that you might not have naturally encountered. And when you do, everything changes ― you are transformed by that. I can quite candidly say that I am a different person having spent my time here.

The programmes in the Centre for Cultural Studies and CRA (in which I was based) allow you to be promiscuous about your research project. Of course you need to be rigorous, but eccentricities of imagination are also always encouraged. The experience gave me a whole new set of tools for thinking.

In London I was also able to hear a lot of people speak whom I had only previously read, including Isabelle Stengers. Her work played an important part in my dissertation, so that was great for me.

With a shift in geography, come new opportunities to mobilise your work in other cities and other situations. Through Goldsmiths I met all kinds of people who created opportunities for me to develop artworks, projects and writing. I also went to lots of conferences and presented my work in the UK, Copenhagen, Zurich, Barcelona, Frankfurt and New York.

This is crucial to assessing your own work outside of the immediate context in which it was developed, to see if it can perform in the way you claim it can without relying upon the specifics of the environment in which it was developed to attain its legibility or coherence.

I think the programme at CCS really helped me enormously in terms of giving me a different vantage point to try out new ideas. A PhD never replaces the knowledge you already had, but begins to solve the problems you brought to it differently.

To do a meaningful PhD, you need to embark on that adventure with total commitment. It should never be a means to a job or merely continuation of studies. You have to take the risk that everything will change, and be open to the potential that the ways in which you previously thought about the world will fundamentally be transformed. You should never come out the same person as you went in.”

Interviewed by Claire Shaw

Craig

PhD Project title: Structuring Interactivity; Space and Time in Relational Art
Nationality: American
Undergraduate degree and course: BFA (1996) from the University of Oklahoma
Postgraduate degree and course: MFA (1998) from the State University of New York at Buffalo
Current Job: Associate Professor at the College of Fine Arts, University of Florida

“I completed my MFA in photography and visual theory about five years before starting a PhD. During the non-academic time I began teaching as well as continuing to work as an artist. What I realized when I started teaching (in 2000 at NYU and Hofstra University) was that I did not know the background of the theoretical models 'imported' by post '68 art practices (minimalism, conceptualism, performance, video, some photography, …), nor did I understand the etymology of the terms being 'applied' to art practices. That was my incentive to seek a post-graduate program in which I could continue to work as an artist and to utilize my background as an artist, as well as interest in teaching, in my research.

My first conversation with Scott Lash was about all of this. He shared his sort of wild-eyed optimism about what I was doing. I don't think he confused me with a scientific scholar or analyst, etc... I think he thought I would make art as PhD. But what I liked about the CCS is that I could use art practice as an element, but not final outcome, of my PhD dissertation. So my wife and I moved to England (for her it was a return home) and I started the program at CCS. At that time there were about 45 students, maybe 15-20 at the seminars, and no one really knew what a 'practice-led' PhD meant or how it should be assessed. I decided immediately that I would write a thesis as thesis, the same as my colleagues. This helped me to move my practice away from 'representation' and into a materialization of some theoretical modeling.

I had a great group of colleagues at Goldsmiths. All of us attended the CCS seminars weekly as well as seminars in "contemporary thought' every other week. It was through the discourse with these colleagues that the combination of practice/theory developed. I think this might happen in other places as well, but our balance between CCS seminars and other platforms available in the college was a tremendous influence. 

The CCS faculty (Lash, Hutnyk, Verges) gave me my first opportunity to organize conferences and invite internationally recognized artists and theorists into a single forum for presentations and discussion. Couple this with the access to so many lectures at Goldsmiths or in London and the influence upon my own language, objectives, and aesthetics of presentation were profound. It was at Goldsmiths where I was able to sit at a table with Eric Alliez or Bruno Latour, or sit next to Stuart Hall at a dinner and be 'schooled' about the local. It's a rich, deep, do - it - yourself environment. You have to be self-organized (that's all of the vitalism influencing the pedagogy i think!!) – there are innumerable opportunities and global influences all on that skinny plot of land in New Cross – but you have to be on top of the scheduling and ask for the time with your supervisors, etc.

My PhD thesis looked at the spatial and temporal criteria or forms used in group, participatory, socially-engaged artworks. I created an artwork integrating computer aided audience engagement, sound, cardiovascular training equipment, and weight training equipment and presented/ performed this work during the Frieze and Scope art fairs. The artwork itself became my demonstration of the spatial and temporal criteria of relational artworks. The audience engagement and successive form production created in the performance itself provided me with examples of both 'participation' and 'interactivity' with artworks. The key objective of the thesis became the differences in kind between 'participation' and 'interactivity'

I continue to teach, to exhibit artworks (live and installed), and write/record. I'm currently working on an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. with my colleague Colin Beatty. We are analysing the manipulation of market value and use-value in/of objects traded through the art market. We've created a corporate entity ("The Gun Club") as well as a financial trust. Through the trust we purchase the weapons, disassemble them into their individual operating parts, and distribute these parts to individual 'shareholders' of the Gun Club. Exploring the systems of regulation, the networks of power, that not only are demonstrated by the firearm itself (and opinions of them) but also by government agencies is of key interest to Colin and I. I'm also working on a book for I.B. Tauris publishers (UK) that is on Relational Art. I'll be looking at other artists rather than myself. It should be out in 2014.”

Interviewed by Leila Whitley

Daisy

PhD Project title: A Taste of Ethics: Shifting from Lifestyle to a Way of Life
Nationality: Hong Kong
Undergraduate degree and course: BA Comparative Literature at University of Hong Kong
Postgraduate degree and course: MA Comparative Literature at University College London
Current Job: Research Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Baptist University

“I wanted to do my PhD in a human-sized department where people are committed to research, where both staff and students are involved, and not in a place where I would become anonymous. I changed disciplines from Comparative Literature to Cultural Studies as I wanted my research to be move beyond the text and to be more relevant to my environment.

CCS is a a great centre where not only the staff are committed, but also the students. The best thing about CCS is the people. Everyone's project is interesting and inspiring, and people reach out to each other. I learned so much from my fellow students. No one seems to count the hours they put into organizing and attending activities - reading groups, workshops, conferences, talks, etc. Their interest drives their work, and that's not something you find everywhere.

In addition to the academic life of the centre, one of the great things I loved about the PhD was the fieldwork. I sold apples at Borough Market for five years, and that was one of the highlights. I loved doing it and I wouldn't have done it without the encouragement of my supervisor. Because I did, the whole thesis changed, and the whole way I saw London changed.

New CCS people - be brave, be open, be a pioneer in what you do, don't be afraid and don't stick to your comfort zone. Enjoy! I loved my time in the centre and hope that you will also find your own story to tell in the future...”

Interviewed by Leila Whitley


Content last modified: 03 Feb 2014

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