Institute Theme

Our community voted for the Institute's inaugural theme for 2023/24.

The first annual theme for the Media, Arts and Humanities Research Institute is Beginnings.


Starting off an exciting programme of events linked to this theme, the initial Media, Arts and Humanities Research Conversation on Beginnings, open to all interested faculty and PGRs across the University, took place in October 2023. Read the summary report from the Beginnings Conversations.

A further seven events took place during spring/summer 2024:

Activist Beginnings: Showcase & Workshop

Weds 24 April: Activist Beginnings: Showcase & Workshop   

This is a celebration of students' work over the three years that the practical Social Justice, Leadership & Organising modules have been running. Students will deliver workshop activities on community listening and action, presenting on their own activist beginnings and how they've developed this practice at Sussex. Previous students have worked on a range of campaigns with USSU and local organisations - from contributing to Citizens UK’s affordable rents campaign, to campaigning on UN sustainability policy. This event is an opportunity for staff to consider how to encourage activist beginnings in their teaching, and for students to learn about the relevance of activism to their academic studies. 

Organised by Dr Katherine Kruger.

The Concept of the Archive in Early-Modern/Contemporary Poetics

Weds 24 April: The Concept of the Archive in Early-Modern/Contemporary Poetics

An evening of presentations, a performance lecture and discussion exploring the concept of the archive and “archival gestures” in poetry, art and politics.

Speakers inclulde:

Dr Karenjit Sandhu (Reading School of Art): ‘The Irritating Archive’ A performance lecture on the history of the Irritating Archive'
Dr Chloe Porter (Sussex): ‘Early Modern Beginnings and ArkhÄ“’
Dr Anna Moser (Sussex): ‘Saidiya Hartman, M. NourbeSe Philip, and the Deformations of the Archive’
Dr Kat Addis (Sussex): ‘An Archival Epic’ 

Organised by Dr Kat Addis.

Making Your Own Press: Printing a Pagan Bohemia in Sussex

Mon 20 May: Making your Own Press - a Vine Press Workshop

In 1920s Sussex, the poet, publisher and occultist Victor B. Neuburg set up a hand-cranked printing press and used it to create a new artistic network. By publishing books of poetry, prose and things in-between, Neuburg built a web that caught the educated and self-taught; the talented and having-a-go, as they documented Sussex culture and the strange rural-Bohemian life of the moment. In this event marking a century of Neuburg's work, artists, writers and academics will use Vine Press as a jumping-off point to look at how Neuburg's work as a publisher took shape, as well as the way our own zine culture borrows from the likes of Vine Press    knowingly or not. 

Organised by the Centre for Modernist Studies.

Launching the Black Studies @ Sussex Legacy Collection

Thurs 30 May: Launching the Black Studies @ Sussex Legacy Collection

Join Black community history, education, and literary guest speakers alongside Sussex researchers and librarians for a one-day symposium engaging with the new Black Studies Legacy Collection archive at the University of Sussex Library. All welcome. Catered jollof lunch and refreshments provided. Research supported by Black@Sussex. 

Organised by Dr Anne-Marie Angelo.

New Beginnings Explored through Speculative Fiction

Fri 31 May: New Beginnings Explored through Speculative Fiction

How can diverse new beginnings be imagined through speculative fiction? What would a new worldview built on the principles of inclusivity, care, activism or belonging with more-than-human beings look like? In what way can film be a language of new beginnings based on reciprocity and resilience in the face of adversity? These research questions will be explored during a symposium that will include a panel and a workshop.

Organised by Annie Goliath, Creative and Critical Practice PhD student.

Preface, Prelude, Prologue Symposium

Weds 5 June: Preface, Prelude, Prologue Symposium

Can you think of an opening moment in a narrative work that engages you, sparks your curiosity, and establishes the themes and politics of the whole piece? This interdisciplinary symposium will host speakers from across the UK and a variety of disciplines to reflect on the openings of songs, novels, films, and video essays. Talks will cover a diverse range of creators from Kate Bush, Franz Liszt, and Thomas Pynchon, to Kelly Reichardt, Andrea Arnold, and Powell & Pressburger.

Organised by Lisa Holloway, PGR in Film Studies.

Menopause: New Perspectives, New Beginnings Conference

Weds 19 June: Menopause: New Perspectives, New Beginnings Conference

A one day event bringing together new arts and humanities research with practice-based activities to examine and demystify Menopause. Sessions include: Menopause stories and histories; Menopause and media; Menopause, craftivism and performance; ‘Comes the Crones’ a rehearsed reading of 30-minute play; plus a rolling display of ‘Round-about Fifty: What we cannot see’ photographic portraits by Fran Monks; a workshop: Reclaiming words through craftivism – a practical participatory session; and a screening of Ali Ramsey's ‘Menopause: The Movie’.

Organised by Dr Jill Kirby.

Background to the Beginnings theme

What does it mean to begin? And where might beginnings take us? Edward Said argues that a beginning ‘not only creates but is its own method’. In turn, ‘Beginnings’ has unique capacity as an inaugural theme to generate new ideas and projects, and to encourage us to think expansively within and beyond our disciplines.

This multidisciplinary theme has great creative and critical potential. It invites us to consider different beginnings: creation, emergence, making, natality, newness, the unprecedented, the past and that which came before. We might explore how to represent the beginnings of the cosmos, or the birth of consciousness, in sound, images, movement, performance, language, or stories. We might ask what technologies mediate experiences of coming-into-being, or experiment with what it means to make a beginning in the context of the current wave of generative AI. Together we can explore how beginnings shape critical and creative practice, from temporalities, genealogies, life-writing and history to archaeology, etymology, and memory. Such explorations have radical possibilities. In myths of origin, creation intertwines with order, so that – as Giorgio Agamben claims – the removal of the origin collapses oppressive social and political structures and permits new ways of being. A focus on beginnings invites us to test the potential of this theme to create new research methods and pedagogies through which to respond to challenges of the present and the future. How might beginnings help us to navigate climate transition, and to reframe responses to ecological crisis in terms of new practices and technologies? Can a turn to beginnings help us to rethink what learning and research mean in the present moment?

‘Beginnings’ builds on existing research in MAH, and the theme’s resonance with work in the sciences and social sciences will create opportunities for exciting transdisciplinary spaces. Research in this vein is already underway in the School. Examples include research into:

  • Beginnings in early modern drama
  • Origin myths in a post-industrial music theatre reimagining of John Milton’s Paradise Lost narratives of origin, ideology and the body / 'nature’
  • Science fiction and climate futures
  • Sussex Humanities Lab’s investigations of social and cultural dimensions of innovation and emerging technologies
  • Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies’ forthcoming symposium on early representations of consciousness in literature, music and technology.

 Further suggested public-facing ‘Beginnings’ events might include:

  • a symposium on beginnings and climate transition
  • a workshop exploring the beginnings of higher education (or Sussex and its place in the community) in order to reimagine the University’s role in the present and future
  • co-creative, student-led workshops on learning and ‘the beginner’: what is the difference between a ‘student’ and a ‘beginner’?
  • events on beginnings and research methods: does tracing beginnings offer alternatives to scientific research models for creative / critical practice?
  • a high-profile keynote / headline event at the Festival of Ideas (the capaciousness of the theme permits multiple possibilities)

This suggested programme reflects the breadth of ‘Beginnings’: a theme that promises new directions with the potential for longer-term project.