New academic posts announced at Birkbeck

by Scott Rodgers on February 2, 2017

Today a series of new academic posts at Birkbeck have been advertised, on the Birkbeck jobs website (which is due for an upgrade, don’t be put off!) and elsewhere, such as the Times Higher Education website.

These look to be a great set of positions, many focusing on globalisation and the transnational, very apropos of our contemporary moment, and well-attuned to Birkbeck’s very diverse student body.

I’m particularly excited of course, about the two new positions in my own Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies: a Lecturer in Transnational Media and Culture; and a Professor/Chair in Digital Media and Screen Studies.

The posts which may interest readers of this blog are:

Lecturer A in Computer Science

Lecturer A/B in Geography

Lecturer A/B in Sociolinguistics

Lecturer in Theatre and Performance

Lecturer in Transnational Literatures and Migration Cultures

Lecturer in Transnational Media and Culture

Professor/Chair in Digital Media and Screen Studies


untitled-1In just a few weeks I will be presenting a paper at what looks like a very interesting symposium here at Birkbeck considering the increasingly important relationships between politicians and performance. I have pasted the programme, as well as my own abstract, below. Many of the other contributors will be drawing centrally on practices and concepts coming out of theatre and performance studies. I’ll probably be coming a little out of left field in this regard. But hopefully my discussion of Rob Ford’s unusual mayoralty as a kind of embodied interference within the localized media universe of Toronto city politics which strike a chord and provoke some interesting discussion. Anyway, I’m paired with another paper looking (in part) at Justin Trudeau, so, should be fun!

If you’d like to register to attend, visit the symposium’s Eventbrite page.

Politicians & Other Performers

Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre
G10 Studio, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H OPD

Friday 20 January 2017


9.15-9.30: Welcome (coffee provided)

9.30-10.15: Voice Works
Mending Speech: Glenda Jackson on and off script, Emma Bennett and Ella Finer
‘Scotland’s Siren: “The Most Dangerous Woman in Politics”?, Maggie Inchley

10.15-11.15: Theatrical Turns
Turn! Turn! Turn!, Rachel Cockburn
Just Theatre? Rethinking the Significance of Politicians’ Performances in Representative Democracy, Julia Peetz
Maryam Rajavi: Propaganda Queen and/or President in Waiting?, Alinah Azadeh

11.15-12.00: Emoting Masculinities
‘The swaggerers were in the ascendency’: performative masculinity as political strategy in post-conflict Northern Ireland, Alexander Coupe
Boys Don’t Cry, Mark Blacklock

12.00-1.00: Lunch (not provided)

1.00-1.45: Conflicting Canadians
Anatomy of a ‘babyface’: the body performances of Justin Trudeau and Sami Zayn, Broderick V. Chow
‘Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor’: The performative disruptions of Rob Ford, Scott Rodgers

1.45 – 2.30: Trickle Down Trump
Jonathan Lethem, Amnesia Moon and Donald Trump, Joe Brooker
Facing Reality: Mike Daisey’s The Trump Card, Louise Owen

2.45-4.45: Screening, Frost/Nixon (Birkbeck Cinema)

‘Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor’: The performative disruptions of Rob Ford
Scott Rodgers

In 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ascended to international notoriety, after video footage of him smoking crack cocaine was shown to celebrity website Gawker and the Toronto Star. From then onward, global news media presented a remarkable spectacle: stereotypically polite and boring Canada having an abrasive, clumsy ‘crack-smoking mayor’ who was frequently drunk in public and stubbornly against resigning. Like many big city mayors, Rob Ford had emerged as the personification of his city, though for all the wrong reasons. In this paper, I focus less on the international stage of Rob Ford’s performative disruptions, but instead the interference he embodied for the more localized media universe of Toronto city politics. This was a universe Ford sought to bypass. Along with his brother, he preferred to address his base via a long running talk radio show. He preferred, too, to get out of City Hall. He was renown for his visits to Toronto’s low-income housing estates, where he was seen to be at ease: posing for photos, talking sport, calling people ‘brother’ and so on. Above all, however, I suggest that the Ford saga was generated through the seemingly unrelenting stream of shocking events, transgressive behaviour and everyday imaging mediated via mobile social media and related practices of witnessing.


[Note: this post has been edited to remove details of the specific production in question. I’m being cautious as a colleague reminded me of a non-disclosure agreement to which I am indirectly a party. However I have decided not to remove the entire post, since the rest pertains to observations made in outdoor public space, available to many other passersby besides me.]

Today and for the rest of the December holidays me and my other colleagues in Birkbeck’s School of Arts have been ejected from our building. Okay, I should really put that more nicely. We’ve been notified quite politely that our offices will be unavailable. The reason being that the buildings in which my School is based – 43 Gordon Street and adjacent buildings, and the street area outside – are being used for film shoot. [Specific detail on film production removed.]

So I’m ensconced fairly happily in the nearby Senate House Library. I’m meant to be focusing on tying up the writing of a special issue introduction, alongside revisions to a separate book chapter, both in collaboration with Helen Morgan Parmett, and both on theorizing/studying media production spaces. But curiosity of what I might find around the corner, and its obvious resonance with what I’m supposed to be working on, soon overtook me, and I went to take a look.

Some photos I took are below. I was stunned to see my normal workplace quite dramatically converted to a media production space. Now, maybe it’s just that I don’t normally witness film shoots for such big budget productions. But the sheer scale of the impact on the area was unexpected. Surrounding streets were chock-a-block with film vehicles and police cordons. And Gordon Square itself was rendered Victorian, vaguely, not just by a slew of extras wearing period attire, but by changes made to the buildings themselves (both exterior and interior), and the laying of dirt and leaves over the street pavement. I have no idea what sort of post-production work will be done to, for example, erase the modernist towers of nearby Euston Station. But even all these extras filling the changed street was striking in itself. Framing one’s visibility appropriately, you could almost partake in sort of vicarious time travel.

One of the points Helen and I make in a chapter we are writing for the forthcoming edited book Geomedia Studies is that the spatialities of contemporary media production practices are increasingly fissive, momentary and mobile. In other words, media production – such as the big-budget, on-location filming I saw today – increasingly involves forms of temporary place-making. That is, momentarily bounding space in certain ways, through the appearance of unambiguously media-oriented practices, and associated bodies, materials and technologies. That said, as much as this appears as a jarring imposition of media rationalities onto this local corner of Bloomsbury (e.g. I saw several people arrive at the cordons only to realize they couldn’t access one building or another) the grounds for this conversion into a media production space were readied by localized conditions on the ground. [Details of specific production removed.]

But enough rambling already. It’s time to get back to that other writing. As an aside, if you are interested in the buildings being used for this film shoot, some of my colleagues in the School recently produced a short film exploring the interesting history of these once-residential buildings.

Photos (click to enlarge):


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