Are you a Community Researcher Engaging with Trauma Narratives as part of your First World War Centenary Project?
Professor Nigel Hunt and Dr Larissa Allwork at the University of Nottingham have been awarded AHRC funding to explore the extent to which the psychological condition of trauma has been integrated into community engagement with the First World War centenary. Trauma here is being incorporated broadly to encompass a range of responses to the 1914-1918 conflict. From shell shocked soldiers recovering in specialist hospitals to cases of ‘barbed wire disease’ in ‘enemy alien’ internment camps; and from post-1918 literary and poetic representations of trauma to the contemporary family historian dealing with issues of transferential trauma in the archive. As part of their project, Nigel and Larissa want to get in touch with any Heritage Lottery Funded and/or AHRC First World War Engagement Centre community history projects that are engaging with narratives of trauma as part of their research.
Over the course of the centenary, community partners have expressed an interest in examining the human impact of the war and have looked to the First World War Engagement Centres to support them in doing so. Several participants in engagement activities have remarked that any understanding of the events of the war is inadequate without comprehending its traumatic effects. The difference between historical and contemporary perspectives on mental and emotional trauma presents a challenge to community researchers as it requires an understanding of how such trauma was regarded, described and recorded in historical records. An additional challenge is presented by the emotional impact on the researcher who examines potentially disturbing and upsetting material. This challenge is often felt more keenly by researchers who investigate people with whom they have a direct connection, such as members of their family or community.
Nigel and Larissa’s project is intended to equip community partners from across the First World War Engagement Centres with the skills and support to meet these challenges and to ensure that this crucial perspective on First World War history is not omitted from the programme. As part of their project, Nigel and Larissa will be holding a series of public workshops across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland for community groups on the topic of war trauma, with specific reference to the First World War and its aftermath.
Nigel and Larissa are keen to get in contact with any Heritage Lottery Funded and/or AHRC First World War Engagement Centre community history projects that are engaging with issues of trauma as part of their research. This means that Nigel and Larissa are interested in community history projects that might include topics such as:
Autobiographical narratives by soldiers on the front line who suffered from shell shock.
Autobiographical narratives by civilians who suffered from shell shock.
Observations on shell shock by First World War era doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
Observations on shell shock in First World War era local and national newspapers.
Observations on reintegrating traumatised veterans into communities, both during and after WWI.
Literary representations of shell shock (eg. Rebecca West, Pat Barker etc.)
Documentary film or television representations of shell shock (eg. ‘War Neuroses’ etc.)
Dramatic film or television representations of shell shock (eg. ‘King and Country’ etc.)
Encounters with trauma narratives through family history research (eg. discovered a relative with shell shock).
Encounters with ‘Barbed Wire’ disease as a result of research into the British ‘enemy alien’ internment camps.
Encounters with narratives of trauma associated with histories of migration and displacement.
Nigel and Larissa would like to hear from Heritage Lottery Fund and/or First World War Engagement Centre researchers looking at these themes because they:
Want to understand how much community research is being done in relation to trauma and the First World War.
Aim to understand the needs of community researchers in relation to this subject area.
Desire to compile a list of groups who would be interested in a workshop on trauma and the First World War, to run in either autumn 2018 or spring 2019.
If you are engaged with narratives of trauma as part of your First World War centenary community research project, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @LarissaAllwork
Professor Nigel Hunt and Dr Larissa Allwork are part of the AHRC Centre for Hidden Histories, based at the University of Nottingham. The Centre for Hidden Histories is associated with the AHRC First World War Engagement Centres. The Centre for Hidden Histories has a particular interest in the themes of migration and displacement, the experience of ‘others’ from countries and regions within Europe, Asia and the Commonwealth, the impact and subsequent legacies of the war on diverse communities within Britain, remembrance and commemoration.
The First World War Network is pleased to offer its members the opportunity to apply for a Collaborative Research Grant of up to £1000 to help fund a project with a group, individual or organisation from the general public or the heritage sector.
In 2018 there will be two deadlines for applications: 15th June and 31st August.
For full applicant instructions and to apply, please download the application form below:
The event will spotlight the latest research on the events of 1918 as well as the global significances, consequences, and legacy of this watershed year. It brings international perspectives and encompasses a wide range of historical approaches as well as cross-disciplinary insights. To do so it will include seven keynote addresses from some of the leading academic authorities on the First World War and its aftermath, along with over sixty speakers in themed panel sessions. It will also include a roundtable discussion based on the theme of: ‘A Hundred Years of Teaching, Learning & Understanding the First World War: Where are we now?’
The event has been developed collaboratively with heritage agencies, museums, art galleries, funders, schools and community groups involved in First World War research, remembrance and events.
Michael Noble is a PhD researcher based at the University of Nottingham. Since 2014 he has been the project co-ordinator at the Centre for Hidden Histories.
This post is based on January’s FWW network workshop, which took place at the University of Nottingham, and which had as its theme, Public Engagement in Research. It is a timely topic, given the launch of the FWW Network Collaborative Research Grant Scheme, but also a broad one. Any blog post that attempted to cover every aspect of academic public engagement would be doomed to failure. With that in mind, I intend to break it down into sub-topics. Later posts will address subjects such as developing a co-production project, navigating university administration systems and avoiding the ‘exploitation of goodwill’. If there are any other aspects of academic public engagement that you would like to see on this blog, please leave a note in the comments below or contact me on Twitter.
For now, I will concentrate on the fundamentals of public engagement; why is it important and how a researcher might go about establishing productive relationships with non-university partners.
With a particular focus on co-production, this first post is aimed at giving readers an insight into some of the methods for making this sort of collaboration a success. It is based on my experiences of brokering and managing university-community collaborations, supported by the Centre for Hidden Histories between 2014 and 2017.
The post is in two sections. The first attempts a (necessarily) loose definition of co-production and outlines its current importance in academic research. The second provides advice on forming productive relationships with non-university partners.
Co-production and academia
Public engagement is a broad, and ever more important topic. It has huge potential for research impact and significant relevance to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).[i] With the new Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) now in development, we can expect the concept to be around for some time to come and for public engagement to continue to be a core aspect of the academic’s work.
Researchers have described a ‘participatory turn’ through which traditional forms of knowledge transfer (whereby academics ‘transmit’ their research to non-academic audiences) evolved firstly into knowledge exchange (academics transmit research and receive non-academic knowledge and understanding in return) and more recently into full co-production (the academic and non-academic engage in fully collaborative activity).
In practical terms, it usually means an academic researcher and a non-academic partner coming together to collaborate on a research project for which they both take responsibility for completing. They share equally in its success.
Here are some examples:
An academic researcher collaborated with the parish council of a small Cheshire village to research the WW1 internment camp that had been established in (and since completely erased from) the village. They worked together to uncover evidence and collaborated on a public exhibition to share their findings.
This type of collaboration is still relatively new and there is little in the way of formal definition. Although there is a small literature on the topic, much of it is concerned with co-production in the public policy arena. However, whenever I have been asked what I mean by co-production, (it was a frequent question posed by people making applications to the co-production grant fund that I managed) I have said that it is the shared responsibility that makes it distinctive as ‘co-production’ rather than simple knowledge transfer or knowledge exchange.
Simply put, if either of the partners was to cease participating, the project itself would fail.
It is an incredibly rewarding approach to public engagement and, done properly, can yield greater benefits than ‘traditional’ research approaches. It can provide researchers with access to ideas and information, to resources and to insights that are otherwise not available as mainstream sources. Furthermore, it recognises the value of the individuals and communities in research and opens the gates of the academy a little bit further.
However, for it to work effectively, it is crucial that a solid relationship exists between the partners.
Building an effective relationship with a non-university partner
First, some advice. You, the researcher, should take ownership of your community relationships. Think of them as a personal asset and an aspect of your portfolio. Consider them in parallel with your publication record. Maintain them, transfer them, develop them. Own them.
Working relationships with non-university partners are valuable, even if they don’t all lead to collaborative projects. A network of contacts in heritage organisations, local authorities and the third sector can provide the researcher with access to information and knowledge that hasn’t reached the academy, or is unavailable in established archives. I have worked with non-university partners who, for example, possess private collections of historical documents, such as photographs and letters, or are members of a minority community that is of historical interest to researchers. These groups have been able to share their resources and knowledge and the ensuing relationships have been of immense value to both parties.
OK, so where do we start? How does a researcher build a relationship with a non-academic partner?
What is a non-academic partner?
It can be difficult to come up with a single definitional outline that covers all of the types of organisation with which you may collaborate as a researcher. They may be publicly funded organisations, charities, clubs or voluntary societies or even commercial organisations. The particular type will depend to a large extent on the nature of your research and you may also find that your funder has strict rules about which type of organisation you may collaborate with, particularly if some of the funding will be shared with the partner.
The type (and size) of the organisation is also somewhat important. For some organisations, the project will be a single activity among many that they do. An example would be a school that sets up a small group of pupils to take part in a project. For others, the project is the group; it is the reason that the group was established or represents the total current workload of the organisation. An example would be a local history group that has been established to commemorate a significant anniversary event.
The question of size and focus is important for your relationship -it will effect how largely you feature in their plans and whether the group has to balance its work on the project against other demands on its time. It may also have an impact on how ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ your partner regards their work and this will set the tone for your relationship. For instance, a school may have stricter finance rules but will be more dispassionate about the finances than a small network of local householders who have formed a project group and who are largely self-financed.
The most important element of this phase is the building of the relationship. There are some barriers to a successful university-community partnership and in some ways, it’s easier to provide a guide to success by describing these barriers and suggesting ways through them.
On the community side, you will find that some individuals and organisations have a mistrust or suspicion of universities or otherwise feel that they are not suited to collaborative work of this nature. In my experience, the underlying reasons for this fall into three main categories.
The partner feels proprietorial about their work/project/sources and fear that the university is going to come in and take over, or dominate the project to their exclusion.
Imposter syndrome. The partner worries that their work is of minor importance or that they are not qualified to carry out the project. They convince themselves that the university is mistaken in taking an interest and worry that they will be ‘found out’ before long.
Some potential partners have a mistrust of the state. They may come from a culture or society in which having the government (including state-supported institutions such as HEIs) taking an interest in you is something to be feared.
It takes time and effort to overcome these worries. It can be challenging and frustrating but it is worth pursuing and there are methods that you can use to put your new contact at ease.
Try to identify the reasons for the barrier. Don’t push (unless you feel it’s worth pursuing the reasons) but it might help when you come to offer reassurance as it can help you to have an open and constructive conversation.
Explain to your new partner what is in it for you. They may believe that you’re ultimately trying to snatch their historical collection of correspondence, while you’re sitting there mentally working out the impact factor that this it is worth to you. The best co-produced projects are ones in which each partner has a distinctive, but mutually dependent goal. It’s best to be honest about your goals from the outset.
Make yourself useful early on. This might be by sending them some formal research that you have discovered or forwarding them a relevant news article that triggers a conversation. As I’ve developed my own network, I’ve found that brokering a second relationship can be useful. One new contact of mine wanted to work with the Imperial War Museum. I was able to personally introduce them to the relevant person at IWM. This established my credentials and catalysed my relationship with the new partner.
Where possible, go to see the new contact in person. This can be tricky to manage with costs/time but it is well worth doing if you can. It’s always helpful to meet in a relaxed environment. My preference is always to suggest meeting in a coffee shop. They’re easy to find, usually conducive to quiet chat and offer an environment that sets people at their ease. Remember, you’re looking to develop a friendship. Find other topics to discuss and have a laugh with your new partner.
Throughout this, be aware of the timeframe. If you’re developing a project idea with a new partner, you will need to factor in the relationship building to the development time. This may take several months, and it may not be appropriate to write a formal proposal until after you have established the basis of a working relationship. It is for this reason that I suggest building a network as you develop your career and before you even have a project idea in mind. Some of the best projects I have seen have been developed by partners who have had a long-standing relationship and who created their project jointly.
Remember, the relationship is the most valuable product of all this effort. Even if you don’t succeed in launching a project, continue to nurture the relationship -other project ideas will come. The drive for co-production isn’t going to go away and, as a researcher with a rich network of non-university partners, you will be in the best position to meet its unique demands.
[i] [i] According to figures prepared by NCCPE, nearly half of REF2014 submissions cited public engagement as part of the path to impact.
In her photographs, Käthe Buchler captured not only German citizens during the First World War, but also illustrated the widespread impact of conflict. The photographs are of interest not only for their artistic merit but also for what they tell us about war and they way it changed lives on the German Home Front. For more information on the photographs, click here.
Witnessing War is a one-day workshop that will seek to answer a series of questions. Who witnesses war? From what perspective? How do they capture it? War is not only witnessed by those who choose to participate, but has lasting and significant impact on lives of many. This workshop focuses on first-hand experiences of conflict, with no restraints as to time period or geographic location. From medieval annals written by monks, to children’s diaries, documentary film, and the use of social media in modern conflict, there are many different ways to witness war.
The workshop is a collaboration between the War Through Other Stuff Society, First World War Network, and Everdayday Lives of War. It will take place at the University of Hertfordshire Galleries on 24 March. This free event is open to all.
Jo Young, University of Glasgow: ‘Finding Freedoms in War Writing: Narrative Control of the Female Soldier’s Poetic Response to War’
Trevor Russell Smith, University of Leeds: ‘The Use of Classical Writings in the Representation of War during the Later Middle Ages’
Kirsten Lawson, State University of Milan: ‘From ‘Somewhere in France’: Sharing experiences of war through epistolary discourse’
Interactive session responding to the war photography of Käthe Buchler
2.30: Coffee & tea
Stacey Clapperton, University of Glasgow: ‘‘The work of an eye-witness’: An examination of the working methods behind John Lavery’s Wounded: London Hospital, 1915’
Siobhan Doyle, Dublin Institute of Technology: ‘Representations of Death in Commemorative Exhibitions in Irish Museums’
Melissa Bennet, University of Warwick: ‘Insights into Military Photography, Ranks, and Relationships through Lieutenant Charles Howard Foulkes’ 1898 Hut Tax War Album’
Jason Crowley, Manchester Metropolitan University: ‘Beyond the Universal Soldier: Combat Trauma in Classical Antiquity’
4.30: Closing remarks
We look forward to welcoming you to Hertfordshire for what promises to be a fascinating day!
The First World War Network is proud to be organising a one-day workshop on Saturday 24 March at the University of Hertfordshire alongside our colleagues and friends at War Through Other Stuff and the Everyday Lives in War AHRC First World War Public Engagement Centre.
Witnessing War has been scheduled to coincide with the University of Hertfordshire’s display of Beyond the Battlefields, an exhibition of photographs taken by the German photographer Käthe Buchler during the First World War. The workshop will include a series of talks from both academic researchers and those that have experienced conflict at first hand. There will also be an activity centering on Käthe Buchler’s photographs, giving participants the chance to interact with and respond to the images.
A full programme will be released shortly along with registration details. Attendance for First World War Network members at this fascinating event will, of course, be FREE, and travel bursaries will be available.
Joining the First World War Network is free. To join our rapidly expanding network of First World War researchers from a range of backgrounds, please see our ‘How to join’ page or click HERE.
Keep your eyes peeled here and on Twitter for further announcements!
We are delighted to announce the details for the next First World War Network workshop, which will be taking place at the University of Nottingham on Wednesday 17 January 2018.
Once again, the theme of the workshop has been chosen in direct response to the wishes of our members, and will focus on one of the most exciting areas of historical research: public engagement!
This is your chance to come and meet the next generation of First World War researchers, share your research in an informal, supportive atmosphere, learn about how public engagement works, and be the first to hear about the First World War Network’s own bespoke public engagement funding scheme!
Attendance for this event is free to members of the First World War Network, but numbers are strictly limited. Travel bursaries will be available, and the workshop will commence at 11am to reduce the need for attendees to arrange overnight accommodation.
Not yet a member of the First World War Network? Join today by visiting the link below and completing our introductory questionnaire: