SGSAH Research Showcase 2022 – Field Notes

This year, I was lucky enough to be one of the recipients of a grant from SGSAH to present my research so far in the form of a showcase that took place during the 2022 Summer School. This was an incredible event and I wanted to get my experiences down on record, to highlight the fantastic work SGSAH does in promoting innovative research, and to encourage those of you undertaking your PhD with SGSAH funding to seriously consider applying for the Showcase next year.

Photo by Alan McAteer – – of Irene Ros’ Showcase

How it started

My PhD topic is Queer Temporality and Chronotopia in Comics and Graphic Novels. It’s a practice-based thesis, where I set out to test my theories about the unusual, trans-temporal properties of the comics medium and how queer creators intuit these dynamics because, quite simply, we experience time differently from the “norm.”

The work I chose to carry out is called PRAXIS, a three-volume work that is a pastiche and loving critique of Marvel’s X-MEN and its use of the ‘mutant metaphor.’ It interrogates the structural dynamics of a world in which the main cast belongs to an oppressed class of ‘expes,’ Extraordinary People, or posthumans. It follows a group of young, queer expes with unique gifts or powers. It follows them as they challenge those dynamics, attempting to navigate their own way through the various ideological factions and warring sides.

The storytelling of PRAXIS owes a large debt to Grant Morrison’s work, and others like it, which use hyper-dense narratives that don’t hold your hand but which invite the reader to complete the work using a form of closure, piecing together elements of the story and, ultimately, engaging with the narrative in a critical way. It plays with time, using something I name chrono-chromatics, a panel border colour scheme designed to show the reader where they are in the diegetic chronology.

Photo by Alan McAteer – – Taking a break to sketch

I had originally planned to complete three issues of this story during the PhD but that became increasingly impossible, due to the growing length of each script and due to several issues arriving during and because of lockdown. The first arc, though, is about reconciliation of the past, and does so using the citation effect (rhyming and repetition of panels), super-condensed analepsis, and sub-textual world-building through everything from background environments to dialogue, all designed to fill out the world without exposition or heavy dependence on analepsis, which is often a linear narrative inserted inside of another, also linear, narrative.

It was taking me some time to complete the book for the aforementioned reasons so, in March, when the call for submissions for the Research Showcase went live, I decided to apply. This would give me a hard deadline and force me to complete the book in time to both share it at the Showcase and also carry out my planned engagement work with readers after Summer. It allowed me to do a print run for these purposes, and meant that I could give the book away without worrying about making back costs – a rare experience in comics.

The last few months of work to get the book ready in time was super intense, many 12-15 hour shifts and a short period in which I literally had friends drop care parcels of food (and company!) to keep me going, but… I got the book completed and with the printer in time to pick up the day before the Showcase! Some minor errors aside (a lack of proofing time), I was really pleased with the result and ready for the Showcase.

Photo by Mariam Jack – SGSAH Media & Communications Administrator

Day One

On arriving at the TIC building I was directed to the mezzanine, where we were allowed to set up. There was a main space then a separate space further inside, a more contained room. I chose the mezzanine because I figured it would have more footfall. Upstairs, I met Charley Matthews, a 2nd year researcher at University of Edinburgh. His research topic is The Queer Woman Reader in the Nineteenth Century, and examines the reading practices of queer women and gender non-conforming people in the 19th century using diaries and letters from people like Anne Lister (or Gentleman Jack, as you may know her from the BBC series).

Photo by Alan McAteer – – From Charley Matthews’ Showcase

Right away we realised we were both queer scholars so we ended up tabling side-by-side, a choice that I think made the whole event so much more enjoyable for both of us. It meant that when attendees came over to our part of the room, they were presented with research focused on both queer pasts and futures. It also meant moral support during the Showcase – while it turned out that the audience was mostly incredibly receptive, I still have an innate fear of presenting myself or my research as queer within a mostly non-queer context, a fear that comes from years of being othered and diminished for my queerness in other areas.

However, that wasn’t an issue during the two-day Showcase. Everyone who came up to talk to us seemed really thrilled to engage with our research. I talked over PRAXIS and gave copies away, with the proviso that there was a barter dynamic at work – people could take away the book if they were willing to engage in feedback. So far I’ve only had one response from this, but I’m hoping to hear back from more readers as they digest the book. And people were similarly engaged with Charley’s work, which had posters, a zine, and an interactive memo board where attendees were encouraged to write down their favourite book using Anne Lister’s diary shorthand, helping to make the connection between subject and audience.

Photo by Alan McAteer – – Charley and his Showcase

Irene Ros, whose topic is Performing Stragismo and Counter-spectacularisation: Italian Right-Wing Terrorism and Its Legacies, displayed her work in the form of participator practice, showing video narratives by a group of Italian women who were young adults in the 1970s. Using tablets to display video clips, Irene used an interface that allowed viewers to “ask questions” of the participants, viewed through an old wooden CRT television, and attendees became really engaged with her exciting work.

Photo by Mariam Jack – SGSAH Media & Communications Administrator – Irene talks over her Showcase with Ross Cameron, SGSAH Digital Curator who is running the SGSAH Research site

Austin Wolfe, researching AONAR: Narrative Engagement in Cinematic Storytelling VR, also presented another popular showcase, using Virtual reality and Scottish folklore to tell stories in a meaningful and engaging way, and gathering data using a narrative engagement scale, designed to help future developers to create more engaging stories. This was a hit, with many attendees seen in the background, happily and obliviously waving their hands around while they wore VR goggles. Austin has been nominated for a Yugo BAFTA Student Award, with the winners announced on July 22 in Los Angeles.  

Austin Wolfe’s VR Experience, Lighthouse Keeper

Alyssa Terese Osiecki came along to the reception where she discussed her research with University of Glasgow. Using documentary theatre methodology as a lens to view the truth from multiple perspectives, Hear Us Now brings powerful testimony to light from Catholic individuals who have historically been silenced; women, mothers, queer and questioning youth, etc.

Rhoda Ellis of University of Dundee unfortunately didn’t make it to the event due to the logistical problems of railway strikes, but her work, Thinking through {Virtual} Making: Sculpting digital materials with virtual hands, focuses on the Post-Human Condition. She makes works that invites one to question the existential themes of the Self, the Other and Being-in-the-{Virtual}World.

To read more about this year’s researchers and our work, visit SGSAH’s new Research site:

Photo by Alan McAteer – – Charley and I, quite likely on some kind of soapbox…

The benefits of being in a real (not virtual) space

As well as the exciting researchers I joined for the 2-day showcase, I got to meet many other researchers within and without my own cohort, as well as members of SGSAH staff I hadn’t chatted with yet, caught up with Emma McCabe (who was a recent guest blogger here!) and became aware of a variety of research topics that I’ll be watching with great interest.

The main benefit of the Showcase was the opportunity to talk about my research. Especially during lockdown, it was rare to see other researchers in person, and even the online events haven’t allowed much scope for presenting work, so it’s easy to become somewhat solipsistic and fall out of the habit of articulating and re-articulating your research as you go.

Being in a room with real, warm bodies and sharing the journey my research has taken me on so far allowed me to explain it in a variety of ways, self-reflecting on how well I was communicating it, especially to people who belonged to different fields, and reminded that, yes, I do actually know what I’m doing, have already achieved a vast amount, and am on track to complete my PhD well. Without that feedback, it’s impossible to know the impact of your research especially, I feel, when you’re conducting practice-based research.

Photo by Alan McAteer – – Attendees engaged with Irene’s work

The Showcase has given me a much needed motivation boost and shown me that I’m the right track as I end 3rd year and approach my final year. I would highly recommend it to fellow SGSAH-funded researchers as an excellent opportunity to present your research in a very warm and nourishing space, as well as potentially use it as a springboard to further engagement work.

I want to end with a big thank you to SGSAH. Funding organisations can sometimes seem like distant, unrelatable, bureaucratic bodies with little connection to your work, but SGSAH are always engaged with their cohorts, and consistently plan exciting, innovative and useful events. That’s largely down to the team, all of whom are completely human, warm and approachable and who genuinely want their researchers to achieve everything possible during their time as a fundee.

Thanks for an excellent event, SGSAH team, and to everyone who attended or took part!

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