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More in this section Practice-based PhD Programme

Practice-based PhD Programme

The Practice-based PhD Programme consists of a core curriculum of six Skills Workshops as well as a Seminar Series, Lecture Series and an annual Student-Led Conference. The aim of the programme is to bring together researchers from across different disciplines, opening up a space to share and present work as a community of practice and learning. 

Originally developed for practice-based doctoral students in the arts at Royal Holloway, this year the programme extends to include all practice-based research students and academics across the AHRC TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership. This includes Royal Holloway, Brighton, Kingston, Roehampton, Surrey, Royal College of Art and University of Arts London. 

All are welcome! Please see specific details about this year's activities below, including information on how to get involved. 

The Programme Director is Dr Melissa Blanco 

Skills workshops

Co-presented by a Royal Holloway academic plus an academic from another TECHNE institution, a series of Skills Workshops run across Terms 1 & 2. All workshops are held in Central London. 

Topics covered in Term 1 are both common and central to all academic research, and here we look at these specifically in relation to practice-based research. In Term 2 we look at key elements of practice-based research, continuing to situating it within the wider academic context while exploring its uniqueness and transformative potential.

Students interested in attending any of the the Skills Workshops should email pgrtraining@royalholloway.ac.uk, including your:

  • Name
  • Institution
  • Full list of workshops you plan to attend

** Please note that there is a cap on student numbers for the workshops, but not for any of the other events listed below. **

‘The Research Question’ - Wednesday, 12 October, 2pm-4pm

Workshop Leaders: 

Reader Adam Ganz (Royal Holloway) & Professor Katie Normington (Royal Holloway)  

Date: Wednesday, 12 October
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: Bedford Square,  Room 0-03, 11 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA

What is the relationship between the ‘question’ and research? How do questions frame and drive the research process? To what extent do particular kinds of questions call for corresponding methods? How do we go about formulating questions, and what kind of language do we use to do so?

‘Contribution to Knowledge' - Wednesday 26 October, 2pm-4pm

Workshop Leaders: 
Dr Ashley Thorpe and Dr Dick McCaw (Royal Holloway)

Date: Wednesday, 26 October
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: Bedford Square, Room 0-03, 11 Bedford Square, WC1B 3RA

This workshop will comprise a preliminary discussion of the notion of how ‘knowledge’ is conceived within academic research, generally, and practice-based research, specifically. Different types of knowledge will be examined, and the means whereby such knowledge is constituted and embodied in a research project. Participants will be invited to identify the contribution to knowledge that their research aims to make, the fields to which it will contribute, and the originality of the contribution.

‘Methodology & the Role of Practice’ - Wednesday, 16 November, 2pm-4pm

Workshop Leaders: 
Professor Robert Hampson (Royal Holloway)

Date: Wednesday, 16 November 
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: Bedford Square, Room 0-03, 11 Bedford Square, WC1B 3RA

This workshop will examine the relationship between research methods and methodologies. Participants will describe their methodological intentions, identifying the different modes of research they are or will be using, and how these will contribute to a coherent process. They will explicitly refer to the role of practice and of theory in their research.

‘Theorising Practices/Practising Theory’ - Wed, 18 January, 2pm-4pm 

Workshop Leaders: 
Dr David Overend (Royal Holloway) & Dr Fiona Wilkie (University of Roehampton)

Date: Wednesday, 18 January
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: 11 Bedford Square Room 0-03, London WC1B 3RF)

**Please note the change of venue for this workshop. This is the only workshop scheduled in this different location.** 

This workshop examines inter-relation between theory and practice in practice-based research. Participants will be invited to think about how their practice is informed by – and informs – their theoretical concerns. Emphasis will be placed on the ‘doing’ of both theory and practice.

Please prepare for this workshop by reading the following, which should be accessible via your institutions library catalogue or via the open access links below:

Nelson, R. 'Practice-as-research and the Problem of Knowledge’, Performance Research. Vol.11(4), 2006. pp.105-116 (URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13528160701363556)

Sheller, M. and Urry, J. 'The new mobilities paradigm’, Environment and Planning A. Vol.38, 2006. pp.207-226 (URL: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1068/a37268?id=a37268)

Additional recommended reading:

Bissell, L. and Overend, D. 'Regular Routes: Deep Mapping a Performative Counterpractice for the Daily Commute’, Humanities. Vol.4(3), 2015. pp.476-499 (URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2076-0787/4/3/476)

Wilkie, F. 'Site-specific Performance and the Mobility Turn’, Contemporary Theatre Review. Vol.22(2), 2012. pp.203-212 (URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10486801.2012.666738)

‘Modes of Critical Writing’ - Wednesday, 8 February, 2pm-4pm 

Workshop Leaders: 
Dr Melissa Blanco (Royal Holloway) & Dr Sabine Sörgel (University of Surrey)

Date: Wednesday, 8 February
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: 11 Bedford Square Room 0-03, London WC1B 3RF

This workshop explores different modes of critical writing practice. Here we will look at the different kinds of writing one engages with as part of a practice-based research project. We will also examine the role and formal conventions of standard academic writing.  And we will explore more creative forms of critical writing practice including performance-writing, art-writing, site-writing and lyric essay. Participants will engage in writing throughout the workshop and will be invited to think about critical writing as, itself, an element of practice.

‘Documenting Practice' - Wednesday, 8 March, 2pm-4pm 

Workshop Leaders: 
Dr Libby Worth  & Dr Georgina Guy (Royal Holloway)

Date: Wednesday, 8 March
Time: 2.00pm-4.00pm
Venue: 11 Bedford Square Room 001, London WC1B 3RF

This workshop is concerned with the role of documentation in practice-based research. We will explore the ontological status of the document, per se, and also look at specific methods of documenting practice. Participants will be invited to reflect on the role of documentation in their own research, and to consider how documentation, itself, can be part of a reflective creative and critical practice.

In advance of the session please could you read the following article:

Auslander, Philip. ‘The Performativity of Performance Documentation.’ PAJ 84 (2006): 1-10.


Please also bring to the session a document of your own practice. This could be a design, a score, an image, a page from a portfolio/log, an object etc. We will be using these as a way to introduce your research and to think about how you currently document your work and why.

We look forward to meeting you on Wednesday,

Libby and Georgina


Seminar series 

Providing a forum for the presentation and discussion of research, each seminar session is focused around a particular theme. The themes are chosen by an established researcher/creative practitioner who, invited to discuss his/her work, will present for 30 minutes at the start of each session. This initial presentation will be followed by 2-3 student presentations of 15 minutes each. All of this will then become the basis for a group discussion lasting the remainder of the seminar. All seminars will be held in Central London.

This year’s Seminar Series is linked with a HARC Project entitled “Aesthetics of Cool.” In this series we will examine different ways that ‘cool’ manifests through embodied practices, performance, histories, ideologies, and affects.

Students interested in doing a 15 minute seminar presentation of your research in relation to the themes listed below should email Dr Melissa Blanco, including your:

  • Name
  • Institution
  • Name of the seminar you wish to present at

** Presentation slots will be allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis.**

Below are the details of workshops during 2016/2017. Save these dates; the material will be revealed in due course.

Cool Bodies, Friday November 18, 4-6pm

Invited Guest: Professor Thomas F. DeFrantz (Duke University, USA)
Date/Time: Friday, 18 November, 4-6pm
Venue: Senate House, 1 Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU (Room 264)

Black aesthetics argue for “coolness” as a capacity of competence for performers.  The “cool pose,” articulated by US sociologists in the 1990s, arrived as a swagger that suggested style in the face of mass disavowal.  But coolness also implies a disappearance of subject, replaced by a diffusion of energetic motion.  This talk will explore the strategic performances of coolness that allow Black American men to counteract the daily violences of the US police state. It will also explore how stillness as theorised via European performance practices is different from cool physical calm.

Thomas F. DeFrantz is Professor and Chair of African and African American Studies at Duke University, and director of SLIPPAGE: Performance, Culture, Technology, a research group that explores emerging technology in live performance applications. Books: Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (University of Wisconsin Press, 2002),  Dancing Revelations Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2004), Black Performance Theory, co-edited with Anita Gonzalez (Duke University Press, 2014), Choreography and Corporeality: Relay in Motion, co-edited with Philipa Rothfield (Palgrave, 2016). Creative: Queer Theory! An Academic Travesty commissioned by the Theater Offensive of Boston and the Flynn Center for the Arts, and Monk’s Mood: A Performance Meditation on the Life and Music of Thelonious Monk, performed in Botswana, France, South Africa, and New York City.   He convenes the Black Performance Theory working group. In 2013, working with Takiyah Nur Amin, he founded the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance.

Cool Words, Friday 20 January, 5-7pm

Venue: 11 Bedford Square, Room 1-01, London WC1B 3RF

Please join us for the next Aesthetics of Cool Seminar. Our guest will be writer Gabriel Gbadamosi

Gabriel Gbadamosi is a poet, playwright and essayist. His London novel, Vauxhall, won the 2011 Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize. He was AHRC Creative and Performing Arts Fellow in European and African performance at the Pinter Centre, Goldsmiths, and a Judith E. Wilson Fellow for creative writing at Cambridge University. Book collaborations with visual artists include Sun-Shine, Moonshine with Conroy/Sanderson and The Second Life of Shells with Mandy Bonnell. His plays include Eshu’s Faust (Jesus College, Cambridge), Shango (DNA, Amsterdam), Hotel Orpheu (Schaubühne, Berlin) and for radio The Long, Hot Summer of ’76 (BBC Radio 3) which won the first Richard Imison Award. He lives in London and is RLF writing fellow at the City & Guilds of London Art School.

Please RSVP to Melissa.Blanco@rhul.ac.uk.

Cool Sights/Sites, Wednesday 8 March, 5-7pm

Venue: 11 Bedford Square, Room 0-03, London WC1B 3RF

Please join us for the next Aesthetics of Cool Seminar, Cool Sights/Sites. Our guest will be Dr Rizvana Bradley

"Re-Screening Richard Pryor: Glenn Ligon's Live"

This talk discusses Glenn Ligon’s seven-channel video installation, Live (2014). Ligon’s installation, which transforms the 1982 concert film, Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip, breaks down footage of the comedian into various sized images, and projects them onto the screens and walls of a pitch-black room.  This talk will address the implications of Ligon’s deconstruction of Pryor’s image. Specifically, Ligon raises questions about black masculinity and bodily subjectivity through the reassembled images of Pryor, themselves visually constituted through the interplay between sound and silence, visibility and invisibility, presence and absence that is central to the work. My argument will be in part that Ligon’s rhythmic reconstitution of Pryor’s image constitutes another choreography of the body within performance that disrupts and queers the gaze and our orientation to the screen.

Rizvana Bradley is Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies and African-American Studies at Yale University. She holds a BA from Williams College and a PhD from Duke University. She was a Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. She has given talks at the New Museum, Serpentine Gallery, the BFI and the Whitney. She was the guest editor of a special issue of the journal Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, and has published articles in TDR: The Drama ReviewDiscourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and CultureRhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, and Black Camera: An International Film Journal. Her forthcoming book project, Resurfaced Flesh: Black Aesthetics Unbound,  brings themes of figuration, abstraction, and form in aesthetic theory to bear on the racialized and gendered display of the body in contemporary art, and specifically directs readers to the flesh as a frame that denotes how these artists engage in crucial deconstructions of the black body.

Cool Atmospheres, Tuesday 30 May, 5-7pm

Venue: 11 Bedford Square, Room 0-03, London WC1B 3RF

Please join us for the final Aesthetics of Cool Seminar. Our guest will be Dr Priya Srinivasan.

"Performing Inner Songs: Atmospheres of Migration"

This interdisciplinary performance uses voice, songs, poetry, dance, visual objects and imagery to look at the inner landscapes of disparate women's journeys through their imaginative connections across time and place to understand migration from an affective register. At a moment when migration is in question the world over, and migrant bodies unwanted, this piece concerns itself with what possible atmospheres and futures open up when song, dances, voices, and bodies collide with layered fragments of the past. Pairing women's texts and song that date back thousands of years from India with recovered Images and stories of exile past and present from Sudan and Romania, the piece invites audiences to rethink feminist voices from nonwestern contexts through the stunning impact of their intersections. The performance invokes intimacy, darkness, light, sound, and movement and asks the audience to interact and surrender to the affective atmosphere of empathy. Dancer/scholar Priya Srinivasan (Australia) joins singer Uthra Vijay (India/Australia) and visual artist Andreea Campaneau (Romania) for a unique collaboration of classical carnatic music, and the convergence of histories, lyricism, affect, and resonance. The performance will be followed by a discussion with audiences and local communities.

Uthra Vijay is the Artistic Director of Keerthana School of Music in Melbourne that she founded in 2003 currently with over 95 students. She is a versatile artist, composer and educator, who is equally comfortable working in the classical realm or experimenting with non-classical forms of music including popular music and contemporary forms. She has an extensive background in Indian classical music, winning several awards and performing in a range of venues in India and Australia. Uthra is an accomplished Classical Indian Music Vocalist emerging from a musical family having trained in the Carnatic music form since the age of 5. She learned from several distinguished gurus and was exposed to different musical styles culminating in her training under the auspices of S.P. Ramh in the late legendary violinist Lalgudi Jayaram’s School of Music. She has brought her extensive solo performance experience in South India from The Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Karaikudi Kamban Vizha, Ramakrishna Mutt, and elsewhere to Melbourne and has presented concert length performances at the Carnatic Music Circle, Laya Vidya Centre, Indian Music Academy of Melbourne, Sydney Music Circle, and several Indian Dance school concerts. Uthra has overseen and directed 11 annual concerts of the Keerthana School of Music with over 100 performers. She has also collaborated and performed with Dr. Priya Srinivasan in contemporary performances at the Treasury Building for Mapping Melbourne Festival, Jaipur Literary Festival in Melbourne (Fed Square), Immigration Museum for the Triennial International Asian Festival AsiaTOPA which included intercultural experimentation with Iranian singer Tabassom Ostad, and the Australia India Institute. She will be performing in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Hamburg collaborating with European musicians, visual artists, and choreographers on migration projects in May-June 2017. Her compositional work includes setting classical and contemporary music for vocalists and dancers alike, including soundscapes for experimental artists.  She is a leader in Indian Migrant Communities of Melbourne and just completed her term as the Secretary of Federation of Indian Music and Dance Association of Victoria. Her primary goal is to work both for the South Asian communities of Melbourne and for wider communities to open minds and hearts through music.

Dr. Priya Srinivasan is a dancer, choreographer and scholar whose research and performance is framed by  postmodern sensibilities while grounded in feminist Indian classical performance practices. Her work brings together live bodily performance with visual art, interactive multimedia and digital technology to think about archives of the body, migration, and female labor from the perspective of art. Her work has been presented in diverse settings in many theatre houses, galleries, universities, museums, and in public spaces such as the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai (China), The Korzo Theatre in The Hague (Netherlands), Folkwang Performing Arts Center in Essen (Germany), The Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam (Netherlands), typografia galleria in Bucharest (Romania), Krishna Gana Sabha in Chennai (India), Unknown Theatre in California,  in international festivals such as AsiaTOPA and Jaipur Literary Festival in Melbourne, Australia, and site specific works at the Irvine Civic Center and Bill Barber Park, in Los Angeles (USA), Treasury Building and The Immigration Museum in Melbourne Australia. She will be performing in London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Hamburg collaborating with European musicians, visual artists, and choreographers on gendered migration projects in May-June 2017.  She has presented her performance and academic work at Harvard University (USA), Stanford University (USA), Oxford University (UK) and several other spaces in Switzerland, Sweden, UK, and Austria. She has a PhD in Performance Studies from Northwestern University and has created the form of "talking dances" based on her award winning book "Sweating Saris Indian Dance as Transnational Labor." Originally from Melbourne Priya was trained in the classical and contemporary Indian and Asian arts by Dr. Chandrabhanu and performed extensively with the Bharatam Dance Company in her early years. After returning recently to Melbourne Priya has created a range of community specific pieces that focus on migration and loss, and make visible minority women's histories offering an alternate feminist aesthetic. She hopes to serve local communities in de-centering practices, re-imagining history in the present, develop socio-political critiques, highlighting the importance of migration and movement in these deeply divided critical times in order to enable a better understanding of how art helps communities accept their mutual dependence.


Lecture series

This Lecture Series, entitled ‘Writing the Body/Embodied Writing”, highlights different modes of critical writing, emphasising how our subjectivity and embodied experiences influence, impact, and inform how and what we write. Topics vary as esteemed guests from across the disciplines offer a unique contribution to the series. 

The lectures are open to anyone curious to explore the intersection between creativity and criticality at the point of writing.

All lectures will be held in Central London. The following speakers are scheduled for 2016-17:

Dr Ashley Thorpe - Wednesday 26 October, 5-7pm

The idea of embodied research is foregrounded most clearly in practice: practice in performance, the fine arts, music etc. The work, and the way it is written about, is frequently discussed in relation to the wider motives and contexts of the person that produced it. Although the wider subjectivity of all knowledge production is recognised, perhaps the idea of allacademic work as embodied research, or as a means of 'writing the body', tends to be suppressed, repressed, over-looked, for fear that the subjective nature of experience might somehow compromise the methodologies of its creation. In this lecture, I seek to contextualise my work by analysing the motives for my own research. I seek to argue that academic writing is as much an act of autobiography as it is knowledge production. I propose that the personal motivations that produce knowledge are important contexts that make all acts of research a product of embodied experience: there is always an 'i' in academic.

Ashley Thorpe is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance at Royal Holloway, University of London. His second book, Performing China on the London Stage: Chinese opera and global power, 1759-2008, is published by Palgrave.

Dr Anusha Kedhar, Wednesday 8 February, 5-7pm

Breaking Point: Precarity, Pain, and the Calculus of Risk among British South Asian Dancers

Venue: Senate House, 1 Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU (Room 261)

How do working conditions and training practices in British South Asian dance echo and refute hegemonic neoliberal ideologies? How does neoliberalism impact racialized dance labor in particularly painful and injurious ways? How do South Asian dancers move through pain and injury? What are the corporeal risks they take (or avoid) for survival and self-preservation? Through an ethnography of British South Asian dancers’ experiences of pain and injury, the talk shows not only how the increasing precarity of dancers in the UK has stretched them to breaking point but also how dancers draw on various choreographic tools and corporeal tactics to stay competitive in the British dance sector. Using Talal Asad’s (2000) idea of “pain as action,” this talk considers how British South Asian dancers intentionally and strategically respond to and exploit demands to take risks with their bodies in order to navigate an uncertain (dance) economy.In short, examining the British South Asian body in pain reveals not only the impact of neoliberalism on South Asian dancing bodies but also dancers’ ability to resist economic pressures and multicultural expectations of brown bodies to move in increasingly risky and spectacular ways.

Anusha Kedhar is an Assistant Professor of Dance at Colorado College. Her current book project examines British South Asian dancers in the late 20th and early 21st century and the creative ways in which these dancers negotiate precarious racial, economic, and national identity positions through flexible bodily tactics. Her scholarly writing has been published by Dance Research JournalThe Feminist Wire, and The New York Times. Kedhar is also an established artist and choreographer, and has worked with various contemporary South Asian choreographers in the US and Europe, including Subathra Subramaniam (London), Mayuri Boonham (London), Mavin Khoo (London/Malta), Johanna Devi (Berlin), Cynthia Ling Lee (Los Angeles), and Meena Murugesan (Los Angeles).

TBD , Wednesday 3 May, 5-7pm

Please find here video recordings of previous lectures:

  • Professor Yve Lomax, 'Word, Problem, Figure' (23.10.13)
  • Professor Ric Allsopp, 'On the Page' (19.2.14)
  • Lisa Robertson, 'Thinking Space' (4.6.14)

Student-Led conference

An annual research conference is organised by practice-based doctoral students in the arts at Royal Holloway. This day-long, interdisciplinary event provides a space for creative dialogue between practitioners and academic researchers by foregrounding practice as a means of creative exploration and academic enquiry. 














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