Fully Funded Interdisciplinary PhD Project Opportunity

The Lanyon building

Fully Funded Interdisciplinary PhD Project Opportunity at Queen’s University Belfast (application deadline 13 August 2020)

Title of Project: Material Memoirs on the Journey of Life

Supervisors: Dr Gemma Carney (Social Policy/ARK Ageing programme, School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work) and Dr Leonie Hannan (History, HAPP).

This PhD project builds on the findings of The Lively Project, a Wellcome Trust funded interdisciplinary collaboration between Hannan, Carney, visual artist Gemma Hodge, and the Arts Council of NI, which ran from July 2016 to January 2017.  Inspired by Penelope Lively’s 2013 memoir, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, this pilot project conducted object-based interviews and arts workshops with older people with a view to understanding their life course and experience. The project culminated in a public exhibition, ‘Something of Who I Am’ in December 2016.  A website documented the project, an interdisciplinary journal article was published in Life Writing, and the findings reached a wider audience via an article in The Conversation.

The doctoral research will adapt and develop the Lively Project’s method and approach to engage with 20-30 individuals, aged 80+ years living on the island of Ireland. Participants will be selectively sampled to capture the diversity of experiences of vulnerability in old age. For example, participants may be widowed, live in a fold or care home, have a dementia diagnosis or other chronic illness. Such people are some of the frailest in society and the significance of their longevity is often overlooked in favour of a focus on the costs associated with caring for them. The student will use ‘object-led interviewing’ (Pauwels and Mannay, 2019: 322) to help participants tell their life story and to reveal complex and alternative narratives of older age. In using personal possessions as interview tools, the project draws on a wealth of recent scholarship that reveals the power of artefacts to reveal (personal) histories (Hannan 2017; Hannan and Smith, 2017) and the importance of object handling in remembering, learning and enhancing wellbeing (Chatterjee and Hannan, 2015; Ander et al., 2013). We are aware of the ethical implications of working with vulnerable adults and will carefully guide the student in this regard. Research questions focus on the novel aspects of the methodology, and include:

  • What does it mean to the individual to live a long life?
  • What does it mean for society that people live long lives?

This is a fully funded research studentship, funded by the Department for Economy, so candidates must meet the eligibility criteria which are listed here https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/department-economy-studentships. To apply, please email l.hannan@qub.ac.uk a two page CV and one page cover letter outlining your interest in the project and the skills and experience you bring to it before 12 noon on Thursday 13 August 2020. Shortlisted candidates will be asked to take part in a brief interview (via MS Teams) on Friday 14 August 2020. Please indicate your availability for interview on the Friday in your cover letter. The outcome will be communicated the week commencing Monday 17 August 2020. The successful candidate needs to be in a position to take up this opportunity in September 2020, bearing in mind that, for now, all work will be undertaken remotely. If you any queries about your application, please email l.hannan@qub.ac.uk.