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(PhD Studentship) Picturing Mato Grosso, 1967-69: Expeditionary Science and Salvage Fieldwork

The deadline for this studentship has now passed.

An AHRC-funded Royal Society/Birkbeck CDP studentship, starting October 2014

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded PhD studentship, a Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA), supervised jointly by Birkbeck, University of London (School of Arts) and the Royal Society of London. The CDA Studentship is one of four awards made by the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) between the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Royal Society. The subject of this studentship is ‘Picturing Mato Grosso, 1967-69: Expeditionary Science and Salvage Fieldwork’. The project will be supervised by Dr Luciana Martins (Birkbeck, University of London) and Keith Moore (Royal Society). The studentship will begin in October 2014.

The Studentship

This project will provide scholarly research on the role of photography within the twentieth-century exploration of Brazil. Focusing on the untapped records of the joint Royal Society/Royal Geographical Society Expedition to North-Eastern Mato Grosso, Brazil (1967-1969), the project explores the relationship between the photographic camera and the ‘salvage paradigm’ in geography and other field sciences. It will contribute significantly to current research on the cultures of scientific fieldwork and the visual culture of expeditionary science in the twentieth century. Locating the joint Royal Society/RGS Expedition to North-Eastern Mato Grosso within the context of the construction of Brazilian modernity during the years of the military dictatorship, the projects will investigate the process of collaboration between multidisciplinary teams based in both the UK and Brazil, and their respective attitudes towards the culture and politics of fieldwork.

This interdisciplinary PhD project might focus on some of these key research questions:

  • What part did photography play in the history of the Royal Society and the RGS-IBG scientific expeditions to tropical regions from the 1960s?
  • What role did local communities play in the making of the photographic archive?
  • To what extent research in the Royal Society and RGS-IBG collections may shed light on the relationship between scientists in Brazil and the UK and government officials, settlers, missionaries, riverine communities and indigenous peoples, and their motivations?
  • How were professional, scientific and popular understandings of tropical nature articulated within the photographic archive? What were the differences between the Brazilian and the British understandings? How can these differences be understood within their respective historical contexts?
  • What other histories of the territorial occupation of Mato Grosso may the photographic archive reveal?

This PhD studentship will be held at Birkbeck, University of London and the principal supervisor is Dr Luciana Martins, Director of the Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS). The second supervisor is Keith Moore, Head of Library and Information Services at the Royal Society. The project will be supervised collaboratively, giving the students full access to curatorial expertise and networks in the Royal Society.

It is envisaged that the student will engage the papers of Dr Iain Bishop, leader of the Royal Society/RGS Expedition, consisting of a substantial collection of photographs, slides, correspondence, field notebooks, unpublished reports, newspaper clippings, and official documents. These materials will be complemented by those held by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), enabling comparison with other contemporary expeditions to tropical regions. There may also be opportunities to conduct oral history research. Furthermore, a targeted research visit to Brazilian archives will provide further insights into the reception of the Expedition in Brazil and the visualization of the Xingu region in the Brazilian media.

The student is expected to attend training and other activities the Royal Society organises for them, and will also be encouraged to produce an outline catalogue of Bishop’s papers at the Royal Society, as well as written reports to be submitted to Notes & Records of the Royal Society (subject to editorial approval), to the Repository (the Royal Society’s history of Science blog) and equivalent social media outlets at the RGS-IBG. The student will also be expected to contribute to an exhibition ‘Expeditionary photography in the 1960s’ to be held at the Peltz Gallery at Birkbeck (Year 3) and its online version.

The studentship funding is subject to final confirmation by the AHRC but will be fully funded for three years full-time (or five years part-time) and will begin in October 2014. It will cover tuition fees at home/EU rate and provide a maintenance award at RCUK rates (£15,863 per year in 2014/15). In addition the AHRC provides an extra £550 per annum for Collaborative Doctoral Award students, while the Royal Society provides additional financial support (up to £1,000 a year) to the student towards their travel and related research costs.

How to Apply

Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree and a Master’s qualification in Geography, History of Science, History of Photography, Latin American Studies, Visual Anthropology or other relevant discipline. Ideally, the student should have some knowledge of Portuguese. The student will need to satisfy AHRC academic and residency eligibility criteria.

Applicants should complete the application form, and send it to Anthony Shepherd, the administrator for the MPhil/PhD programmes in the School of Arts at Birkbeck, University of London (aj.shepherd@bbk.ac.uk) no later than 5.00pm on Friday 14 March 2014.

Please note, this form asks applicants to provide the names and contact details of two academic referees (including one connected to the applicant’s most recent qualification). Applicants must also ask these referees to submit their references commenting on the candidate’s suitability for the award by the deadline.

Interviews will be held at the Royal Society, London on Tuesday 25 March 2014.

For questions, inquiries, or an informal discussion please contact Dr Luciana Martins l.martins@bbk.ac.uk.