Interview – Lydia Cole


This interview is a part of a sequence of interviews with teachers and practitioners at an early stage of their profession. The interviews focus on present analysis and initiatives, in addition to recommendation for different early profession students.

Lydia C. Cole is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Durham College on the venture ‘The Artwork of Peace: Interrogating Group Devised Arts-Based mostly Peacebuilding’. She has beforehand held the place of Affiliate Lecturer at College of St. Andrews and acquired her Ph.D. from Aberystwyth College in 2018.  Her analysis spans a number of fields of inquiry together with feminist worldwide relations, peace and battle research, visible arts, and transitional justice. She is especially within the makes use of of ethnographic, creative, and inventive analysis methodologies.

What (or who) prompted probably the most important shifts in your pondering or inspired you to pursue your space of analysis?

I regularly encounter folks and work that have an effect on my pondering and analysis. My introduction to worldwide politics was at College of Manchester, the place I studied for my undergraduate and MA levels. Whereas lots of the programs had been helpful introductions to essential IR approaches, Cristina Masters’ course on ‘Gender and Worldwide Relations’ was notably transformative. I nonetheless keep in mind studying Cynthia Enloe’s Bananas, Seashores, and Bases throughout the first weeks of the course and being in awe of how a lot was conveyed in regards to the complicated intersections of gendered energy by way of topics and websites that weren’t – at the moment – usually throughout the purview of worldwide relations. I’ve continued to be impressed by feminist thought in my analysis which gives necessary instruments to look at problems with energy and injustice inside worldwide politics.

More and more, my analysis has been knowledgeable by artistic approaches to world politics. Throughout my PhD, Jenny Edkins was notably encouraging of my narrative curiosity and gave me house to experiment with extra artistic types of writing. At completely different factors in my narrative journey, I’ve additionally been impressed by Annick Wibben, Naeem Inayatullah, Himadeep Muppidi, Elizabeth Dauphinee, and Sarah Naumes (to call a number of). Working with battle textiles and chatting with a few of their makers for Stitched Voices and Threads, Warfare and Battle generated an additional artistic shift, this time towards practices of creating. Participating with completely different websites of activism and resistance by way of making has prompted me to rethink how we do worldwide politics.

Conceptually, my analysis is indebted to lots of the teachers, activists, and artists that I’ve met. This has been particularly the case with my experiences of fieldwork in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). I all the time discover it fascinating to mirror on how concepts and ideas evolve by way of probability encounters, conversations, or explicit occasions, in addition to their interconnections with broader literature.

In your PhD thesis, you develop the notion of a feminist researcher as a witness. In what methods can researchers act as witnesses or supply recognition? And, conversely, when can we fail to take action?

The thesis begins with a central problematic: that of the hyper-visibility of sexual and gender-based violence, globally and in BiH (which has been mentioned by students together with Maria Stern and Maria Eriksson Baaz and Marsha Henry), with the mixed data that many survivors have largely been forgotten. Exploring this pressure inside numerous post-conflict justice processes, the thesis asks after the types of recognition invoked and operationalised at every web site. All through the thesis, I develop a sequence of conceptual frames of recognition which embody visibility, legal-bureaucratic recognition, trauma and psychological recognition, and witnessing.

My understanding of witnessing is drawn from a spread of contexts however is firmly located inside feminist approaches and ethics. Most significantly, the idea is developed in dialog with lots of my interlocutors in BiH who had been engaged in feminist activism and organising. On this context, Jasmina Husanovic’s article on postcolonial witnessing is especially thought-provoking. For Husanovic, feminist scholarship and politics are websites at which witnessing takes place, by way of:

“Weaving the areas between us, telling the tales of our losses, pondering our outdated/new belongings, revising and reimagining our pasts/presents/ futures, forging new communalities and fascinating in hopeful political practices.” (p. 102)

Growing these notions of witnessing by way of reflecting on its narrative, intersubjective, and reflexive parts, I define an understanding of witnessing which acknowledges its processual nature. On this sense, it poses a problem to a number of the language round recognition inside world coverage which generally makes it look like one thing which may merely be awarded, with the implications of finality and forgetting that go alongside this.

Embedded inside this broader understanding of witnessing, the feminist researcher as witness operates as a methodological device or information. Enabling me to find the assorted politics of post-conflict justice processes, it additionally operates as a broader immediate to interact with the position of the researcher inside these processes. Particularly, I take advantage of it to interact with problems with positionality, energy, and hierarchy within the analysis setting, in addition to to query how legacies of violent data manufacturing about BiH affect the analysis. I discovered this notably necessary to take care of within the context of analysis about sexual and gender-based violence.

I’ve mirrored on a number of the failures of my very own fieldwork, notably by way of miscommunication and inappropriate affective responses throughout analysis encounters, and in brief narrative about observing street harassment and feeling unable to intervene. I believe a failure to witness is one thing larger than these particular person moments although. Failures of witnessing are extra about failure to mirror on the politics of those encounters and asking what we (individually and collectively) can study from them.

In your chapter in Fieldwork as Failure you focus on affective failure and mis/recognition. What’s affective failure and the way can acknowledging affective failure result in extra productive fieldwork?

Reflecting a broader context of feminist interventions into emotion and affect in fieldwork, I wished to foreground two interviews undertaken as a part of my PhD analysis the place I had sudden (even perhaps, inappropriate) reactions. Because the title of the chapter suggests, these had been tears and laughter. On the time these moments within the interview felt very very like failures. Neither match the script of how I believed a ‘good’ interview was speculated to go and every response drastically modified the course of the dialog. Regardless of this, after I returned to the interviews within the writing course of, I discovered that these ‘failures’ truly appeared to shed additional gentle on my analysis context; notably, by way of my understanding of how folks navigated numerous post-conflict justice processes in BiH.

Writing the chapter at a distance from the thesis – and re-reading Clare Hemmings’ work on affective dissonance and solidarity – enabled me to mirror on the intersections of affective failure, mis/recognition, and data manufacturing. Participating reflexively with these encounters helped me to reformulate my concepts of what analysis success or failure seemed like and to as an alternative situate fieldwork as a means of un/studying. Within the chapter, I additionally argue that the types of embodied perception that emerged wouldn’t in any other case have been potential. In a extra common sense, the follow of acknowledging affective failure is just about being open to the surprises which mark our analysis and having the instruments to study from the sudden.

You’ve organized a number of exhibitions of battle textiles, Stitched Voicesin 2017 and Threads, War and Conflictin 2019. What alternatives do battle textiles supply for studying (or unlearning) Worldwide Relations?

Stitched Voices and Threads, Warfare and Battle had been each exhibitions that drew on textiles within the Battle Textiles assortment, curated by Roberta Bacic and Breege Doherty. Participating with the textiles, what was instantly notable was the way in which that the textiles communicated a continuum of political violence and its resistance. The textiles depict protest, disappearance, displacement, hopes for return, financial violence and inequality, and testimony to particular person loss, amongst many different subjects. The plurality of narratives about conditions of conflict, battle, and political violence is especially helpful pedagogically. I’ve discovered that educating with battle textiles helps to open up discussions in regards to the ways in which political violence impacts on a regular basis life, whereas additionally centring how folks organise and resist.

Personally, I additionally realized lots from the entire expertise of curating the exhibitions. One of the important points was our conversations with makers from numerous world contexts, every of whom used textile to talk out about political struggles. A few of these interactions got here by way of talks and different occasions, but it surely was the sensible textile workshops which I discovered most transformative. In these workshops, members had the chance to interact with these completely different textile traditions, together with arpilleras, peace banners, and embroidered handkerchiefs. These workshops had been helpful in facilitating dialog between completely different members but in addition generated a extra tactile, embodied type of figuring out in regards to the politics of textile.

You lately began a section of The St Andrews Journal of Worldwide Relations known as “Openings,” which goals to characteristic media reminiscent of poetry, visible artwork and video. How do you assume these types can complement extra conventional types of educational scholarship?

Artistic types like poetry, visible artwork, narrative, spoken phrase, and so on. are already areas through which folks have interaction with (worldwide) politics. I take into consideration these much less as a complement to conventional types of scholarship and extra instead mode of participating within the political. My co-editor (Laura Mills) and I begin this part at a time the place there may be already a formidable vary of worldwide relations scholarship adopting extra artistic types of writing and expression; and in addition the place our educating is participating with this artistic follow and manufacturing. What we hope is that the part can be an area that’s open to quite a lot of contributions and types. Our first problem of Openings can be a Particular Problem which unravels the assorted ‘threads’ of the exhibition Threads, Warfare and Battle, encouraging contributors to enrich the creativity of the exhibition. Past this, we’re eager to listen to from college students, artists, activists, and practitioners who may wish to contribute to Openings. If anybody has a bit of artistic scholarship that they wish to submit, they’ll accomplish that here.

What are you at present engaged on?

I’m at present engaged on a venture which focuses on grassroots artwork and peace in BiH, which has been an incredible alternative to attract collectively a number of the completely different strands of my analysis and pondering. Significantly, I’m creating a few articles which concentrate on completely different points of creative follow and manufacturing. The primary of those focuses on counter-political curating at Vraca Memorial Park in Sarajevo, whereas the opposite responds to a sound archive of Mostar that’s at present underneath improvement. In the long term, I additionally within the means of rethinking my PhD thesis as a e-book and am within the means of creating a brand new venture which develops a number of the completely different points of my pondering on artwork, artistic strategies, and political violence.  

What’s an important recommendation you would give to younger students?

I’ve all the time loved participating with completely different initiatives and initiatives which can be at a tangent kind my foremost space of analysis. Whereas it’s undoubtedly necessary to prioritise issues like PHD analysis, collaborating in analysis teams, organising occasions in collaboration with arts areas, and curating exhibitions has meant that I used to be uncovered to a spread of the way of participating in world politics. You by no means know, a few of these tangents may result in new connections and initiatives…

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations


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