Fruitful Doctoral Seminar at the RSC(07 February 2013)
On February 6, the doctoral seminar at the RSC concentrated on the links between theory and practice. Discussions covered two research papers and the field of post-doctoral opportunities.
Eight PhD students from six universities gathered at the RSC to discuss the progress of their work. The theme of the meeting was to explore how far scholars should go in developing abstract theoretical tools for their archival research. Frank Gerits (PhD-student, European University Institute, Florence) opened the discussion with his historiographical essay arguing that the current Americanization debate is wrong in claiming a middle-ground position between cultural imperialism and cultural reception. He used examples from public diplomacy and political economy studies to question the validity of this claim. The discussion centered around the function of various concepts, the difference between state and non-state actors, the formulation of a single research focus, and the question whether Americanization can be linked to public diplomacy as one of its goals.
Frank was followed by Marleen Ensink (an independent researcher preparing a PhD proposal), who approached the theme from the other side. Her paper “The Antis: Gender Roles in the Anti-Suffrage Movement of Massachusetts” raised the question how this piece could be positioned in a broader academic debate. Lots of possible research extensions were suggested by the group, including the position of the Antis in the feminist movement, a comparative research with other anti-movements, a more in-depth analysis of the background of the Antis in terms of class, race, religion, geography, education, and generation, and their relationship with pro-suffrage women and anti-suffrage men. This produced a lively debate and everyone agreed that Ensink had ‘gold in her hands’ with this intriguing and relevant topic.
Lastly, Dr. Dario Fazzi (postdoc at the RSC) provided the group with insightful information about career opportunities after finishing a PhD-program. Fazzi is currently in his second postdoc research and shared his experience in selecting positions and planning applications in the U.S. and Europe, encouraging applicants to take four months in preparation and to be flexible about their research topic. Both the intense level of critical thinking and practical advice made this seminar an informative and inspiring meeting for all participants, whether they were close to finishing their PhD-thesis or considering a return to the academic world. One of them wrote that evening: “It was really a wonderful meeting today. I learned a lot from the discussions and from Dario's talk. Your ways to inspire us to have a thorough exploration of the presentations have always impressed me. Thanks a lot for being both an organizer and motivator. And I am truly happy to see both old and new faces!”