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Nektaria McWilliams is Greek-Australian and has lived in the UK for nearly ten years. She joined Oxford Brookes in September 2016 and her thesis title is “Diaspora, Identity and Cinematic Memory in Rural South Australia”.
I first heard about Oxford Brookes through www.jobs.ac.uk, where I saw the position for a PhD scholarship being advertised.
The expertise and supervision in new cinema history that Oxford Brookes offers was a major drawcard in coming here. As was the opportunity to apply for a fully-funded scholarship no less!
I was a full-time MA Gender and Media Studies student at the University of Sussex.
I have found the support, guidance and resources available to be of a very high standard. I feel extremely lucky to have been offered a place here.
This project aims to offer new understandings of the Greek-Australian migrant experience from the mid-1950s to the present day. It will explore the impact and significance of cinema-going, and watching Greek films, on the Greek migrant community of Whyalla – a small, South Australian country town. The focus of this research is on the social history of cinema and its audiences from a global perspective - that moves beyond Hollywood - to uncover Greek film, its distribution and its far-flung audiences.
At the same time, it intends to delve into the cultural history and memory of this community - their experiences of arriving and surviving, with limited or, in some cases, no English language skills, and the role that cinema played in this.
Traditionally, film studies has been concerned with film as a text in much the same way as literary studies has viewed and valued novels. But this project draws inspiration from, and hopes to contribute to, a newly established area in film studies known as new cinema history, whose focus is audiences, film exhibition and consumption, film distribution, programming and production.
In view of the above, the project is inherently multi-disciplinary and goes some distance beyond the confines of film text to pay more attention to questions of identity, social history, migration, cinema as everyday experience, and the construction of its audience. Alongside this, several methods, histories, localities and approaches - such as media, cultural, migration, geography and post-colonial studies - will be drawn from to construct meaning.
By exploring the history of Greek migrants in a marginal and rural location, this project not only aims to ensure that their stories no longer remain absent from the archives, but it is also hoped that the insights into migration, displacement and identity that this research will unveil, also impacts upon understandings of the political and cultural debates concerning immigration in the present day.
Surviving audience members will be asked about their memories of watching Greek films during this time. They will be giving voice to an otherwise silent history and will provide further insights and understandings of an Australian cinema history that includes non-English speaking films; that rural screenings and communities matter, and also belong to this history; and that Greek cinema history includes audiences of the diaspora – that is people who have spread or dispersed from their original homeland.
I really enjoy the learning and research process very much. I enjoy the opportunities a research environment affords in approaching things from multiple perspectives, histories and disciplines, and then applying this to my own project and thought process. The volume of work and associated tasks involved with PhD work can be overwhelming at times, but breaking tasks up into smaller chunks has proven very helpful for me, as has breaking work time up into 20 minute chunks. This has been a particularly good strategy when I’ve attempted to make a start on something that seems very challenging, invokes much fear and has been the source of much procrastination! Being able to talk openly about any challenges to my supervisor helps enormously too.
The training offered at Oxford Brookes is wide-ranging, covers many skills needed for the PhD and beyond, but also provides support after the training sessions for when it is applied in the field. I have had an introduction to various coding and software packages that I will need for data analysis and feel that once I begin working with my own data, I will be able to put this to use and can call on and draw from the experts who provided the courses. The training I received in the first year has helped lay the groundwork for my field trip to Australia next year.
In terms of my immediate future, I would like to successfully complete my PhD, and make the most that this time has to offer. After that, I would like to remain in a research environment with a focus on people, histories, visual popular cultures, how they intersect, how these intersections have changed over time and what these changes can inform us about our lives now and in the future.