Early Career Researcher and Teacher (SOAS)
Monday marked the official start of Are You Receiving Me?, a public engagement project I have developed over the past few months with Robin Lindop Fisher, a research assistant in the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at York. Funded by the department in conjunction with York’s Researcher Development Team, AYRM seeks to support early career researchers in communicating, collaborating, and consulting with communication disability groups in York. The first phase of the project will take place over the next six months, and involves working with York Speakability, a support group for people with aphasia and their carers.
Aphasia is an acquired communication disability that impairs the ability to process language, thus affecting both oral and written communication. AYRM aims to work with York Speakability to develop a toolkit for ECRs who wish to collaborate and share knowledge with people with aphasia. This toolkit will be developed through an as yet undecided collaborative project that links the interests of the group with the knowledge and skills of ECRs at the University of York. Yesterday, Robin and I met with York Speakability to introduce ourselves and tell them a little bit about the project. We’d already circulated an easyread-type document, which we were pleased to hear had been received with enthusiasm. It was great to learn that we’d succeeded in our first attempt to create an aphasia-friendly document, as we weren’t able to find much information to guide us – if you’d like to learn more, send me an email and I’ll happily send you a copy. While we’re open to any ideas and suggestions Speakability members might come up with, we were aware that offering people free rein can often backfire – I know I often go completely blank when faced with an entirely open-ended question! To avoid this, we came up with three ideas for potential projects:
While the feedback was largely positive, the group felt that these options were still too vague, so it’s now up to Robin and I to provide a more concrete description of each option. This was really useful to us, as it revealed that we had perhaps been overly cautious in our attempts to not impose our own ideas and research interests on the group. I’m going to present a more detailed synopsis at a meeting for Speakability members and their carers on Thursday – watch this space!
After the meeting with Speakability, I travelled straight to London, via some annoying problems on the line that resulted in me arriving 45 minutes late. Still, I made it to the Sensible Flesh seminar just in time to give my presentation, thanks to my advanced escalator-running technique and Zoe Roth‘s gracious printing assistance. The seminar was fantastic – held in a room with a *stunning* view of London’s skyline, and an engaging and engaged audience, whose thought-provoking questions gave me more and more material to think about. I had the pleasure of presenting a condensed version of my doctoral research on JM Coetzee alongside Dr Laura Davies, who gave a brilliant paper on the “speaking body” and Samuel Johnson – including a section on Johnson’s experience of aphasia towards the end of his life. It’s funny how these things come together. Anyway, this was the first time I’d given a paper that attempted to convey the “big picture” of my research, and I’m pleased to say that it was a rewarding experience. I’m certainly looking forward to the next Sensible Flesh seminar on 16 April – Zoe and Fusako have done a great job in selecting papers that tap into the diversity of approaches to the body without losing sight of the thread that links them.
Now to collapse into bed with the second half of Tom McCarthy’s Remainder…