Materialities – Postscript
As I write this, it has been two years, almost to the day, that I set out to coordinate the running of the 2019-20 BCMCR Research Theme on Materialities. At that point, I (like the vast majority of us) was blissfully unaware of the turmoil that was about to unfold, and the enormity and significance of the change that was about to be brought to bear on our individual and collective lives. On some days, the passage of time from that point to now feels somewhat akin to time-travel – a frenzied leap from one moment in time to somewhere, or sometime, completely different. On other days, it has felt more akin to a slow, relentless slog through a swampy and unpredictable temporal plane.
Somewhere in between these quantum leaps and staggered limps, time managed to get the better of me. Plans for events, outputs, and discussions were put on hold. Priorities shifted. Deadlines slipped. And so, we find ourselves here, in September 2021.
Before time got the better of me, myself and Nick Gebhardt had discussed the idea of producing a series of pamphlets as part of the BCMCR New Thinking series, capturing snapshots of the vigorous debates, creative conversations, and minor epiphanies of the various clusters of the BCMCR. At my behest, a whole host of colleagues worked very hard, at an already challenging moment in time, to produce a wonderful, varied, and thoughtful series of short pieces of writing on the subject of materiality. These pieces cover a lot of ground – from personal anecdotes to political provocations; from funny and amusing to deeply personal and touching; from the suburbs of South Birmingham to Beirut. They were, and are, a perfect encapsulation of what I had hoped to achieve with the theme, representing the breadth and depth of thought that can emerge from the exceptional thinkers, scholars, and human beings of the BCMCR.
Sadly, as these pieces of writing were arriving, the sheer force of the pandemic’s temporal disruption had begun to overwhelm me. As a result, despite the best of intentions, these wonderful pieces of writing became caught in the bottleneck of online lesson planning, risk assessments, and the digital purgatory that is MS Teams. It is a point of significant personal regret that it has taken so long to bring these together, and I apologise unreservedly to the contributors, and thank everyone involved for their superhuman patience. It should be noted that without the tireless efforts of MA Media and Cultural Theory graduate Maggie Urbaniec – who took my rough drafts and brought them back polished and complete – these pieces would likely still be languishing in a to-do pile. All thanks and credit here must go to her.
If I were so inclined, there is probably quite a lot that I could say here to reflect upon how this process speaks to the new materialities which have emerged from the disruptive events of the past 18 months. However, I think that these conversations may be more fruitfully developed as part of the forthcoming research theme on Disruption. And so, quite rightly, I think the final words on the Materialities theme (at least for now) should be those of the colleagues who contributed to these pamphlets. I hope that you find them as enjoyable, thought-provoking, and stimulating as I do.
Dr Iain A. Taylor