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The Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Programme in Visual Culture

The Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships in Visual Culture built upon Durham’s international excellence and strategic investment in the study of vision and perception, the analysis of the social significance of images and ways of seeing, and the attentive interpretation of a range of visual objects. The programme provided a new form of interdisciplinary doctoral training in visual culture, answering an urgent need for a new generation of scholars properly equipped to undertake nuanced and informed work in the study of visual culture.

Below illustrates some of the significant work conducted by our doctoral scholars, as well as an overview of the programme by CVAC Emeritus Director, Professor Ludmilla Jordanova.


Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships: Interdisciplinary Training Programme in Visual Culture

Durham Leverhulme Doctoral Scholars

Christoph Doppelhofer

Christoph Doppelhofer is heritage researcher and practitioner currently pursuing his interdisciplinary Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarship in Visual Culture at the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture and the Department of Geography, Durham University. Using the filming locations of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones and their subsequent popularity as tourist attractions as a case study, Christoph is examining how modern pop-culture and visual media is reshaping the perceptions, identities and meanings of cultural heritage landscapes. Christoph holds a BA in Classical Archaeology from the University of Vienna and an MA in International Cultural Heritage Management from Durham University. These degrees led him to research and community excavations in England, Austria, Italy, Turkey and Egypt as well as work as a cultural travel guide where he expanded his experience in the heritage, museum and cultural tourism sectors. Since 2015, Christoph is a visiting lecturer for Durham University’s MA International Cultural Heritage Management, where he teaches on map- and app-based heritage trails and reconstruction of destroyed heritage for post-war regeneration.

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Lara Ehrenfried

Lara’s CVAC PhD research has investigated the deployment of sound in 1930s and 1940s sound film and late modernist novels in Britain. She has been interested in the coming of synchronized sound to film and the subsequent re-negotiation of aesthetic conventions and production practices for early sound film in Britain. In parallel, Lara has examined the deployment of sound in British late modernist novels by Patrick Hamilton, Jean Rhys, Evelyn Waugh, Rosamond Lehmann, George Orwell, Elizabeth Bowen, Christopher Isherwood, and Henry Green. Lara holds an MA (Distinction) in English Literary Studies from Durham and a BA in German and English Linguistics and Literary Studies from Bielefeld University (Germany). From January to April 2017, Lara undertook a placement at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where she worked with the photograph-, sound-, and film collections and supported the Museum’s curatorial and public engagement work. Lara’s main research interests comprise of the relationship between sound, literature, and cinema; late modernism as a literary historical category; the novel as a literary form; sound studies; and developing new interdisciplinary approaches towards literary analysis.

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Kimberley Foy's Profile PictureKimberley Foy

A historian of early Stuart diplomacy, Kimberley graduated with an MPhil in Early Modern History from Trinity College Dublin in 2013. Her dissertation on non-verbal communication at the Jacobean and Caroline courts examined the practice of ‘hat honour’, an essential facet of diplomatic choreography in the early Stuart period. For her CVAC PhD, she has been widely considering the relationship between dress and diplomatic interaction at the Stuart court. Kimberley currently serves as Assistant Editor with the Journal of Dress History, and Community Outreach Officer with MEMSA (the Medieval and Early Modern Student Association) Durham.

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Louise Garner's Profile PictureLouise Garner

Having gained a BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences from the Open University, Louise has been trained as a teacher and taught in schools in the U.K. before moving abroad for several years and teaching in British Schools in The Falkland Islands, Malaysia and Nepal. Returning to the U.K., Louise studied for an MA in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham University before embarking on her doctorate. Louise’s CVAC PhD research has been rooted in both Chemistry and History and used Raman spectroscopy alongside other spectroscopies and non-invasive techniques to examine the pigments and inks used in medieval manuscripts. Louise has been studying with "Team Pigment" who are Professor Richard Gameson from the History Department and Professor Andrew Beeby from the Chemistry Department of Durham University, in collaboration with Dr Catherine Nicholson of Northumbria University. This team has been involved in many projects, with an overarching target to create a map of the inks and pigments used in manuscripts created across the British Isles in time and place.

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Tristan Lake's Profile PictureTristan Lake

Tristian completed both his Masters and Undergraduate degrees at the University of Reading in Archaeology. During this time, his research was focused primarily in areas related to the body and identity such as ethnicity, gender, sexuality and status. How these aspects of identity manifest themselves visually in the archaeological record is of one of his greatest interest. His CVAC PhD project project, titled “Fleshing out the body: The naked form in Early Medieval Northern Europe (400-1100 A.D) and its significance,” has sought to explore artistic depictions of exposed flesh on a range of media within this period.

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Vanessa Longden's Profile PictureVanessa Longden

Vanessa’s CVAC PhD project has examined Francesca Woodman’s self-representational photography, exploring the complex relationship between the body and place. In particular, her staging of abandoned locations highlights the difficulty of making space on the margins of society and holds wider implications for the fields of gender and cultural geography. Woodman’s death by suicide at the age of 22 has led to a predominantly psycho-biographical approach to her work. But Vanessa has challenged this reading and its linear teleology by re-situating the artist within the socio-economic context of America in the 1970s and early 1980s, emphasising how Woodman’s images converse with other contemporaries, particularly performance, body, and land artists.

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Felicity Mcdowall's Profile PictureFelicity McDowall 

Prior to undertaking her PhD Felicity completed an MPhil in Archaeological Research at Cambridge University and a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University focused on the prosocial behaviour of Neanderthals, particularly the development of symbolic funerary behaviour. Felicity’s CVAC PhD project has explored how prehistory is presented in British museums of various sizes and how such displays can be improved to be more engaging to a wide audience whilst remaining representative of the period. Felicity’s research interests are primarily concerned with promoting the popularity and public understanding of prehistory by highlighting the importance of this expansive and pioneering period of our past. Previously she has undertaken research into the complex behaviour of other species of Homo but she has wide-ranging interests in European prehistory from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Age. Felicity is also particularly interested in the role that the presentation of heritage and museum displays can have on how we perceive and understand the past.

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Marcus Meer's Profile PictureMarcus Meer

Marcus completed a BA in History and Linguistics at Bielefeld University, followed by the MSt in Medieval History at Oxford University. His CVAC PhD project has analysed the functions of heraldry as a means of visual communication in English and German medieval cities, and the perceptions of coats of arms in urban society. Despite omnipresence of coats of arms in medieval urban visual culture, heraldry still tends to be seen as an aristocratic phenomenon. To the contrary, Marcus has demonstrated that townspeople too participated in a universal means of heraldic communication. Heraldry was used to establish and represent an urban identity (individual and collective) that confronted nobility and not ineptly imitated it. Heraldic signs were discussed in genealogical and historical myths, contested in legal cases, or placed or defaced as an expression of individual or communal consensus and conflict. As part of the communicative strategies of competing social formations, heraldic signs were displayed to establish presence in urban space, and claim and contest legitimacy and authority. They were an active means of visual communication that reflected, reinforced and negotiated political structures and social hierarchies of urban society.

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Lisa-Elen Meyering Profile PictureLisa-Elen Meyering

Lisa-Elen completed her BA in Archaeology and Anthropology at Durham University in 2015, during which she specifically focused on the visual aspects of the Scandinavian Bronze Age, namely that of rock art in Southern Sweden. Through her thesis entitled “Nordic Bronze Age Ship Iconography: The Establishment of a Maritime Biography of Naval Agents,” she has become increasingly interested in the different activities of prehistoric people in a naval environment. Following on from this, she has deepened her knowledge of Bronze Age inhabitants through a subsequent study of all the different forms of anthropomorphs displayed on the rocks in Southern Sweden. Having gained great insight into rock art and all its different facets, she then wished to broaden her expertise in this field by expanding into other areas with open-air/landscape rock art. Thanks to her CVAC PhD project, she has been deploying and developing approaches from archaeology, psychology and Geographic Information Systems in order to understand the nature and function of UP rock art in the valleys in and around Portugal’s Côa Valley and Spain’s Siega Verde.

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Antonia Miejluk

Antonia Miejluk is currently in the final stages of completing a PhD in History and Visual Culture at Durham University. Her doctoral project explores the practice of leisure-time snapshot photography in 1930s Russia, considering how the snapshot camera functioned as part of the enactment and performance of interwar Soviet leisure, and accordingly how photography and leisure constituted interlinked processes of self-fashioning and identity construction. Working in conjunction with Durham University’s Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, her research adopts an interdisciplinary methodology, positioned at the intersection of visual culture and Soviet studies. Antonia’s project speaks to her wider research interests in Soviet visual and material culture, photography, and histories of everyday life and experience. Antonia was awarded a BA in History from the University of Oxford and an MA in Modern History from Durham University. In 2018-19, she undertook a three-month placement at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, where she assisted the Youth Education Centre team in delivering a calendar of interactive projects, art history lectures and one-off cultural events in parallel with the museum’s programme of exhibitions.

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Seren Nolan's Profile PictureSeren Nolan

Seren gained her MA in Classics in 2015 followed by an MSc in Gender History in 2016 both from the University of Glasgow. As an undergraduate, she became interested in the interwoven narratives of power, position and virtue of Roman women under the principate and their manifestation in material culture, literary and legal texts – forming a particular fascination with the complex figure of the Roman matrona. Seren’s CVAC PhD project has allowed her to continue telling this tale and expand the geographical and chronological reach of her study of ‘matrona-hood,’ comparing its politicised visual manifestations in Britain with her appearance and appropriation in revolutionary France and the revolutionary Atlantic and their intersection with the more subdued but no less fascinating politics of the Italian neoclassical tradition. Sitting at the (novel) nexus of classical reception studies, gender and art history, her research illuminates the ‘inscriptions in the feminine,’ legible in post-antique image of the Roman matrona, revealing her as a gender-inflected paradigm of classical reception, artistic production and (self)representation, imbued with socio-political and cultural significance.

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Petr Nuska

Petr Nuska is a visual ethnomusicologist and ethnographic filmmaker. Master’s degrees in Anthropology and New Media Studies (both from Charles University in Prague) have provided particular training in qualitative ethnography, interviewing and participatory research methods, as well as in theories of digital media and visual art. Since 2011, he has been involved in many projects around the world in the field of documentary and ethnographic film, educational and activist videos, and music clips for independent musicians. Films in which he participated have been screened at various international film festivals. Petr’s contemporary research involves Romani musicians in central Slovakia and examines transmission of musical skills in this context. The project challenges a common myth that Romani musicians have “music in their blood,” instead building a detailed picture of a unique system of music education through which people grow into their music culture and become musicians. 

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Iris Ordean

Having been trained as a Conservation specialist in the Conservation and Restoration Department of the ULBS, Iris has subsequently engaged in art historical dialogues with a focus on performance during her Master’s degree at the University of St Andrews. Her dissertation focused on exploring the concept of heterosexual partnerships and shared authorship in performance art. Her interest for the deliberate manipulation of the body has led to her doctoral research interests on the European perception and practice of Shibari. Professional background includes The Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice), The Venice Biennale, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Deutsches Kulturzentrum Hermannstadt and working as a restorer and documentation specialist on various independent projects. Iris’ CVAC PhD research has examined the rhizomatic composition of rope bondage communities employing methodological approaches that engaged participants in a doctoral project standing at the intersection between human geography, visual culture and performance studies.

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Joshua Podmore

Joshua completed their undergraduate degree at Durham University (Applied Psychology 2012–15) primarily working under Dr Jason Connolly (Space for Paralysis Lab). His final year dissertation ‘Effects of Torso Rotation with Fixed Eye and Head Position on Saccade Kinematics’ investigated the effect of proprioceptive interference from torso rotation on saccadic eye movement amplitude, angular and Cartesian error. Following this, Joshua was accepted onto a voluntary research position in the Space for Paralysis Lab. This time was spent; training undergraduates, fellow research assistants and postgraduate colleagues on the EyeLink II eye tracker. Additionally, he was able to considerably improve his MatLab programming skills and learned to use EEG-based hardware (Cognionics Quick 20). Following this Joshua was accepted onto a Masters by Research in which he independently learned to apply state of the art classification techniques (convolutional neural networks) to decode EEG signals. Ultimately this research aimed at improving Brain-Computer Interfaces for quadriplegic patient populations. Specifically, the analytical framework was developed with intention of, yet is not limited to, improving brain-based communication devices. His current PhD thesis continues this path of research, focusing on the development of P300-based speller devices.

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Laura Sillar's Profile PictureLaura Sillars

Laura’s research focuses on strategies and tactics employed by visual artists whose work critiques aspects of contemporary civic society. She focuses on a small number of case studies on artists who directly investigate the social, geo-physical and economic infrastructure of technology. The material she has been exploring draws from mystical, spiritual and Romantic traditions as well as from material developed within the field of techno-science and popular culture.

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Lenka Schmalisch

Lenka is reading for a PhD in Visual Culture of the History of Science and Medicine at Durham University. Her project specialises on the material and visual culture of Domestic Medicine, Women and Nationalism in Early Nineteenth-Century Bohemia. Lenka completed her Master’s studies in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine at Durham University. She also holds an MA in European Cultural Studies from the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen (Czech Republic) and spent an Erasmus semester at the Johannes-Gutenberg University in Mainz (Germany. As a Leverhulme doctoral scholar, Lenka is affiliated with the departments of Philosophy, History, the School of Modern Languages & Cultures and the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture. She has taken up the role of a Student Representative at the British Society for the History of Science and works as a teaching assistant for the ‘Science, Medicine and Society’ module at the Department of Philosophy. Moreover, Lenka also undertook a three-month PhD placement in Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds where she worked alongside the Curatorial, Collections and Learning teams.

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A photo of Nelli Stavropoulou smiling at the cameraNelli Stavropoulou

Nelli holds a Bachelor's degree in Social Sciences and a Master's degree in Culture and Difference from Durham University. She has also obtained an MA in International Multimedia Journalism from Newcastle University. She has participated in several community engagement and research projects, working with hard-to-reach groups and encouraging self-expression, personal development, and social integration through filmmaking, while also exploring the role of media production in relation to self-empowerment and agency. Nelli is the director of media charity Bridge + Tunnel Voices, an organisation that works with socially excluded groups and individuals, encouraging them to share their stories through various media art-forms. She is also involved in JesmondLocal, a volunteer-run, web-based news project with Newcastle University student volunteers. Nelli is also a Trustee of arts studio Chilli Studios, a user-led creative studio service for individuals experiencing mental health projects. For her CVAC PhD project, she was exploring the role of participatory arts research methods as a vehicle for self-expression for individuals from a refugee/asylum seeker background.

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Antonia Miejluk's research

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Joshua Podmore's research

Lenka Schmalisch

Lenka Schmalisch's Research

Petr Nuska

Petr Nuska's research

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Antonia Meijuk's research 

Christoph Doppelhofer's research

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Antonia Miejluk's research

Petr Nuska

Petr Nuska's research

Lenka Schmalisch

Lenka Schmalisch's Research

Joshua Podmore

Joshua Podmore's research

Lenka Schmalisch

Lenka Schmalisch's research

Petr Nuska

Petr Nuska's research