Sonia Ghalian shares her experience as a Charles Wallace British Council Visiting Scholar at CRACL, School of Education, Nottingham University July 2– July 30, 2017
Being in a completely different scenario than yours, gives you an opportunity to reflect on your context with much more clarity. This is what the experience of spending one month in England has given me. My PhD thesis deals with the subject of ‘Children’s films in India’ and attempts to explore the nuances of representing children and childhood in the cinematic medium, within the larger continuum of Indian cinema. I aspire for my research to place the category of children’s film in India in conversation with global cinema for children and also make a case for incorporating media and film education alongside other pedagogical practices in education.
The Charles Wallace Scholarship provided me with an opportunity to reflect on both my professional context as an academic as well as on my personal context. Being a visiting scholar at the University of Nottingham, enabled me to present my work and research to a larger and wider audience both in formal presentation / conference settings as well in the form of many conversations and cups of tea shared. I plan to undertake a thematic analysis of contemporary children’s films selected from the last two decades, exploring the socio-political construction of children and childhood in India. This was something I could discuss with my mentor, Becky Parry, and the wider CRACL team.
Becky also introduced me to a wide network of people working in children media education and industry. I attended the international, annual Children’s Media Conference and the CMC Playground held in Sheffield from 4-6 July, 2017 as a delegate, listening to various panels focusing on media culture for children, its challenges and scope in contemporary times. CMC is a one of a kind event for everyone involved in developing, producing and distributing content to kids on all platforms with over 1200 participants this year. Touching on many themes across the children’s industry some of the panels got me thinking about children’s media culture in India and highlighted that we have some similar concerns and challenges. The question of gender in particular has been a central concern to me both at a personal level as well at a professional level. A key issue that emerged at the conference was the way in which gender roles are being formalised and naturalised in the media industry today, be it children’s toy and material culture or the representation of gender roles in children’s media. Another aspect that I reflected on was the lack of conversation between industry and the academic world. When the industry is recognising the need for a change in terms of how it is providing content and material culture for children, there surely has to be a dialogue between the parents, schools and researchers who are working on these subjects.
Visits to London were fruitful in terms of getting in touch with other academic professionals from my field. I am so thrilled to have found Dr Shakuntala Banaji’s recent work on children and media in India and had the opportunity to discuss with her the need for interdisciplinary studies with regards to both Media Studies and Childhood Studies. Watching the program, India on Film at the British Film Institute, London, celebrating the diversity of the Indian film industry gave me some more food for thought on how much Indian cinema has travelled overseas and the role it can play in bringing very pertinent challenges in children’s lives relating to class, caste and gender to the fore.
Presentation at the seminar conducted by the Centre for Research in Arts, Creativity and Literacy (CRACL), gave me a chance to explain my project to a new audience, where I actually had to go through my whole journey as a researcher on this subject. This stint helped me gain confidence about my work and much clarity of thought on the structure and way in which I should reengage with writing my thesis.
On a personal level, this visit to England gave me a chance to interact with and meet people from very diverse backgrounds and different countries across the world. Other visiting academics that I met at my office were from Mexico, Germany, Canada, Japan and China. Now they all are very good friends. With them, I traveled around Nottingham whenever we got time and immersed ourselves at the scenic countryside that is characteristic of places like the Peak District and the legendary Sherwood Forest. The exposure on whole has led to a more expansive understanding of my subject and how to place it in context to the contemporary media culture for children.