Postgraduate conference: Identity formation (4 Apr 07)

Date: 4 April, 2007
Location: University of Manchester
Event type: Subject Centre sponsored lecture

Location map | Poster

Past Event Summary

This was the first ever conference to incorporate all the departments in the Faculty of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at The University of Manchester. This exciting inaugural event aimed to be all inclusive and embrace all modern foreign languages; it treated the notion of ‘Identity Formation’ in literature, art, film and media studies. Full details, including a call for papers, are available on the University of Manchester's website.

Guest speakers

The guest speakers will be the distinguished scholars Professor Charles Forsdick, The University of Liverpool, and Professor Adrian Armstrong, The University of Manchester.

Professor Forsdick will discuss his very latest book on representations of Toussaint Louverture. Amongst other subjects, he will discuss postcolonial representation and the effects of displacement, migration and travel on the identity of a historical figure freighted through two centuries of transcultural representations.

Professor Armstrong will discuss how to successfully pursue a career in academia as a postgraduate student and will address issues of learning and teaching within higher education. This lecture is sponsored by the Subject Centre's guest speaker fund.


The conference will take place in the
Mansfield Cooper building,
The University of Manchester,
Oxford Rd., Manchester,
M13 9PL.

Participants are asked to register in the lecture theatre G19. See the following link for directions to Manchester:

Event report: Postgraduate Conference Identity Formation

by Louise Crowther

The postgraduate conference Identity Formation was held at the University of Manchester on Wednesday 4th April 2007. This was the first postgraduate conference for the whole of the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. 83 delegates were in attendance, representing universities from countries throughout the world, including Canada, Ireland, Turkey, Germany, France, Norway, and Belgium. The conference was sponsored by the University of Manchester, the Society for French Studies, the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies, and the Alliance franaise de Manchester. The organising committee for the conference consisted of Michela Baldo, Louise Crowther, and Kate Roy, who were advised by Prof. Dee Reynolds from French Studies at the University of Manchester.

The purpose of the conference was to bring together postgraduate and post-doctoral researchers throughout the world researching different aspects of identity formation. The areas of identity formation that formed the focus of the conference were grouped into three panels: Panel 1: The role of philosophy and ideology in the formation of identity; Panel 2: Diasporic and transcultural identities; and Panel 3: Narrative identity. The conference began with a welcome and introduction from Prof. Dee Reynolds.

The keynote address was given by Prof. Charles Forsdick from Liverpool University, whose paper was entitled Colonial Memories, Postcolonial Identities. It responded to Frederick Coopers recent interrogation of the uses of identity in discussions of history and culture (Colonialism in Question, 2005), and explored the implications of the increased presence of colonial memory in explorations of postcolonial identity. The principal aim was to demonstrate the ways in which, despite the predominantly national emphases of official commemorations of colonization, Frances traditionally identitarian republicanism is increasingly challenged in the postcolonial period (i) by the fragmentation of any coherent sense of national identity, and (ii) by the associated need to acknowledge a plurality of transpolitical and transnational identities that persistently appear to emerge in the wake of Empire.

This was followed by three sessions for each of the three panels. The three sessions in panel 1 were: Philosophic Reading of Texts; Literary and Historical Identity; and Critical Theory and Identity. The three sessions in panel 2 were: Countering Dominant Representations; Diasporic Expression; and (Re-)location and Space. The three sessions in panel 3 were: Construction of a Narrative Voice; Auto-fiction; and Shifting Narratives. The day was concluded with a paper by Prof. Adrian Armstrong from the University of Manchester, entitled: Careers in Academia. It focused on three issues: how to position oneself strongly in the job market as a PhD student; how to deal with new circumstances as a newly-appointed academic; and how to become 'promotable' in due course. The concluding comments were made by Prof. Dee Reynolds and the organising committee. A reception was held in the evening for delegates to discuss their research and ideas further.

The huge response to the call for papers for the conference and the large number of delegates present indicate the importance of the theme identity formation. The diversity of the papers given at the conference highlights the multi-faceted nature of identity and reveals the fluidity of its interpretation. It is this plurality of meaning that makes identity formation such a fascinating theme. This was particularly foregrounded by the conference papers, especially as the international nature of the conference served to open up geographical boundaries that often define identity formation. Moreover, the period of time covered in the papers, from Antiquity, into the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, aided an in-depth study into the question of identity formation and demonstrated just how important it has been to humanity throughout its existence. The conference therefore acted as a forum for signalling the pertinence of identity formation for the past, the present, and the future.