Career changing opportunity for researchers with big ideas

Back view of a young man recording a podcast on interview with a women in the studio.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and BBC Radio 3 today announce the 2023 New Generation Thinkers.

Ten of the UK’s most promising arts and humanities early career researchers have been announced as this year’s New Generation Thinkers, supported by AHRC and BBC Radio 3.

New insights into diverse topics

The 2023 New Generation Thinkers will bring new insights into diverse topics such as:

  • the history and future of how we heat our homes
  • reproductive rights in Ireland told through the story of Ann Lovett, a schoolgirl who died in 1984 while trying to give birth in secret
  • Viking attitudes to the human body, sex, death, and power

The names of the 10 researchers were revealed as part of a special episode of Free Thinking on BBC Radio 3 as broadcast on 4 April at 10:00pm UK time.

The broadcast was introduced by former New Generation Thinker Christopher Harding and is now available on BBC Sounds and on the Arts & Ideas podcast.

Each New Generation Thinker will be given the opportunity to share their pioneering research by making programmes for BBC Radio 3.

Connecting wider audiences with research

Every year, BBC Radio 3 and AHRC hold a nationwide search for the best new arts and humanities academics with ideas that will resonate with a wider audience.

These New Generation Thinkers represent some of the brightest early career researchers in the country.

Their research has the potential to redefine our understanding of an array of topics, from our history to the way we speak.

Making programmes for BBC Radio 3

The New Generation Thinkers will have the opportunity to communicate their research by making programmes for BBC Radio 3.

They will also be provided with unique access to training and support from AHRC and the BBC.

New Generation Thinkers alumni have gone on to become:

  • prominent public figures in their fields
  • the face of major documentaries and TV series
  • regular figures in public debate

Opportunity for training and development

Hundreds of academics applied this year, from which 60 were invited to day-long workshops with the BBC to develop their ideas with experienced BBC producers. From these workshops, 10 were selected as New Generation Thinkers.

They will benefit from training and development with AHRC.

They will also spend a year being mentored by producers from Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme, where they will appear and take part in discussions throughout the year.

They will also be working on episodes of The Essay to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 next spring.

Meanwhile you can find examples of other BBC Radio 3 programmes made by New Generation Thinkers:

  • on the Arts & Ideas podcast page
  • on air as part of The Essay (weekdays, 10:45pm to 11:00pm UK time) and Sunday Feature (Sunday, various times) slots

Vital and compelling research

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair says:

The New Generation Thinkers programme brings interesting, important ideas to a wider audience, shaping public thought and discussion.

From fascinating insights into feminism and philosophy, to the way we heat our homes and Viking burial rites, to the most challenging problems of our day, this is research at its most original, vital and compelling.

These 10 brilliant, original thinkers demonstrate the potential for the arts and humanities to help us to better understand ourselves, our past, our present and our future.

Exploring our past and present

BBC Radio 3 Head of Speech Matthew Dodd says:

Radio 3 is delighted to join our colleagues at AHRC in celebrating this year’s New Generation Thinkers intake. The research these academics present is key to understanding our past and present, offering new perspectives on the exploration of human history and culture.

Their inspiring and stimulating ideas on such a wide variety of topics deserve to be heard by a non-specialist audience, and we are pleased to be able to give these fascinating minds a platform to bring their work to as many listeners as possible.

Further information

Meet the 2023 New Generation Thinkers

Headshot images of the 10 2023 New Generation Thinkers.

Credit: AHRC

Dr Marianne Hem Eriksen, University of Leicester

What does it mean if a human body isn’t buried, but is rather broken apart and scattered around people’s homes?

Dr Marianne Hem Eriksen is Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Leicester where she leads the ‘Body-Politics’ project. She seeks to understand whether all humans were regarded as social persons in Iron and Viking Age Scandinavia, and how the ancient Scandinavians conceptualized the body in life and death.

For example, in 8th century Denmark a human skull bone was broken apart, inscribed with runes and discarded in a rubbish pit. Can we assume that this was the commemoration of a person, or has this body rather been transformed into a powerful object?

In one strand of the project, Marianne and her team are analysing such scattered bones from approximately 180 individuals to find out about their genetic backgrounds, their health, and their life histories, to understand whose bodies ended up in postholes, ditches and hearths.

Dr Andrew Cooper, The University of Warwick

Uncovering the work of Amalia Holst, a Wollstonecraft-like figure in the history of German philosophy, is a focus of research undertaken by Andrew Cooper, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The University of Warwick.

Holst founded three progressive schools for girls in and around Hamburg between 1790 and 1810. In 1802 she published the first work of philosophy in German under a woman’s name, ‘On the Vocation of Women to Higher Intellectual Education’.

In her book, Holst criticises the coercive view of women’s education held by the major philosophers of her time, including Rousseau, Kant and Fichte, and claims instead that women are called to pursue the demands of reason wherever it may lead them.

Dr Ana Baeza Ruiz, Loughborough University

How have feminists used art to subvert society’s expectations about housework and femininity?

Based at Loughborough University, Dr Ana Baeza Ruiz is the Research Associate for the project Feminist Art Making Histories, which will bring to light untold stories of feminist art across the UK and Ireland from the 1970s to the present day.

One of these works is the poster ‘My Wife Doesn’t Work’ by See Red Women’s Workshop, which depicts the gruelling routine of a young mother, from her 6:00am wake-up call to night-time.

We see her engaged in different domestic chores: she serves the family breakfast, washes up, takes the kids to school, while her husband tells a colleague that his wife doesn’t work.

This poster is one humorous example of the different ways in which these artists used art to both critique and reimagine the domestic realm.

Dr Gemma Tidman, Queen Mary University of London

Word play, board games, and playful literature were used in power games (romantic, economic, religious, and political) in France, during the reigns of Louis XIV, XV, and XVI, as Dr Gemma Tidman’s research reveals. A Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Queen Mary, she’s working on her second book, Playing on Words. A History of French Literary Play, 1635-1789.

One board game from 1716 called The Gifts of Youth shows the power of French ‘galanterie’ and flirtation. It has two circular tracks, one for men, one for women, which meet in the middle at a heart. The winners are the couple who reach the heart first. But to get there, players first have to answer questions and challenges, like an early truth or dare, or an 18th century ‘Love Island’.

Dr Rebecca Woods, Newcastle University

How play helps language learning and the value of multilingualism are at the centre of research by Dr Rebecca Woods, a Senior Lecturer in Language and Cognition at Newcastle University.

Children are constantly playing language games by taking the language that they hear or see and riffing on it. As they grow, they swap words, invent new ones and experiment with language in more and more sophisticated ways.

She cites an example of a four-year-old joking that “In Berlin they sit on the roads and on top of rooves and of cars, because Berlin is a sit-ee”, drawing on complex knowledge of word meaning and sound similarities to connect with others.  Her essay will focus on research into how children start to make conversation with their families, starting with their names for their mothers.

Dr Dan Taylor, The Open University

The landscape of the A13 tells us a story of industrial history, the development of London and the future of work says Dr Dan Taylor, Lecturer in Social and Political Thought, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University.

In addition to looking at what we can learn from the landscapes surrounding arterial roads, he’s working in partnership with Gateshead Carers on a research project exploring the impact of government spending and the cost-of-living crisis on unpaid carers.

His most recent book is ‘Spinoza and the Politics of Freedom’ and he’s been an advisor on a BBC-Open University co-production ‘Union’, a four-part TV series due later this year presented by David Olusoga.

Dr Sam Johnson Schlee, London South Bank University

A history of gas heating which helps us think about homes of the past and the future builds on British Academy funded research being done by Sam Johnson Schlee at London South Bank University.

An early sixties advert for heating depicting a young couple experiencing, so the poster tells us, “total comfort”, also shows us how different parts of the home opened up with the advent of central heating. How will our current fuel crisis change the way we use the rooms where we live?

Beyond heating Sam’s research concerns the spaces of everyday life. His book Living Rooms (Peninsula Press 2022) examines the domestic through memoir and theory. He also looks at town planning and his PhD was a study of urban change in Brixton at UCL.

Dr Kerry McInerney, University of Cambridge

Anti-Asian racism in artificial intelligence (AI), AI hiring software; diversity, equality and inclusion in the tech industry; and why representations of AI scientists on screen matter are all topics explored by Dr Kerry McInerney, a Research Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge.

She is the co-editor of the upcoming volume ‘The Good Robot: Feminist Voices on the Future of Technology’ and the co-host of ‘The Good Robot’ podcast on feminism and technology. She is also co-editor of the forthcoming book ‘Feminist AI: Critical Perspectives on Algorithms, Data and Intelligent Machines’.

You can hear her and her co-host in a ‘New Thinking’ episode of the ‘Arts & Ideas podcast’ available on BBC Sounds.

Isabella Rosner, King’s College London

The significance of a cat and mouse in an embroidery done by Mary Queen of Scots while in captivity are explained by Isabella Rosner, a PhD student at King’s College London and presenter of the Sew What? podcast.

Her essay will focus on Quaker art and how Quaker stitching helps overturn ideas about them being part of an introverted approach to the world which valued simplicity and plainness.

Their needlework tells a different story about decoration and fancy work, for example Hannah Downes, who studied at the Shacklewell Quaker girl’s school in Hackney around 1683 used high-quality linen and expensive silk and her stitching was highly ornate.

Dr Louise Brangan, University of Strathclyde

The history of Magdalene Laundries and how Ireland is today coming to terms with this are the focus of research by Dr Louise Brangan, Chancellor’s Fellow in Criminology at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

As a sociologist of punishment, Louise is interested in how we punish and who we punish. In her book on the history of prisons, ‘The Politics of Punishment’, she explores how our penal systems draw the boundary lines between social insiders and outsiders, showing that prisons are a vital part of the sociological architecture that helps shape our everyday order.

Her episode of The Essay will trace the changing place of Magdalene Laundries in Ireland and the treatment of women held there, illuminating the transformation of Ireland in the twentieth century.

Top image:  Credit: mixetto, E+ via Getty Images

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