The Students’ Union Research Series: Distinction

10 December 2018 | 6pm – 8pm

Battersea, Gorvy Lecture Theatre


To kick off this year’s RCA Students' Union Research Series you are invited to listen and engage with PhD students Tai Diniz, Cole Robertson and Freddie Mason who will give talks following on from the SU’s Roundtable Discussion, Working Class. The title 'Distinction' references Pierre Bourdieu's 1979 social critique of the judgement of taste. After the presentations a Q&A will be chaired by Rebecca Fortnum who is the Professor of Fine Art and Research Lead in School of Arts & Humanities. Fortnum is an artist whose current research engages with feminist histories and practices to form new models of scholarship and praxis. Fortnum has recently been elected Visiting Research Fellowship in the Creative Arts at Merton College, Oxford University. 

Tai Diniz
'"Why don’t you speak ordinary English?"' Lady Chatterley asks Mellors, in D H Lawrence’s novel (1928). Mellors’ speech is marked with such a profusion of apostrophes, that even the reader not familiar with variations of the English language can see the unordinary speech of this character: clusters of apostrophes make Mellors’ speech visually distinct. In this presentation, Diniz will discuss re-spelling strategies in which extra-alphabetic symbols are added to the orthography. The particular case of the apostrophe will be analysed.

Diniz’s research looks at the various forms the glottal stop takes in new and non-standard orthographies, and its relation to the production of language difference, identity and hierarchy through visual means. Diniz is interested in the ambiguousness of the glottal stop (is it a sound or is it a pause?) and the questions it poses in relation to politics of transcription and orthographic practices.

Cole Robertson
Growing up in extreme poverty doesn’t always turn history into destiny. In the United States, the linguistic flattening of mass media culture has had the curious effect of mellowing regional and class dialects. Other markers such as gender, ethnicity, nationality, disability, visible queerness, etc. become points of either hard or soft discrimination. Thus, if you sound right, and can mimic the correct mannerisms and beliefs you can pass into academia without ever being questioned. This presentation will discuss, in frank terms, what happens when white male privilege masks and blunts the effects of economic disadvantage.

Robertson's research is concerned with photography — its histories, languages, and ability to move between genres, functionalities, and industries. Robertson's multidisciplinary practice – which operates in the uneasy boundaries between aesthetic pleasure, pure scholarship, and pedagogy – aims in different ways to disrupt the transaction between viewer and image, hoping through visual disconnect to provoke analysis and hinder absorption. 

Freddie Mason
Twentieth-century American liberal Everett Dean Martin’s conception of an ‘oozing democracy’ is one of a democracy that has failed, is deficient, and in a state of affairs where people don’t communicate, ‘just stick together’. Stickiness is considered to be a quality of matter that works against democratic ideals. The bonds people make are superficial, needy and wildly fantastical. But what is fascinating about Everett Dean Martin’s mind is that this ‘stickiness’ is there already. It is a force in things that, if we’re not careful, will overcome us. The task of humanism is to work against this hallucinatory clumping up. The second half of this presentation will consider how stickiness seems to operate in the contemporary political moment, in the hope of finding new definition, new hospitality to its tendencies. 

Mason is a poet and writer whose research spans diverse disciplines and cultural domains, including histories of visual art, philosophy, critical theory, science, technology, cosmetics, literature, cinema, psychoanalysis and cookery. He is in the process of finalising his PhD thesis on the histories and futures of viscous matter.

The SU Research Series invites PhD students currently studying at the RCA to present their research in line with some of the Students' Union's key areas of interest. For 2018/19 these are: decolonising and related subjects, sustainability and wellbeing. The aim of the Research Series is to promote and create platforms for the incredible diversity of research which exists in the RCA through which exchanges can take place that benefit individual students and the community at large by creating stronger ties internally between the MA and PhD community and externally with other organisations and researchers. Any questions about the series and its upcoming events can be directed to