I have had a memorable birthday present as one of the guest plenary speakers of the third ASYRAS conference, celebrated at the University of Oviedo. This was intriguingly called “The Significance of the Insignificant in Anglophone Studies”, a title apparently inspired by Bergson. Very philosophical!
I cannot sufficiently thank organisers Alejandra Moreno and Irene Pérez for this wonderful present, nor for their constant attention to my person, their friendliness and warmth. As a further way of thanking them and ASYRAS’ current president, the very charming Pedro Álvarez Mosquera (of Salamanca), I have decided to publicise here what ASYRAS is, as it deserves that and much more.
ASYRAS is the acronym of the Association of Young Researchers in Anglophone Studies. It was born in 2007 out of an initiative carried out by a group of just 8 post-grad students in Salamanca and it is plainly meant to generate much necessary networking among its members. I asked whether ‘young’ meant in this context under, say, 40, or whether it had to do with being untenured. The answer was that ‘young’ refers to any researcher up to five years after his or her obtaining a doctoral degree. Fair enough. I myself got tenure 6 years after becoming a doctor but I know very well that many young people today face a much harsher time. Tenure, which for me was testing enough, is for them practically utopia… This is why ASYRAS seems to me so necessary.
One of the aims of ASYRAS is to provide guidance to graduates starting post-grad studies in any Spanish university, which means in practice guidance into how to start doing research. Thinking of my own shortcomings as a rookie post-grad student and of what I see around in conferences whenever young researchers offer papers, I believe that this is still very necessary. We rely on a person to person transmission of how to do things academically speaking but I know of no general guidelines to help you start doing research in the Spanish context. I would ask ASYRAS to provide them, and also to contact all master degrees Coordinators for them to pass on information about ASYRAS to the new students.
Just consider that a few years back, before MAs were generalised, students who registered for doctoral courses already had a certain idea about what PhD dissertations meant whereas now post-grad students often have a hard time to complete a much simpler MA dissertation. We need to start helping them as soon as possible. Also gone are the times when one could/should wait to have a doctoral degree to start publishing. Competition is fierce. I myself ask my doctoral students to try to publish a first article in their first year. Soon, we might have to prepare MA students for this daunting task. If not undegrads.
Something else that came up over dinner: although I see many novelties in the quickly expanding field of Cultural Studies, with, say, the TV series of the day being the object of interest of unprejudiced young researchers, in general national conferences evidence a certain lack of imagination. What I mean is that the list of literary works on which research is done seems to have become fossilised in the last 20 years – this means that we, seniors, need to suggest new titles as this is our job. My uppermost worry, though, is what I call the constant rediscovery of garlic soup, by which I mean that too often young researchers, particularly pre-doctoral, tend to ignore the key bibliography of their field (MLA basics…) and seem to have discovered on their own primary texts already very well known. We had a person narrate Alien to us in a SF conference… and with no bibliography. This should change urgently.
Finally, I think ASYRAS should also teach young researchers to quote senior Spanish researchers –and we seniors (I count as senior after 20 years in the conference circuit) should also learn to do that and to acknowledge the research done by our peers on national territory but with totally proven international validity.
All my best wishes for the newly elected President of ASYRAS, Jimena Escudero Pérez. And all my help if you need it!!
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