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2024 cohort of New Generation Thinkers announced by BBC and AHRC

From hundreds of applications, these ten New Generation Thinkers represent some of the best early career researchers in the country

L-R: Becca Voelcker, Emily Baughan, Jack Symes, Jacob Downs, Jade Cuttle, Janine Bradbury, Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, Jonathan Egid, Kirsty Sinclair Dootson, Shona Minson
L-R: Becca Voelcker, Emily Baughan, Jack Symes, Jacob Downs, Jade Cuttle, Janine Bradbury, Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, Jonathan Egid, Kirsty Sinclair Dootson, Shona Minson

We’re looking forward to working with ten of the most promising early-career academics. Each year the New Generation Thinker scheme brings radio production teams a wave of stimulating and thought-provoking contributors who have a passion for public engagement.

— Matthew Dodd, Commissioning Editor, Arts, BBC Radio 3 and 4

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 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the BBC. Every year, a nationwide search is held for the best new arts and humanities academics with ideas that will resonate with a wider audience on BBC radio. From hundreds of applications, these ten New Generation Thinkers represent some of the best early career researchers in the country. They will be given the opportunity to share their pioneering research with BBC Radio 4 listeners, as well as being provided with unique access to training and support from AHRC and the BBC.

The 2024 New Generation Thinkers will bring new insights into diverse topics, with research including the possible existence of the multiverse, the surprisingly dark history of Technicolor film, and the search for the greatest philosopher who never existed.

The names of the ten researchers were announced as part of a New Thinking episode of the Arts & Ideas podcast hosted by former New Generation Thinker Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough.

Professor Christopher Smith, AHRC Executive Chair says: “The New Generation Thinkers programme brings interesting, important ideas into the public consciousness, shaping thought and discussion.

“From fundamental questions about the nature of reality to how political propagandists harnessed the seductive power of Technicolor, and the impact of imprisonment on mothers and children, and the most challenging problems of our day, these are ideas of thrilling originality and importance.

“These ten brilliant, original thinkers demonstrate the ability of the arts and humanities to help us to better understand both ourselves and the world around us.”

Matthew Dodd, Commissioning Editor, Arts, BBC Radio 3 and 4, “We’re looking forward to working with ten of the most promising early-career academics. Each year the New Generation Thinker scheme brings radio production teams a wave of stimulating and thought-provoking contributors who have a passion for public engagement. After over a decade of successful partnership with BBC Radio 3, it’s great to be bringing their ideas to a new home of listeners on BBC Radio 4, the biggest speech radio station in the UK, where they’ll find a wide audience.”

About the 2024 cohort

Childcare: A History of Love and Work

Dr Emily Baughan, University of Sheffield

Dr Emily Baughan is interested in how children are cared for, and by whom. Her first book, Saving the Children, explored the origins of a global humanitarian movement focused on the very young. She is currently working on a new project, titled Childcare: A History of Love and Work.

Emily’s research into two centuries of childhood includes baby farms in Victorian London and children’s prison camps in colonial Kenya. She has examined the origins of international adoption, and radical feminist nurseries in 1970s Italy and the United States. She is currently writing about maternity care and childcare in present-day Britain.

Emily is a senior lecturer in history at the University of Sheffield.

Serving the Self: performance at work

Dr Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal, Queen Mary, University of London

For many of us, the demand to perform is now part of our working lives, from serving the customer in hospitality, to prioritising ‘soft skills’ in the office, to the way care is performed in education and health.

Dr Jaswinder Blackwell-Pal’s work explores how these imperatives to present certain feelings, characteristics or behaviours have become embedded within contemporary work. Combining her expertise in performance and actor training with accounts drawn from managers, customers and employees, her research asks why so much of modern work feels like putting on an act. Jaswinder is a lecturer in the Drama Department at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research has been published in Platform, The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, and in Bloomsbury’s History of Emotions series.

Reading, Sentimentality, and Empathy

Dr Janine Bradbury, University of York

Dr Janine Bradbury is an award-winning poet and critic. She is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Writing and Culture at the University of York. Janine completed a part-time PhD in African American women’s writing at the University of Sheffield (2008-2015).

Janine’s research and creative practice is wide-ranging. Her work on Grace Jones, American professional wrestling, passing-for-white, comedy, Toni Morrison, and motherhood has been published by Bloomsbury, Palgrave Macmillan, Routledge, the Guardian, the Young Vic Theatre, The Emma Press, Magma, and Oxford Poetry (and elsewhere). She has contributed to programmes on BBC Radio 4 (Woman’s Hour and Great Lives).

Her current work explores the relationship between love, feeling, and reading (words, people, situations). Her debut poetry pamphlet Sometimes Real Love Comes Quick & Easy (2024, ignitionpress) explores sentimentality.

Scriptocurrency: The New Language of Black British Nature Poets

Jade Cuttle, University of Cambridge

Jade Cuttle is an award-winning writer and AHRC-funded researcher at Cambridge, studying the coinings of British nature poets of colour. Applying her experience in metal detecting and mudlarking to the field of literature, she unearths evidence of shared currency and an overlooked tradition.

She is writing a book called Silthood, a term she coined to explore ancient connections to the earth. Supervised by Robert Macfarlane, her research precedes the publication of Nature Matters: New Poetries by Black and Asian Writers of the diaspora.

Jade won a ‘30 To Watch: Journalism Award’ for her Arts Commissioning Editor work at The Times, with televised appearances on BBC One, ITV and Look North. She’s also a historical reenactor, one of Britain’s first female warriors of colour.

Sound, listening and intimacy in everyday life

Dr Jacob Downs, University of Oxford

Everywhere you look, people are using intimate sound technologies to reshape and enrich their experiences of the world, surrounding themselves in the ‘bubbles’ of noise-cancelling headphones to listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and whispered pop vocals. Why are we seeking out intimate sound-worlds so much in the 21st century?

In his research, Dr Jacob Downs places contemporary listening under the microscope to investigate the effects of new sound media on our everyday lives.

Dr Jacob Downs is departmental lecturer in music at the University of Oxford, where he researches and lectures on topics in 20th- and 21st-century music and sound. He is currently writing two books (one on headphone listening, the other on environmentalist music) and articles on subjects ranging from AI-generated music to Beyoncé’s latest album.

In Search of Zera Yacob: The Greatest Philosopher Who Never Existed

Jonathan Egid, Kings College London

Philosophers often question the nature of being, but what about when the existence of the philosopher themself is in question? Jonathan Egid has spent the past few years digging through the archives on the trail of a brilliant and neglected thinker from 17th century Ethiopia, and the question of whether or not he existed. Exploring the philosophy and fraught politics of the Hatata Zera Yacob, a philosophical autobiography that may or may not be a forgery, his research examines the contemporary resonances of this enigmatic text for our age of violent conflict and explores the role it can play in debates about diversifying and decolonising philosophy. Jonathan Egid is a PhD candidate at King’s College London and a research fellow at the Freie Universität in Berlin. His essays on philosophy, history and literature appear regularly in the Times Literary Supplement, Aeon and elsewhere. He is currently working on two books – one on the Hatata Zera Yacob and another on Jewish life in postwar Poland. He also hosts the podcast and interview series ‘Philosophising In…’ on philosophy in lesser-studied languages.

Peeling off motherhood

Dr Shona Minson, University of Oxford

Originally from Belfast, Dr Shona Minson is an award-winning criminologist at the University of Oxford, whose first career as a family and criminal barrister led her to explore families and punishment. Shona is a unique voice and a leading authority on how to do justice better for women and their children. She contributes regularly to public conversations about the wider consequences of punishment, and women’s justice issues. Her innovative short films based on interviews with children, mothers and grandmothers affected by maternal imprisonment, changed legal professional practice in the UK and overseas. Her first book highlighted the lack of concern given to children whose mothers are imprisoned and the next examines the impact on society when the motherhood of criminalised women is disregarded.

The Dark Side of the Rainbow

Dr Kirsty Sinclair Dootson, University College London

Dr Kirsty Sinclair Dootson is interested in the politics of making images in colour. Exploring the raw ingredients, labour and technologies that go into making colourful images, her research asks: can colour be immoral? Dangerous? Bad for the environment? She asks: is there a dark side of the rainbow? From Technicolor musicals to Instagram, her work helps us understand how colours that appear to be frivolous distractions might also harbour deep political power.

Dr Kirsty Sinclair Dootson is a lecturer in film and media at UCL. She received her PhD in Film Studies and History of Art from Yale University. Her award-winning book The Rainbow’s Gravity reveals how modern colour media technologies transformed the way Britain saw itself and its empire. She currently co-convenes the AHRC research network ’Bombay Film Colour’.

Exploring the Multiverse

Dr Jack Symes, Durham University

Jack Symes is a public philosopher and researcher at Durham University. His public work explores all areas of philosophy, whilst his academic research lies at the intersection of metaphysics and religion. Jack’s current project investigates the multiverse: whether our universe exists as one among many and, if so, the significance of our place within it.

Jack is the host of The Panpsycast Philosophy Podcast, one of the UK’s most popular philosophy programmes. He also edits Bloomsbury’s Talking about Philosophy book series, which features contributions from the field’s leading thinkers. Jack’s books include Philosophers on Consciousness: Talking about the Mind (2022), Philosophers on God: Talking about Existence (2024), and Defeating the Evil-God Challenge: In Defence of God’s Goodness (2024).

Moving Images: Picturing Crises Differently

Dr Becca Voelcker from Goldsmiths, University of London

In a contemporary media landscape saturated by divisive representations of social and ecological crises, Dr Becca Voelcker’s research explores artistic and filmic responses and tries to stimulate visual literacy. Becca lectures in art and film history at Goldsmiths, University of London, specialising in representations of land since the 1970s. Becca received her PhD from Harvard University in 2021. She is currently writing her first book, a cross-cultural history of eco-political cinema based in ten locations including Wales, where Becca grew up, and Japan, where she lived as a young adult. Alongside research, Becca writes for Sight & Sound and Frieze, introduces films at the BFI, and serves on film festival juries.

About the New Generation Thinkers scheme

Every year, the BBC 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 best 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.

The New Generation Thinker scheme has been running since 2011 with over 100 academics having passed through it. New Generation Thinkers alumni include Shahidha Bari, Laurence Scott, Nandini Das, Noreen Masud, Alexandra Harris, Daisy Hay, Islam Issa, Leah Broad, Diarmuid Hester, Elsa Richardson, Preti Taneja, Christopher Harding, Christina Faraday, Sandeep Parmar, and Catherine Fletcher, who have gone on to publish for broad audiences outside of academia. Other alumni who have hosted broadcasts and podcasts include Fern Riddell, Xine Yao, Sean Williams, Dina Rezk, John Gallagher, Jade Munslow Ong, Joan Passey, Susan Greaney, Naomi Paxton, Sophie Coulombeau, Louise Creechan, Christienna Fryar, and Alexandra Reza.

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 BBC radio, where they will appear and take part in discussions during the year.

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