Reflections on PhD by Rhett D’Costa

* Click on the red time-stamp to go directly to each segment in the video

00:04 Introduction to the talk

01:54 Beginning to see the research in the work (Methodology)

02:43 First work examined (Project narrative)

03:22 Seeking/receiving feedback (Practice narrative)

04:18 Part One: The five things I worried the most over at the start (Practice narrative)

06:22 Slides: Answers to the five concerns

07:46 Research questions come at the end (Methodology)

08:56 Part Two: What became clear as I progressed through the PhD - (Methodology)

09:07 Slide: ‘Why doesn’t someone just tell me how to do this properly so I can get on with it.’ (Structuring)

10:17 Slide: The studio is central to the practice (Practice methods)

11:00 Testing the Exhibition in advance (Structuring / Methodology)

12:12 Slide: Finding your ‘new knowledge’ and ‘your voice’ (Differentiating / Situating)

14:46 Using different voices in the writing (Practice narrative)

15:20 Explaining (to the examiners) what the dissertation comprises (Structuring)

16:00 Chapter headings as an explanation of above (Structuring)

16:58 Slide: Do it your way (Structuring / Methodology)

18:40 A structuring diagram is shown and explained (Structuring / Methodology)

16:58 End

View the full dissertation


The primary research for my PhD is a series of artworks, which seek to contribute to current discourse relating to culturally composite ethnicities, specifically, the Anglo Indian community, in the context of place, belonging and identity. The artworks draw on my personal experiences as an Anglo Indian, and may be described as autoethnographic, highlighting the often precarious, shifting social and political circumstances and predicaments associated with mixed race communities.

A range of attitudinal and creative strategies, including the poetic, ironic, ambivalent and humorous, are used to develop a series of multidisciplinary artworks that utilise a wide range of materials and forms.

The research explores the Anglo Indian’s dual ethnicity, revealing uncertainty contained in the indeterminate space of the Anglo Indian and the conflicting and often discursive position of being both compatible and incompatible with aspects of Indian and British cultures. Place and home for the Anglo Indian has often been contested in terms of belonging and being, by Anglo Indians themselves and by the British, Europeans and Indians.

Given that Anglo Indians are a direct consequence of the British imperial encounter in India, the research draws on early historical colonial encounters, to present postcolonial discourses particularly in the humanities and social sciences, and on future considerations, imaginings and possibilities for the community. Rather than being subsumed into European and Indian history, misrepresented, or worse, being written out of history altogether, members of the Anglo Indian community have maintained a strong desire and conviction to narrate their own stories to determine and engage with their developing and evolving sense of a cultural identity in a global and cosmopolitan world.

The word ‘shimmer’ in the title (Shimmering Spaces: Art and Anglo Indian Experiences ) examines this space of instability, fracture and unsettledness, as both material and metaphor in the artworks. Rather than determining the space Anglo Indians occupy as binary or oppositional, I claim this unstable space to be an ameliorative, shimmering experience: one which is mesmerising and optimistic, and simultaneously precarious because of its state of fracture. It is in this very state of unsettledness and fluidity where the third space of the Anglo Indian can be inscribed, enunciated and articulated, in spite of their complex history, which brought together in union, coloniser and colonised, sometimes deliberately, sometimes antagonistically and sometimes strategically.

This research puts forwards its primary enquiry of how a space of ‘in-betweenness’ can emerge in the context of place, belonging and identity in the context of contemporary fine art, and how Anglo Indian identity emerges, evolves and shifts in the context of nationalism, culture, community, history and location.


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