On the research side, I’m always surprised by the number of conferences and PG events we can take part in and how diverse they are

PhD student Amanda Tavares
Amanda Tavares
PhD Student
Contemporary art, women and the Mediterranean
Amanda is from Brazil and is a PhD student in the School of Languages and Cultures.
PhD student Amanda Tavares

Her research is on contemporary art, women and the Mediterranean, focusing on historical archives, transnationalism and fluid cartographies. She holds a B.A in Journalism from the State University of São Paulo (UNESP) and an Erasmus MUNDUS M.A in Comparative Literature, through which she studied in Lisbon (Portugal), Sheffield (UK) and Perpignan (France).

Why did you choose to study at the University of Sheffield?

Well, I studied half of my two-years Masters here and had a great experience, so it seemed like a logical thing to do. It was a lot easier to think about a research project with my supervisor because we already knew each other and we were very much aligned in terms of where it was going.

Also, after moving around every six months for two years I thought that going back to a place I already knew and felt welcomed in, would be a lovely way to settle down for a bit and focus on myself.

What made the University of Sheffield stand out for you?

I honestly can’t praise the staff enough. From visa issues to personal matters, I’ve always been effectively and kindly supported by everyone. Great library resources and the way working spaces are organised and distributed throughout the campus are also worth mentioning.

What do you particularly enjoy about your area of specialism? 

I’m not a big fan of how we fragment and pin down areas of knowledge, so I guess my favourite part about my project is that it is truly interdisciplinary! I’m working mainly with contemporary art, which is in itself a never-ending dialogue about multiple meanings and references.

My research involves my own perception of installations and space (which allows me to travel every now and then!), but also collages of images that are inevitably impacted by other people’s backgrounds and opinions as well.

I enjoy the fact that I can be more creative somehow with how I organise my texts and concepts, but without losing my critical eye or the scientific vibe that I should have with my PhD.

What are you currently researching as part of your PhD?

After writing on the French-Algerian artist Zineb Sedira for my MA, I realised that a lot of contemporary and transnational women artists are working around maps and the Mediterranean sea. I thought it was worth investigating where those references come from, what they challenge and what are the impacts of it, both inside and outside the art world.

I’m particularly interested in the use of installations as a democratic artistic space and the notions of power/representations that were inherited with the development of cartography. I intend to use the myth of Amphitrite, the Mediterranean sea goddess who was progressively erased from history, as a way to propose a more fluid archive that resonates with these migrant silenced voices.

How did the School of Languages and Cultures help support you through the whole process from application to settling in?

Everyone was just brilliant, really. The application can be quite a bureaucratic process, but I had so much admin support in terms of figuring out the forms and making my funding requests stronger.

My two supervisors were quite supportive of my ideas as well, leading me to the right path in thinking about possible research questions. I guess what made the biggest difference was simply how much people cared: answering emails quickly and politely, giving faces to names and being actively engaged with my project, actually listening to what I have to say and making me feel comfortable to ask questions whenever they arose.

Tell us about being a postgraduate in the School.

From a personal perspective, I really enjoy the students’ community. Not only I’m able to speak my beloved Portuguese and practice my still-developing French, but I’m also given the opportunity to travel to so many other countries through other students’ eyes.

During my masters, I would always work at the shared postgraduate area, and now I have my own desk in a shared space with other PhD students. It’s a lovely way to make friends, ask for advice on research bureaucracy, speak your mind about the political situation in your country or just rant about a date that didn’t go very well.

On the research side, I’m always surprised by the number of conferences and PG events we can take part in and how diverse they are. This is really important for me as it allows me to explore areas that are not under my ‘specialisms’ but that nonetheless could help me with new associations as I develop my research.

What do you know now about Sheffield that you didn’t know before you came here?

How vibrant the city and the people are! There’s always something nice (and different!) to do after work or during weekends and I feel everyone’s always open for a good chat, which made me feel very welcomed.

I’ve also learned to appreciate green spaces a lot more after living here, although I’m also a big fan of the re-appropriation of industrial spaces that’s been happening in the city over the past few years.

What are your plans after your PhD?

I just started, so I’m actually figuring out as I go! I would love to teach of course, but I’m also interested in working with museums and galleries in terms of arts education and curatorship.

The idea is to do that in Brazil in the future, let's see how it goes. I also have some personal projects that involve interviews that I would like to re-work on. Basically, anything that involves circulating the knowledge I’ve acquired to actually make a difference!

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