The current committee
Passionate about popular culture
Rhys James Jenkins
I’m the University of Birmingham’s foremost Lovecraftian Scholar, active in fields that bridge Classical Reception and the Gothic tradition. My current project examines the existential horror of H.P. Lovecraft and the Classical references found within his xenophobic expressions and alt-right ideology. I’m also the sole Articles Editor for the 50th Anniversary issue of the ‘Rosetta Journal’.
Director and Events Manager
My research focuses on the evolution of the ‘next human’ as represented in science-fiction literature. I focus on three key authors of science-fiction trilogies between 1985-2020: Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Margaret Atwood. The project analyses how the representation of genetic change complicates or changes species identity. Species identity consists of symbiogenesis, tribal essentialism, and hybridity. My research intersects with Posthumanism through her analysis of the representation of post-human species and their relationships to humans and their environment. I have a special interest in the ways in which non-human, subhuman, inhuman, human, transhuman, and posthuman creatures are represented in popular science-fiction, gothic, and horror genres.
Event and Publicity Manager
I have worked in commercial immersive performances for over a decade with a particular specialism in horror. This has taken me from co-developing Europe's first horror camping event to directing the first Halloween event for adults at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, to spooky GCSE booster TIE events, to standing outside getting cold and wet on many October nights. My research is also in this area, with a particular emphasis on how effective performances are spectated and how they can challenge or augment our sense of identity. Other projects have involved investigating why dolls and clowns are so scary in a live environment. I lecture in Oldham and Blackpool in acting and performance, and previously Programme led the BA (Hons) Acting degree at Blackpool & the Fylde College.
Despite the proliferation of queer romances in the twenty-first century and growing interest in queer theory and culture, there has been no full-length exploration of how this traditionally heterosexual genre has been queered. My thesis seeks to address this oversight by exploring how queer romance novels portray, produce and engage with queerness both within the texts and as a publishing ecosystem.
Equality and Diversity Policy
The MNPC is an interdisciplinary group of students and researchers working within the sphere of popular culture. We aim to build an inclusive community throughout the Midlands whose areas of interest pertain, however broadly, to the study of popular culture, whether mainstream or alternative. In particular, we want to create a safe space for the research of popular culture regardless of the researcher's age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
All our meetings and events are currently held digitally to make them accessible to people regardless of location or physical disability. Online conferences also remove the need for travel and accommodation, which drives down our costs but also enables those with a lower socio-economic status to participate.
Zoom has a number of accessibility functions, including closed captions for the hard of hearing and the facility to record presentations. With speakers’ and participants' consent, we record talks and sessions for later access. For those with accessibility needs or less familiarity with online platforms, we will offer guidance documents (with written advice and screenshots) for the use of Zoom.
Given the extra responsibilities that many people (and disproportionately women/non-binary people) face in terms of caring, parenting, and precarious work, we will offer the option for delegates to pre-record their presentations if they are unable to attend the full event in real-time due to such obligations. Using Zoom, the event hosts can play pre-recorded presentations on behalf of speakers.
Our Network is open to anyone working, however broadly, in the field of popular culture regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, gender, socio-economic background, nationality, university, or area of study. We aim to organise a range of events and activities to suit the interests and meet the needs of a wide variety of people studying popular culture (whether mainstream or alternative).
Our Network should be open to new ideas, and particularly prioritise opportunities for members to share their research with one another. Our events last year were not as diverse as they should have been and in response, the Network created the HR management role and adopted this policy with the aim of diversifying our events to give marginalised researchers a platform.
As such during the transition between committees, it is the responsibility of the outgoing committee to review their commitment to this promise and recommend ways for the new committee to improve in the next year.
Inclusion and Respect
Every member, speaker, or attendee should be made to feel equally welcome and included at all Midlands Network of Popular Culture events.
Sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, or otherwise offensive and inflammatory remarks and behaviour are not acceptable. These constitute harassment and have no place in the Network, which has a zero-tolerance policy.
Before each event we will share a code of conduct with all attendees, which will be reiterated by organisers during the events, outlining the necessity for respectful discourse and our lack of tolerance for any forms of harassment or discrimination.
At each of our events, we also offer a content warning system, asking speakers to provide details of any sensitive material covered in their papers and flagging this before the presentations. Additionally, event hosts will liaise with speakers pre-event/forums to identify any need for specific in-presentation warnings (for violence/non-consensuality, for example). The host will then advise that attendees may wish to mute their audio during these specific segments. A signal will be used to identify the start and end of triggering content.
Dealing with Discrimination and Harassment
If any individual feels they have been discriminated against by the Network or harassed at a Network event, they should raise this with the committee’s Resource Manager (Lucy Hargrave).
The committee will investigate the complaint, listening to all members involved. If the complaint is against a committee member, that member will not be part of conducting the investigation.
If the complaint is against a particular individual, this person will have the opportunity to express their point of view, accompanied by a friend. The person making the complaint will also have this opportunity.
If the complaint is against the Network as a whole, the Committee must work to ensure that such discrimination is not repeated in the future, and must inform the members of how they propose to do this.
The Network will support people who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against, and will not victimise or treat them less well because they have raised this.
This policy was adopted at a meeting of the MNPC committee on 17/06/2021, and will be reviewed yearly.
Co-Director Signature: Rhys James Jenkins (electronic signature)
Co-Director Signature: Jayde Martin (electronic signature)
HR Manager Signature: Lucy Hargrave (electronic signature)