My Research in a Nutshell – A Student Activity Powered by Pecha Kucha — English

In the last few years a new type of presentation format reflecting the rhythm of our busy modern societies was created: the Pecha Kucha! In 2003, an architect group located in Tokyo, Japan, noticed that speakers tended to get lost in their communication, rendering a hard-to-follow and long presentation. The group thus decided not only to limit the time of the presentations but also the content. The basic rule is simple: each speaker must present their research in 20 images shown for 20 seconds for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds of presentation. Speakers must then synthetize their ideas and present it in a clear and concise way.

My Research in a Nutshell

Pecha Kucha is an interesting platform since it allows for the presentation of one’s research in a concise format and in an environment meant to be less formal than regular sessions. Indeed, presenters can introduce research whatever its state: the topic, a literature review, methodology, preliminary results, etc. Additionally, not only is Pecha Kucha a perfect medium for dissemination, but it is also a great time to collaboratively brainstorm as it is followed with a period of interaction with the audience!

We invite all interested students and young professionals to register to the “My research in a nutshell” session organised for the 2014 SHA conference to be held in Quebec City, Canada. Whatever your topic and the state of your research you are more than welcome to present it and discuss it with others. Remember that you do not need results to present in our version of the Pecha Kucha! Registration is simple: send your name, affiliation and the title/topic of your presentation (no need for an abstract) to Acceptation will be based on a first-come first-served basis so do not wait too long!

Make sure to check out the next post for another new and exciting activity for students!

My Research in a Nutshell – A Student Activity Powered by Pecha Kucha — Français

Au cours des dernières années, l’univers des communications a vu l’apparition d’un nouveau format de présentation qui reflète bien le rythme effréné de nos sociétés contemporaines : le Pecha Kucha! Le concept même du Pecha Kucha a été initié en 2003 à Tokyo au Japon dans une firme d’architecture, où il avait été observé que les présentateurs se perdaient facilement dans leurs propos, rendant la présentation longue et parfois difficile à suivre. Un concept efficace et dynamique destiné à limiter le discours dans l’espace et le temps afin d’éviter les tirades interminables a alors été élaboré. La règle fondamentale est bien simple : chaque présentateur doit aborder son sujet par le biais de 20 images présentées pendant 20 secondes chacune, pour un total de 6 minutes 40 secondes de présentation. Ainsi, cela oblige le conférencier à synthétiser sa pensée et à la présenter de manière claire et concise.

Pecha Kucha

Pour les étudiants et les jeunes professionnels, le Pecha Kucha constitue un médium intéressant, puisqu’il permet de présenter un projet de recherche dans un cours laps de temps et dans un environnement qui se veut décontracté et ouvert aux échanges entre participants. Peu importe l’état d’avancement de votre projet, vous pouvez présenter votre sujet, votre problématique ou vos résultats, tout en acquérant une expérience dans la communication de vos recherches. Par ailleurs, le Pecha Kucha n’est pas seulement une vitrine, il est aussi une plate-forme de rencontre, de découverte et de réflexion puisqu’une période d’interaction avec le public suit chacune des présentations.

Nous invitons donc tous les étudiants intéressés à s’inscrire à la session  « My research in a nutshell » organisée dans le cadre du prochain colloque de la SHA qui aura lieu à Québec en janvier 2014. Peu importe votre discipline ou votre sujet de recherche, venez profiter de ce cadre informel pour présenter vos recherches et discuter avec les autres étudiants et chercheurs. N’oubliez pas qu’il n’est pas nécessaire d’avoir des résultats pour venir présenter dans le cadre du Pecha Kucha. L’inscription est simple, il suffit de transmettre votre nom, votre affiliation et le titre ou le sujet de votre présentation (aucun résumé nécessaire) à : L’acceptation des présentation sera basée sur l’ordre de réception des propositions, donc n’hésitez pas trop longtemps avant de vous inscrire!

Restez à l’affût du prochain “post” pour une autre nouvelle activité pour les étudiants!

An Interview with Dr. Liza Gijanto, 2012 Kathleen Kirk Gilmore Dissertation Award Recipient

Students are an important component of the Society for Historical Archaeology, representing the future of the organization. The Society provides opportunities for professional growth for students in historical archaeology. Each year, the Kathleen Kirk Gilmore Dissertation Award Subcommittee honors a student who makes an outstanding contribution to historical archaeology. In her dissertation Change and the Era of the Atlantic Trade: Commerce and Interaction in the Niumi Commercial Center (The Gambia), this year’s winner, Dr. Liza Gijanto, takes a diachronic look at the impact of the Atlantic trade on the Gambia River. Dr. Gijanto completed her dissertation at Syracuse University, under the direction of Christopher DeCorse. To highlight her contributions and learn more about her work, I interviewed Dr. Gijanto on behalf of the Academic and Professional Training Student Sub-committee. Via email she answered some questions, explaining her perspective and sharing her experiences with current students.

What is your dissertation topic?

My research focuses on the nature of the impact of the Atlantic trade on the coastal Gambian polity of Niumi from the late 17th into the early 19th century. Niumi was the first point of contact for European powers trading along the river and was the Atlantic era commercial center. I examine local responses to increased commerce on the Gambia River tied to the opening of trans-Atlantic trade, situated in a long-term study comparing this period to pre-Atlantic and colonial settings. The Atlantic trade created a multi-ethnic setting where Mande, European, and Luso-African traders interacted on a daily basis through social, political, and economic exchanges. My approach incorporates theories of everyday life, value, and taste examining day-to-day happenings within the scope of larger events such as the opening and closing of the Atlantic trade.

When did you first become interested in your topic and why?

As an undergraduate, I became interested in the Atlantic world through my history courses, and Africa after taking a historical archaeology course taught by Carmel Schrire. I decided that I wanted to work in West Africa on this period, but I did not know exactly where until my master’s advisor Kevin MacDonald was driving me to the airport to go to Syracuse to begin my Ph.D. He asked if I had decided on an area yet for my dissertation, and I told him that I had promised my mom I would only go places that were not dangerous. He said, “I know the perfect place no one is working in The Gambia.” So I went, and thus far it has worked out well.

Remains of the former British trading house at Juffure (Photo by Liza Gijanto).

How do you feel your work is relevant to contemporary communities?

Before I began reading academic and historical accounts of The Gambia, all I really knew about it was from Alex Haley’s novel Roots. When I first got there, I was not prepared for how engrained this story had become in the Gambian national identity, and specifically in Juffure and Albreda where I was living and working. Juffure is the village where Kunta Kinte is from in the novel. From the beginning, my work necessarily took on a heritage/community engagement aspect independent of my dissertation. I was able to help with public education days, and set up an exhibit for the Roots Homecoming Festival. I have also assisted in site preservation and interpretative efforts at James Island and in the capital of Banjul, which was established by the British to block the slave trade. The Gambia has had a unique relationship with the broader Atlantic World and the country has had a number of opportunities to really develop their sites, and present this past for heritage tourists. I am lucky that my research can be of use in this area, and that the National Centre for Arts and Culture in The Gambia has been receptive of my findings and involved me in many of their own projects.

What tips do you have for students identifying, working on, and finishing research?

This is really important. I received really great guidance from my undergraduate professors regarding graduate school. I was encouraged to take a year off working in CRM before going to graduate school and my various bosses and co-workers also influenced my decisions about projects and graduate school. I think it is important for anyone considering going into a Ph.D. program to first take some time off and work in the real world on a number of CRM projects. Everything I learned about managing a site, designing paperwork, all the basic management skills you do not get in a field school I got from CRM. I was hired as a staff member for the Feltville Archaeology Field School run by Matt Tomaso in Union, New Jersey and got to see the other side of a field school before taking on all the responsibility of its management myself. He really emphasized teaching skills students would need for CRM and involving all staff and students in all levels of the project. I do not think I could have gone out and excavated the sites I did and manage a local crew as well as field schools students in The Gambia without this experience. It is the kind of learning you cannot get in graduate school, but should have before starting your own project.

The other important thing to know early on is if you even need to excavate to answer your research question. There are so many collections housed in facilities in the US and abroad that could provide some really interesting information. I have a number of friends that have gone this route, and their projects are just as exciting and relevant as those that undertake excavation. I think there is a misconception that everyone has to find “their” site in order to be successful, but that is not the case anymore. What you really need is experience on a range of sites.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the research process, and especially writing the actual dissertation. I had a supportive and engaged advisor that made the process flow more smoothly. In graduate school your relationship with and advisor and the faculty is crucial. In addition to this, having a strong cohort or group of graduate students at the same stage of the program with you is important. No one I know finished their dissertation at the exact time they planned or had a field experience that exactly matched their proposal. Things happen, and you often end up going to Plan C. If you have friends to help you figure things out who are going through the same thing, the process is a bit more bearable and even enjoyable.

What are current or future plans for your work?

I began working at a trading site on the south bank of the river in 2010 in order to gain a broader understanding of the trade on the river outside the formal commercial center. I am also working in the Gambian capital Banjul to help prepare for the city’s 200th anniversary in 2016.

What impacts do you foresee or hope for?

One of my goals is to assist the Gambian National Center for Arts and Culture to develop archaeological protocol and to find and train Gambians to implement this. As of now there are no Gambian archaeologists.

For my research, I hope that this works adds to our understanding of the Atlantic experience in West Africa. I consider my research to be part of African Atlantic studies and Atlantic studies more broadly, not just focused one West Africa or The Gambia. I hope this work proves useful for those working with Diaspora communities as well.

Is there anyone who you did not get a chance to thank who you would like to now?

I have had a really great transition from graduate school into a tenure-track position that would not have been possible without the continued help of my advisors, and the support of my new colleagues.

Fattatenda trading site adjacent to the Gambia River (Photo by Liza Gijanto).

Dr. Gijanto is a faculty member at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Non-student members of the SHA may nominate members who have defended their dissertations and received their PhDs within approximately three years of the award. Recent winners of the dissertation award include Gerard Chouin (2011), Meredith Lynn (2010), and Neil L. Norman (2009). To learn more, visit the SHA home page.