Two Oxford academics have been selected as this year's New Generation Thinkers by BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
Eleanor Lybeck and Thomas Simpson are among ten early career researchers selected by an expert panel, after a nationwide search for the best academic ideas to be shared through broadcast. They will have the opportunity to make programmes for BBC Radio 3 and other outlets.
Eleanor Lybeck is a lecturer in English in the Faculty of English Language and Literature and Trinity College. Her research is on the history and practice of popular performance from the turn of the 19th century, including the story of her great-grandfather who made his name as a stage clown and joined the D’Oyly Carte company performing around the world in comic operas.
When Eleanor’s father disappeared from her own life in 1993 he took with him the remnants of her great-grandfather’s career, which she has now recovered and stitched together to tell the tale of this once celebrated and now forgotten figure of the theatre. She has explored how the circus has been a theme running through Irish culture. Her new project will explore how contemporary political rhetoric has, since Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, appealed to voters through literary and cultural allusion.
She says: 'I’ve been researching the biography of my great-grandfather, the comic actor and patter baritone Albert James, for more than a decade. In that time, I’ve told his story and the story of the marvellous worlds in which he moved at the turn of the nineteenth century through poetry, creative non-fiction, and theatre itself. Becoming one of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers is such an exciting opportunity, as it’s a chance for me to reintroduce Albert and other once famed, now forgotten stars of Edwardian London’s theatreland to an international audience.'
Tom Simpson is a lecturer in Philosophy and Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government. He is engaged on research into trust; how it works, what is its significance in society and how cultures of trust can be restored. As a former officer with the Royal Marines Commandos he also worked on the ethics of war, exploring the intersection of war and technology. This includes the ethics of lethal automated weapons and surveillance and how this raises political questions far deeper than those considered in the public debate up to now such as what liberty is and why it matters.
He says: ‘I’m delighted by the chance that being one of BBC Radio 3’s New Generation Thinkers gives to explore some of the deeper issues behind the headlines. Trust has steadily declined in the last decades, and this is affecting our economy, our politics, and life in local communities. I’m interested in how we can restore trust. As a former Royal Marine, I’m also concerned by questions around how the military and security agencies use technologies like artificial intelligence and the internet. Some of these questions are new, and others are as old as philosophy.'
Previously Oxford winners include Leah Broad, Kylie Murray, Daniel Lee, Will Abberley, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough and Jonathan Healey.