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Discussing matters of legitimacy: When your dissertation paper hits too close to home

Written by Ilham Lamrani

            Upon starting their master’s degree, students face a variety of issues, one of them being: what is their dissertation going to be about? Having to find something to write and read up on for months can be very daunting. Teachers usually advise students to work on something they are particularly interested in, since they will be spending hours and hours on this paper. But that means they are left with the endless possibilities that come with the sentence “you can work on anything.” The latter is true, indeed… in theory. But they will have to pick a subject which will allow them to find enough primary sources to fuel their reflections. Once their choice is made, they can spend hours online, in a library or in a research center, looking for the document, the holy grail that will unlock (or not) the mystery of all their hypotheses.

            If, similarly to myself, they picked a topic that they love studying (in my case, African-American history – more precisely, the representation of African Americans in the US judiciary system), they will soon be confronted with important issues. First: isn’t this topic too personal? As academics in training, students are expected to never lack objectivity in regard to their work. Therefore, they need to have (and maintain) a certain distance in what they write within their dissertations. Since I work on race-related issues, I have to read, watch and listen to very provocative materials – some documents deal with police brutality, slavery, rape… All of this made me question my work due to the latter’s emotional impact: would I truly be able to do this?

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Mixing Asian and English studies: is that possible?

Even though it is not mandatory, the best way to achieve a satisfying piece of work is to find a subject that is both motivating for the student and relevant for a master’s thesis. However, one needs to be careful not to be carried away by their affinity with their subject, since it can also be a trap. Emotions can influence one’s work and as a result a student may end up lacking objectivity. Nonetheless, combining various hobbies or even aspects in one’s paper remains a possibility: the key is to find the proper way to link them together, although sometimes it can be difficult to achieve. Read more!

LERMAsteriales 2018 : Révolution(s)

This year, the 7th edition of the LERMAsteriales was embedded in a specific context defined by student protest movements. The day before, a blockade had been organised in the Guyon Lecture Hall to oppose the ORE Act. How fitting a context to hold a study day revolving around the theme of Revolution(s). Once again, linking our research projects with this year’s theme was the major concern for us students, and once again the answer lay in the division of the guiding theme into seven sub-themes, each one being associated with a panel. Read more!

How Did Charles Burton Barber Showcase Victorian Identity Through His Paintings?

The 19th century, often remembered as the Victorian Era, is known for the drastic changes that took place in British society. With the industrial revolution, the ancestral feudal system had been shattered and new classes emerged. The new and increasingly powerful working and middle classes wanted to climb the social ladder of a very hierarchical society in order to share the same values and lifestyles than the upper-classes. These aspirational ideals inspired many artists who started to paint traditional images of Victorian life. Read more!

LERMAsteriales 2017: Rémanences

Julia Bongiorno and Nicolas Locks

Both feared and longed-for by the Master students, the LERMAsteriales are study days organized by the students themselves, with an audience comprising academics and fellow students. This year’s guiding theme for the 6th edition of the event was ‘Rémanences’, which could be translated, remanence or retentivity. It goes without saying that the topic in itself was not an easy task to deal with. However, due to the numerous interpretations of the term, the papers were varied and truly interesting. Read more!

Brussels Book Fair

The Brussels Book Fair that took place from 9th to 13th of March 2017 is one of the major national events for French-speaking publishing houses. For visitors, it is a unique chance to buy all kinds of books in the same place: everything from the classics to children’s literature including crime novel, romance and detective novels, comics or even specialized works on architecture, photography or translation. Visitors also have the chance to participate in seminars on various topics: creative writing workshops, conferences on the book industry, the role of France within the E.U., the role of women within children’s literature etc. Yet more importantly, this book fair is a unique chance for editors and publishing houses to make a name for themselves. Read more!