In conversation with Professor Daniela Berghahn

Daniela’s background

Daniela Berghahn studied at the University of Cologne in Germany and at Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She worked as a strategic planner in a top London advertising agency and taught at the University of Cambridge and Oxford Brookes University before joining the Media Arts Department at Royal Holloway in 2006. Her research and teaching interests include (trans)national cinema, migrant and diasporic cinema in Europe, German film history and culture, the relationship between film, history and memory discourse and representations of the family in cinema.

Among Daniela’s research awards is a 2010 AHRC Research Fellowship ‘The Diasporic Family in Cinema’. The project examined the representation of families with a migratory background and focused on the most established diasporic film cultures in Europe (Maghrebi French, Black British, Asian British and Turkish German cinema) from the mid-1980s to the present. Between 2006 and 2008 Daniela led on an international Research Network on Migrant and Diasporic Cinema in Contemporary Europe, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council as part of the Diasporas, Migration & Identities Strategic Programme. The Network brought together researchers, filmmakers, policy makers and representatives from the cultural sector. It explored how the films of migrant and diasporic filmmakers have redefined our understanding of European identity as constructed and narrated in European cinema.

Most recently in 2013 Daniela joined the international research network Screening European Heritage, led by Professor Paul Cooke (University of Leeds) and Professor Rob Stone (University of Birmingham) funded by the AHRC under the Care for the Future programme. She is currently investigating films that imagine the cultural memory of migration in terms of heritage aesthetics.

One of Daniela’s ambitions, as part of her public engagement work, is to persuade the BBC or the West German Broadcasting (WDR) to make a documentary about representations of immigrant families in cinema and to investigate how these films intervene in public debates about immigration and cultural diversity.

Being a peer reviewer

Daniela joined the AHRC Peer Review College (PRC) on 1 April 2012. She believes that being a PRC member enables her give something back to the research community, to get involved and to help with this type of work. Daniela said: I feel that PRC members have an opportunity to help steer things and to influence decisions, which is very attractive to me, in particular, at a time when higher education and research is facing major funding challenges. She expects that gaining insight into what makes a really good application would stand her in good stead when mentoring junior colleagues at Royal Holloway and when putting together large grant applications herself. She is planning to do more collaborative work and anticipates that meeting colleagues from the PRC would help in terms of networking and making new contacts.

Daniela, who is leading the impact strategy of the Media Arts Department at Royal Holloway for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, recognises the crucial significance of impact and commented: These are hard times for Arts & Humanities (A&H), because even though the social benefits of A&H research are clear to see there is a ‘crisis of legitimisation’. So demonstrating how research impacts on and benefits society more widely is very important for us as researchers and for the AHRC.

Finally, on the subject of what expectations she has of being a PRC member, Daniela mentioned that she expects to enhance her skills as a reviewer and to learn strategies for processing large numbers of applications.