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M4C CDA: Relational practices and the Tavistock Institute Archive: embodiment and social engagement

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees. Visit the M4C website for funding information.

Duration: Full time - up to four years

Application deadline: 12 January 2022

Interview dates: Interview date will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2022

To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Scott DeLahunta.

Image credit: TIHR 70th Anniversary Festival @ Swiss Church, London. Marking the opening up of the archive. Sam Nightingale.


The Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University is inviting applications for a Midlands4Cities (M4C) Collaborative Doctoral Award project, supervised by Professor Scott DeLahunta in collaboration with The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.


Coventry University is proud to be one of eight universities in the Midlands4Cities (M4C) Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Doctoral Training Partnership.

Find out more

Project details

This PhD project presents a unique opportunity to develop arts practice-led research based on the archives of the Tavistock Institute, an organisation with over seventy years supporting progressive social change in the UK and abroad. The collaboration with C-DaRE will engage the latest developments in dance research, particularly embodied methodologies.

Since 2015, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) has supported an innovative strand of work focussed on opening up its archive, a significant collection of documents reflecting the development of TIHR’s qualitative action-oriented social science, to new research interests. The archive constitutes an extraordinary record of social change in the UK and abroad over the last seventy years, offering deeply reflective commentaries and analyses of relational practices that bring together problem centred 20th century psychoanalytic thinking with more field-based social science. Examples of projects held within the archive include the Civil Resettlement Project (1942-7) supporting the transition of WW2 prisoners of war to civilian resettlement, and projects designing new care settings for the disabled e.g. Ministry of Health Disability Project (1965-7), Attitudes towards the Handicapped (1976-80) and Care for Carers (1987-8). By summer 2021, its ‘born digital' collection will bring the archive holdings up to 2006.

Opening the TIHR Archive is a programme focused on working with cultural practitioners to make sense of the archival material in the present day and bring this into a transformative relation with the Institute’s current projects. Within TIHR this has led to a new strand of work, Art and Organisation. This strand recognises the artist’s role as societal change agent and the value of new concepts and methods emerging from arts practice-led research that focus on the experiential dimension of social and human relations. These archives, currently housed in the Wellcome Collection Library, contain records that document the Institute’s unique multi-disciplinary approach to the study of relational practices (e.g., in community cohesion and organisational development). TIHR has been working with the archive since 2015, opening it up for outside researchers. Some of this work has experimented with creative modes of accessing the archival content including participatory site-specific performances with East-15 Acting School, the ‘Deepening Creative Practice’ learning programme and a series of public ‘Social Dreaming Matrices’. TIHR is committed to furthering this kind of experiential archival research as a dynamic, excavational process, exploring questions around relational practices, how they are created, learned and practised and their potential to catalyse new ways of knowing. This is particularly necessary in this time of profound epistemic re-organisation and the recognition of our interdependencies.

This project aims to extend this creative practice-led research in the TIHR archive through a focus on embodiment. The aim of collaborating with C-DaRE on this project is to engage with the latest developments in dance research, especially new transdisciplinary practice-led research into embodied modes of enquiry. Since its beginnings in the 1990s, practice-led research in dance has focused on the knowledge contribution of bodily practices and experience. This approach, which draws on current studies of the entanglement of perception and action, has now matured at C-DaRE where, rooted in dance research, embodied forms of enquiry are applied in the context of transdisciplinary projects. Further, recent advances in dance research in relation to its own history have revealed ways that experiential, embodied approaches can provide essential tools for accessing and studying the contents of dance archives. Pairing C-DaRE with TIHR lays an ideal foundation for this project to further develop such innovative archival and embodied methodologies.


This project is fully-funded, including Tuition Fee and Stipend/Bursary. Find out more on the M4C website.


The AHRC-funded Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (M4C) brings together eight leading universities across the Midlands to support the professional and personal development of the next generation of arts and humanities doctoral researchers.

It provides:

  • Studentship funding and enhanced support for professional training
  • Expert supervision within and across our dynamic mix of university partners
  • Networking and collaboration across the Midlands, nationally and internationally
  • Links to leading cultural organisations and creative economy partners
  • Midlands Arts Programme (MAP), an extensive range of training opportunities

Find out more on the M4C website.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Candidate specification

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD at Coventry University:

  • A bachelor’s (honours) degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum classification of 2:1 and a minimum mark of 60% in the project element (or equivalent), or an equivalent award from an overseas institution.
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • An adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by applicants whose first language is not English. The general requirement is a minimum overall IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four sections, or the TOEFL iBT test with a minimum overall score of 95 with a minimum of 21 in each of the four sections.

In addition

The candidate will access, analyse and interpret the TIHR archives through creative, embodied practices with the aim of activating new possibilities for learning about relational practices. While this project remains open to different research axes within this wider frame, it would suit a practitioner-researcher interested in developing new embodied methodologies for archival practice and in the socio-political potential of such methodologies for disrupting hegemonic narratives. Of particular interest would be archived organisational interventions that challenged attitudes in society such as those surrounding diversity, equality and accessibility, for example Attitudes towards the Handicapped (1976-80); Joint Enterprises in Social Services (1978-1984). A central focus could be on how embodied approaches might interact with and extend on this content.

How to apply

To find out more about the project, please contact Scott DeLahunta.

Please note

Candidates should apply to Coventry University and Midlands4Cities. Durther details of M4C requirements can be found on the M4C website.

All applications require full supporting documentation and a covering letter, plus a research proposal based within the selected theme/area of approx. 3000 words.

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