Professor Rosalind Galt
Professor of Film Studies
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
My mother was a feminist and a trade unionist, so it made sense that I developed an interest in gender and politics. But where she loved the cut and thrust of local politics, I was a bit of an outsider and oriented to subcultural spaces. I found radical and compelling visions of other places and forms of being in my local arthouse cinema, and became fascinated with film’s capacity to imagine completely different worlds. Film Studies appealed as a discipline that thinks about culture aesthetically, politically, and internationally.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My research addresses the intersections of film and geopolitics, especially questions of sexuality, gender, and the transnational. Although I maintain an interest in popular cinema, I work often on non-mainstream film. In terms of my personal formation, I could probably point to early engagements in LGBT activism, the anti-apartheid movement, and campaigns against Third World debt, developing a queer and internationalist pespective that ran alongside my education in world cinemas and the avant garde. I became increasingly interested in how films intervene in shaping and often contesting the world through their forms, pleasures, and emotional resonances.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
My second book, Pretty: Film and the Decorative Image was awarded the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies prize for best book of the year. The book traces a history of dismissing the ‘merely pretty’ across Western aesthetics and into world cinema, arguing that this way of thinking is misogynist, homophobic, and colonialist. It was brilliant to be recognised by my peers, and especially for what had been a huge and rather polemic project.
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I’m lucky that the generation of film scholars ahead of me was largely defined by brilliant women who insisted that feminism was a sine qua non of the highest-level thought in the discipline. They radically changed how we think about film and visual cultures while at the same time they often had to fight to create space in the academy for the study of popular culture.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
Nothing has benefitted me more significantly than the world-class free education I was entitled to as an undergraduate. Moreover, my PhD was supported by the state in a way that is now still possible but vanishingly rare. The loss of this crucial principle has not stopped angering me.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
Academia can be porous: the line between professional and personal networks is not clear and my love for cinema doesn’t end when I come home from work. This porosity can be one of the great joys of an academic career, allowing me to work on things I care passionately about and to forge friendships through working on film cultures. At the same time, it’s psychologically important to have some ways to disengage completely. I like cooking, strength training, and travelling, all of which engage the body and the senses as much as the mind.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King's?
It’s a cliché to point to students as the most rewarding aspect of working at King’s but it’s also completely true. Every semester, when I see what my students’ final projects are, I am excited by their ambition and originality. Going well beyond the parameters of what I’ve taught them, they engage with current events, uncover rare and unsung filmmakers, and dig deep into complex critical problems. It’s especially rewarding to see students go on to do such diverse and interesting things – I love to keep in touch and see where they go.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
It’s increasingly hard to balance these demands as workloads rise, and the solutions are often not individual but institutional. As Head of Department, I have prioritised workload balance, aiming to ensure colleagues have time to teach brilliantly rather than being overstretched. The Faculty plays a huge role too, with supportive policies on teaching and research time. For myself, I use time-management software to try to keep on top of admin, while committing proper stretches of time to research travel and teaching development.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Younger scholars are often pressured to produce too much research that ends up being superficial. My mentors taught me to focus on the quality of the work and to aim high and I think that advice has stood me in good stead. I also recommend cats.