Outposts of Conquest: the History and Legacy of the Fortresses of the Steppe and the Sahara in Comparative perspective (1840s to today)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Languages Cultures Art History & Music

Abstract

Overly-theoretical interpretations of European imperialism sometimes lead historians to forget the realities of colonial expansion and rule. This project seeks to correct this imbalance by looking at one of the most visible expressions of imperial power: the fortresses which proved to be key to the actual control of the lands coveted by Russia in Central Asia ('Great Game') and France in the Sahara ('Scramble for Africa'). The extension of lines of communication is a major weakness of conquering armies, especially when they operate in vast and sparsely populated areas such as the steppe or the Sahara. Consequently, fortresses initially designed to allow troops to rest and resupply sheltered from local enemy forces could easily become administrative centres designed to project the might of the new masters and impress indigenous populations. However, this was not always the case: some simply fell into decay once the conquest had taken place, because they were no longer strategically important once positions elsewhere had been strengthened.

In Russia, the process began with the construction of the Irgiz and Turgai fortifications in 1845, in response to the revolt of the Kazakh leader Kenesary Kasimov. Fort Raim (1847) near the mouth of the Syr-Darya was the first fortress of what became known as the 'Syr-Darya Line' of fortifications stretching through Kazalinsk to Aq-Masjid, upon which the Russians attempted (unsuccessfully) to build a stable frontier over the next twenty years. Simultaneously they were building a 'Siberian Line' of forts in the east, stretching down from Semipalatinsk through Kopal to the valley of Almaty. In the early 1860s, the two lines of fortresses were united, culminating in the fall of Tashkent in 1865, which marked the beginning of a new phase of the conquest, as the Russians moved from the steppe into the riverine oases of Turkestan.

In Algeria, the French were initially reluctant to penetrate deeper into the Sahara desert, having long questioned the real value of their colony of Algeria. However, the constant need to protect existing settlements or local allies from dissident activity meant that by the early 1890s, the French had built their first Saharan forts along a line of key strategic oases which gave them some control over trans-Saharan trade routes. As the conquest of West Africa progressed, a series of new fortresses accompanied the gradual seizure of the last expanses of land which still evaded French control: territories traditionally controlled by the Chaamba were taken at the turn of the century (1899-1905), paving the way to the seizure of the lands of the most powerful 'warlords of the desert', the Tuaregs, from 1900 to 1916. French mastery of the Sahara was fully achieved in the 1920s and 30s, when the last posts were set up in the middle of the oceans of sand of the Erg Chech.

These two instances of Imperial expansion are the pre-eminent example of European Imperialism in nomadic societies, and two of the most important examples of European expansion in the Islamic world. Furthermore, they both represent the conquest of territory of marginal economic value to the conquering power, and thus offer an excellent opportunity of applying theories of Imperial expansion developed in the study of the British empire to less well-known cases.

This project assesses both the historical significance of these 'outposts of conquest', their place in post-colonial Central Asia and North Africa, where they still remain powerful symbolic reminders of the colonial past, and their relationship with a harsh environment. Despite their importance in the process of military expansion, these fortresses have never been the subject of an academic study, and this project will bridge a major historiographical gap. Combining archival research with physical and photographic surveys, it will produce a comparative analysis of the past development and modern legacies of two major imperial strategies.

Planned Impact

This project has the potential to attract the attention of a broad spectrum of the general British public, combining as it does the traditional appeal of themes related to imperialism, military history and cultural encounters, with the novelty of the case studies considered and the historical interest of fortresses as loci of power and control. In both cases these fortresses are situated in desert or semi-desert zones, which are amongst the first to be feeling the impact of climate change, exacerbated in the Kazakh case by the Aral Sea disaster. This project will allow the general public to see what desertification actually means in practice, by comparing 19th-century images with those from the present day. 2012 is the fiftieth anniversary of Algerian independence, which will be marked by public events across Algeria, France and the rest of the world. The year 2013 will be an appropriate moment to remember and reappraise the structures and processes of French Imperialism in the region, and to consider them alongside the competing Imperial projects of the British and Russians.
The cornerstone of the impact plan is the combination of powerful visual material with archival and analytical approaches, which will allow us to disseminate results to a much wider audience than is usual for academic research. The fortresses which form the focus of the project were physical expressions of empire, concrete structures of control whose remains are a powerful reminder of the reality of imperial power. Their visual appearance is often as eloquent as the written records they generated. Equally, the landscape and environment in which they were situated was one of the main determinants of the reach and effectiveness of Imperial power, and it is almost impossible to communicate this without images of the surrounding terrain. The main visual element will be a photographic exhibition composed of twenty-four billboard-size panels produced by Dr Sèbe, and which will allow us to employ his skills as a photographer to communicate a historical message through detailed captions that convey the academic findings of the project. Alongside these will be high-quality reproductions of selected maps, plans and other archival or literary material, with translations and interpretative commentary from the PI and CI. These high-impact enlargements will be complemented by a set of twelve smaller panels detailing the history of these fortresses, developing a comparative dimension between Russian and French imperialism (whilst also drawing some parallels with the British Empire), and presenting their place in modern-day Kazakhstan and Algeria. The exhibition is designed to circulate, with the first showings planned in Birmingham, Liverpool and Oxford, to be followed by other venues, including London and abroad, therefore ensuring that the exhibition is made available to a geographically and culturally diverse public.
Alongside the exhibition, the PI and CI will develop a schedule of illustrated lectures to a wide variety of audiences, whether in association with the exhibition showings, or as one-offs to provincial geographical societies, the Royal Geographical Society in London, the Travellers' Club, etc. Discussions are taking place with Foreign & Commonwealth Office officials with a view to presenting the results to a British diplomatic audience.
Together with the exhibition and the talks, the results of the project will be disseminated through a variety of targeted wider-audience publications which will complement the readership of the academic monograph: an illustrated photographic book, articles in Geographical and travel magazines, and reports in the local press in Britain, Algeria and Kazakhstan.

Publications

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Morrison, A. S. And Sèbe, B. (2014) Coloniser, pacifier, administrer

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SEBE B C (2017) Conquérir le désert et organiser le vide ? Éléments de réflexion sur les fortifications, outil de contrôle des espaces sahariens in Mondes et Cultures, Compte rendu annuel de l'Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer

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SEBE B C (2018) Armes et Relations internationales in Stratégique

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Sèbe, Berny (2020) Joseph Peyré

 
Title Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe (Exhibition) 
Description The ground-breaking exhibition concept exemplified by "Outposts of Conquest" relies on the combination of an open air street gallery presenting billboard-sized photographs and historical/geographical commentary ("Empires of Emptiness": 9 triangular 'photographic islands' covering as many key themes = 27 panels) and an indoor exhibition ("Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe") combining twenty-one large-format pictures of the current state of fortresses in the Sahara and Kazakhstan and nine historical panels showcasing the outcomes of the project on the basis of historical, archival and photographic material. This unique combination of indoor and outdoor displays, presented under one title as "Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe" is designed to maximise the socio-cultural impact of the research. In addition, it will also have a direct impact on the way in which academics can envisage to engage with the wider public in an accessible and interactive way. The outdoor exhibition is currently displayed on University Square and Chancellor's Court, and the indoor displays will be on from 25 February. Both the indoor and outdoor exhibitions on UoB campus will last until 15 May. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Whilst it is too early to provide a definitive statement about the notable impact of this exhibition, early feedback on it tends to show that it has the potential to have a direct impact on the way in which academics can envisage to engage with the wider public in an accessible and interactive way, using large-format photography and open-air street galleries. 
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/forts
 
Title Presentation of "Empires of Emptiness" at the Jackfield Museum 
Description The Exhibition "Empires of Emptiness" was presented in the Fusion gallery of the Jackfield Tile museum in Ironbridge, from the 23rd of May 2016 until 16 January 2017. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The exhibition has been extremely well received, as was attested by the feedback received through various means: visitors' book, feedback cards, direct interaction with visitors. It has made a positive contribution to social well-being, and to the touristic attractiveness of the Ironbridge gorge (a World-Heritage listed site). It has also had an impact on the ways in which the Ironbridge Trust, which runs the venue, will use it in future years, as was stated by its Director of Collections & Learning, David Eveleigh, in a letter dated 30 June 2017: "We selected this project because of the World Heritage Site connection: several sites in the Sahara and the Steppe share this distinctive label with Ironbridge gorge, and we anticipated that your research project offered us a unique opportunity to widen the horizon of our programming. The combination of desert spaces, military imperialism and architectural history was likely to appeal to various local constituencies, whilst attracting new audiences. Prior to Empires of Emptiness, we had never scheduled such an exhibition using high-impact visual material to introduce academic research to our audience. This event has enjoyed an extremely positive reception from the traditional supporters of our efforts (e.g. Ironbridge Gorge Friends Trust), but the visitors' book indicates that it has also attracted a significant number of members of the public beyond our traditional constituencies. In the light of the success of Empires of Emptiness, we anticipate that we will approach our programming differently: we have had the proof that projects engaging with the world beyond Ironbridge also have a place in our portfolio of activities, and can be successful in retaining our usual public whilst drawing in new visitors. We have also noted with interest the innovative nature of the exhibits, and in particular the aluminium structures which have allowed us to make an innovative use of the space of the Fusion Gallery. We believe that the public has been responding very well to this innovative use of space, and we noted an increase in our footfall when Empires of Emptiness was on. Empires of Emptiness has been an innovative experience for us, and one which has allowed us to enrich the repertoire of our activities." 
URL http://www.ironbridge.co.uk/plan-your-visit/events-and-exhibitions-calendar/.../201609
 
Title School version of Empires of Emptiness 
Description A portable version of the Empires of Emptiness exhibition was created in May 2017 to allow for the project to interact with school children. The first showing took place at the University of Birmingham School, from 19 January 2017 until 25 May 2017. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The impact of the exhibition was evaluated through a variety of means (interaction with teachers, questionnaires, student presentations, writing competitions, online questionnaires, etc.), and pupils appeared to engage with the exhibition very fondly. This has paved the way for a reconsideration of approaches to inter-disciplinarity in the environement of secondary education, with the possibility to illustrate the relevance of Modern Languages through projects that intersect with other disciplines such as history, Geography or English literature. This has attracted the attention of the School of Education at the University of Birmingham, and possible collaboration around this question might emerge as a result. This is well reflected in the statements of the University of Birmingham School Principal, Michael Roden, who argued that this exhibition 'offers a ground-breaking opportunity to get our pupils acquainted with state-of-the-art research in the Humanities, thanks to the innovative displays of Empires of Emptiness, combining visual, historical and cultural approaches to convey its research results attractively and creatively to our pupils, our members of staff and the wider community.' He added: 'we believe that initiatives such as this one will change the relationship between schools and universities, and even beyond, create links between secondary education and academic research in ways which had never been explored before'. 
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/news/2017/empires-of-emptiness.aspx
 
Description This project brings to light a key aspect of imperial strategies in arid and semi-arid environments: the role of fortresses and fortifications in the implementation of Russian colonial designs in Central Asia (1840s-1860s) and the French conquest of the Sahara (1880s-1920s). The comparison between these two Christian powers encroaching in the nineteenth century into territories inhabited by Muslim and nomadic populations reveals their common preoccupation for the safety of their troops and administrative personnel, but also significant differences. Whilst the Russians used their fortresses in present-day Kazakhstan for a limited period and even destroyed them when they judged that they controlled the territory, in the French case they remained a pivotal element in the colonial structure up until the independence of Algeria in 1962. Variations in the terrain upon which imperial control was sought certainly played a role, but so did national traditions: the Gallic fascination with fortifications ever since Vauban has to be factored in. In the Russian empire, fortresses were 'outposts of conquest', whereas in the French Saharan colony they quickly became seats of administrative and military power. Whilst fortresses initially served the same purposes in each colonial project, their long-term use varied significantly and reveals profound differences the strategies of imperial control of each power. The investigators have also explored the long-term consequences of these differences in present-day Kazakhstan and Algeria, and the way in which they have shaped distinctive administrative and strategic traditions.
Exploitation Route Tourism and Heritage industries
Cultural industry: touring exhibition based on the project's findings; publication of books or magazine articles aimed at a wide audience.
Security and diplomacy: warfare and administration in desert environments
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/forts
 
Description The project has given rise to a range of public engagement activities which have been extremely well received. Among them are presentations on the occasion of Europe's largest history festival in Blois (October 2015), and the 'Empires of Emptiness' exhibition which has been shown for the first time on the ground of the University of Birmingham campus (February to May 2016), and which has been conceived to be a touring exhibition bound to be presented on other sites in the UK: it was displayed in the Fusion Gallery of the Jackfield Museum between May 2016 and January 2017, and has been displayed on the grounds of the University of Birmingham School from 19 January until 25 May 2017. (Please see dedicated entries for each of these activities). More recently, the research has fed into analytical work presented to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (March 2017). It has also given rise to interaction with academic staff at Sandhurst Military Academy (March 2018). Further opportunities for dissemination are currently under consideration, and include a presentation of the 'Empires of Emptiness' exhibition as part of the 'Green Heart' festival on the University of Birmingham campus (May-June 2020).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description College of Arts & Law Research and Knowledge Transfer Fund
Amount £15,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2014 
End 07/2014
 
Description College of Arts & Law Research and Knowledge Transfer Fund
Amount £600 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 07/2016
 
Description Empires of Emptiness - Partnership with University of Birmingham School 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research (IMSR)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Entire exhibition display: outdoor street gallery (27 panels size 140 x 180 cm presented on aluminium structures size 180 x 240 cm), as well as reduced and portable version of the indoor exhibition (30 panels size 60 x 80 cm, produced with support from the University of Birmingham's Leading to Engage Fund).
Collaborator Contribution Exhibition space Help with exhibition set up Contribution to the promotion of the event
Impact - Presentation of the exhibition to UoB School pupils and exchanges with the local community - Cooperation with teachers from various disciplines to ensure best knowledge exchange strategies are implemented between the exhibition team and third parties users.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Empires of Emptiness - Partnership with University of Birmingham School 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Entire exhibition display: outdoor street gallery (27 panels size 140 x 180 cm presented on aluminium structures size 180 x 240 cm), as well as reduced and portable version of the indoor exhibition (30 panels size 60 x 80 cm, produced with support from the University of Birmingham's Leading to Engage Fund).
Collaborator Contribution Exhibition space Help with exhibition set up Contribution to the promotion of the event
Impact - Presentation of the exhibition to UoB School pupils and exchanges with the local community - Cooperation with teachers from various disciplines to ensure best knowledge exchange strategies are implemented between the exhibition team and third parties users.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Empires of Emptiness Exhibition - Birmingham Campus show 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of research-based material (photographs, archival documents, academic interpretation, textual commentary) for the Empires of Emptiness exhibition. PI curated the exhibition with Clare Mullett (University of Birmingham Research and Cultural Collections)
Collaborator Contribution Curatorial design of the exhibition; practical organisation of the exhibition; help with the exhibition set up; contribution to the promotion of the exhibition as part of the University of Birmingham's Arts & Sciences Festival (March 2016).
Impact - Exhibition "Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe" on the site of the University of Birmingham (15 February - 15 May 2016).
Start Year 2015
 
Description Empires of Emptiness Exhibition - Partnership with Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust 
Organisation Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Outposts of Conquest project provided the exhibition material entirely ready to be displayed in the Fusion Gallery of the Jackfield Museum in Ironbridge (Shropshire).
Collaborator Contribution The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust provided the exhibition space, promoted the event to its public, facilitated the organisation of associated activities, and also ensured that the collection of feedback was undertaken methodically.
Impact Exhibition presentation (23 May 2016 - 16 January 2017) Lecture to Ironbridge Gorge Museum Friends Trust on 14 September 2016
Start Year 2016
 
Description Exhibition partnership - University of Birmingham 
Organisation University of Birmingham
Department College of Arts and Law
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Original research-based material for the exhibition stemming out of the project: "Empires of Emptiness: Fortresses of the Sahara and the Steppe".
Collaborator Contribution Financial support to undertake an additional outdoor exhibition to complement the indoor exhibition which had been originally announced in the "pathways to impact" document: - Purchase of nine "photographic islands" allowing to develop an outdoor display of 27 panels size 140 x 180 cm (£ 10,000) - Purchase of the floodlights and fitting system to light up the panels when it is dark (£ 2,000)
Impact - "The Sahara and the Steppe" outdoor street gallery, which is part of the "Empires of Emptiness" exhibition project, stemming from "outposts of conquest".
Start Year 2014
 
Description Visiting Fellowship for the Principal Investigator 
Organisation Sorbonne University
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution - Presentation of preliminary research results on the occasion of several events in Paris: Paris IV Sorbonne/Maison de la Recherche, Académie des Sciences d'Outre-Mer.
Collaborator Contribution Organisation of the above mentioned events, including a one-day workshop which was not initially planned as an output of the project. Support for the organisation of research at the military archives in Vincennes.
Impact - Research papers at Paris IV and other Paris-based universities: • 'La question de l'état dans les zones sahariennes', international conference "L'état dans le monde arabe", University Paris IV-Sorbonne, 21 May 2015. • 'Conquérir le désert et organiser le vide ? Éléments de réflexion sur les fortifications, outil de contrôle des espaces sahariens', French Academy of Overseas sciences, 6 May 2015. - Further archival material for the project was collected on the occasion of this fellowship.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Visiting professorship at the Institut d'Études politiques d'Aix en Provence (France). 
Organisation University of Wolverhampton
Department History
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I was invited to Sciences-Po Aix (Institute of political science of Aix-en-Provence as a visiting professor to present my project to staff (on the occasion of a research seminar) and students (as a guest lecturer on two modules taught to undergraduate students).
Collaborator Contribution Sciences-Po Aix faciliated the dissemination of the project's research results by funding my visit there, and making possible for me to check a few archival sources which are useful to my research project. The professor who invited me, Prof. Walter Bruyère-Ostells, is also interested in further collaboration on the long-term, and the proximity of the French Overseas Archive repository makes this partnership valuable to the project.
Impact - Research seminar and public lecture
Start Year 2018
 
Description Austrian Academy of Science, September 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation paper presentation
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation ('Outposts of Conquest: the fortresses of the Syr-Darya line from the 1840s to today'), given by Dr Alexander Morrison on the occasion of the international workshop entitled "Towards a New Social History of 19th- and Early 20th-Century Central Asia" which took place at the Institute of Iranian Studies (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna), allowed us to disseminate the preliminary results of our project to audiences in Eastern Europe and beyond.

The paper was well received, and promoted the project among the German-speaking academic community.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Blois History Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Berny Sèbe delivered a public lecture entitled "Empires du vide: les forteresses françaises au Sahara et russes en Asie centrale" on the occasion of Europe's leading history festival, the "Rendez-Vous de l'histoire in Blois". Feedback from participants was extremely positive, with many requesting further information about the project's findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.rdv-histoire.com/edition-2015-les-empires/empires-du-vide-les-fortifications-francaises-a...
 
Description Empires of Emptiness Exhibition - University of Birmingham 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Empires of Emptiness housed in the Rotunda gallery and throughout the grounds of the University of Birmingham grounds, considers how empires expand into deserts and explores these vast spaces of wind, sand and stars. Despite the seemingly limited 'value' of arid spaces and the significant logistical difficulties they posed, the conquest of deserts has often mobilised sizeable resources from some of the world's most notable empires.

Presenting the results of the Birmingham-led research project Outposts of Conquest, this exhibition explores one of the most symbolically charged expressions of imperial control in desert environments: the Russian fortifications in the Central Asian steppe and the vast network of French forts built in an attempt to control the Sahara desert. The comparison shows how these two Christian colonial powers sought to control Muslim and predominantly nomad populations.

The Rotunda exhibition (thirty panels ranging from 60 x 80 cm to 120 x 180 cm) is complemented by an outdoor display (27 panels size 140 x 180 cm) across University Square and Chancellors Court. Sahara & the Steppe contextualises the geographical and human environment where these fortresses were built. The vanity of these imperial fortresses, guarding these barren landscapes, appears even more clearly, and the stories behind these sentinels of the void, even more mysterious.

The exhibition, shown between 15 February and 23 May 2016, was viewed by thousands of visitors belonging to the University of Birmingham and to the wider city of Edgbaston and Birmingham. The feedback gathered on the occasion of the event was extremely positive, with many respondents testifying that it has changed their perception of desert spaces and that it had enhanced their understanding of how empires work. The exhibition's relevance to British society was frequently mentioned in feedback.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/sections/french/events/2016/empires-...
 
Description Empires of Emptiness and the centenary of Joseph Peyré: Paris events 6-7 December 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On the occasion of the event commemorating the centenary of the birth of French writer Joseph Peyré, I was able to present some of the results of the Empires of Emptiness project from a literary perspective (role and place of the Saharan novel, to which Peyré contributed, in the French imagination).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Empires of Emptiness exhibition - Fusion Gallery, Jackfield Museum, Ironbridge Gorge (25 May 2016 - 16 January 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The second showing of the Empires of Emptiness exhibition at the Jackfield Museum (Ironbridge Gorge) between 25 May 2016 and 16 January 2017 was highly successful endeavour, which generated very high levels of extremely positive visitor feedback. The exhibition opened new avenues for the use of the exhibition space (which had never hosted any similar exhibition), and it offered an excellent opportunity to engage with types of visitors complementing those of the University of Birmingham campus showing - especially retired and international visitors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.ironbridge.org.uk/plan-your-visit/events-and-exhibitions-calendar/empires-of-emptiness-fo...
 
Description French Academy for Overseas Sciences talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Berny Sèbe presented a keynote talk entitled "Conquérir le désert et organiser le vide ? Éléments de réflexion sur les fortifications, outil de contrôle des espaces sahariens", as part of a workshop he co-organised at the French Academy for Overseas Sciences (6 May 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description French Academy of Overseas Sciences - Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Berny Sèbe co-organised with Prof. Jacques Frémeaux (University Paris Sorbonne IV) an international workshop at the French Academy for Overseas Sciences, which reached a wide international public. Entitled "La conquête du Sahara: Nouvelles approches historiographiques", it allowed the "outposts of conquest" project to enjoy a wide exposure among French professional and academic circles.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Friends of Ironbridge Museum Gorge Trust - 14 September 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This talk, entitled Desert & Steppe conquests: Fortresses and railways in the Sahara and in Kazakhstan, was designed to reach Friends of the Ironbridge Museum Gorge Trust. The event was attended by about thirty people, mostly retired and Shropshire-based, who reported that the talk, and the exhibition, had raised their awareness of the importance of deserts in imperial designs. The event was very well received.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Hong Kong May 2015 - Prof. Morrison 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Prof. Alexander Morrison delivered a talk entitled "Competitive Emulation and the 'Fear of Falling' in the Russian Conquest of Central Asia" which summarised the results of the "outposts of conquest" project on the occasion of the workshop "Among Empires: the British Empire in Global Imperial Context" held at Lingnan University in Hong Kong (28 May 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Hong Kong presentation - May 2015 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Berny Sèbe delivered a talk entitled "How did the Lion's paws and the Cockerel's spurs 'scratch the sand' and bite the dust? A comparative approach to British and French strategies of conquest in the Sahara" which summarised the results of the "outposts of conquest" project on the occasion of the workshop "Among Empires: the British Empire in Global Imperial Context" held at Lingnan University in Hong Kong (28 May 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description IHTP & Ecole militaire conference, March 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This paper (''Les forts sahariens et la pacification du << Grand Sud >> algérien (1883- 1930)') given on the occasion of the international workshop 'Les Administrations coloniales et la <>, XIXe-XXe siècles' at the Institut d'histoire du temps présent and the Ecole militaire in Paris (23-24 March 2012) allowed us to disseminate our preliminary results to a largely Francophone audience from France and Africa, including military officers interested in the history of the conquest of the Sahara. The post-event discussion was extremely rich and allowed us to find new sources which complemented the ones which we had already identified.

This paper gave rise to a book chapter in a volume edited by Samya El Mechat, and published by the prestigious Editions du CNRS in Paris.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Institute of Political Sciences, IEP Aix, Aix-en-Provence, France: Working Group on Desert Conquests 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I presented the research results of Outposts of Conquest to an audience made of postgraduate students, undergraduate students and some policymakers from the Ecole de l'Air.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Keynote presentation at the Postgraduate Study Day of the Society for Francophone Postcolonial Studies - 16 June 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact On the basis of the Empires of Emptiness project, the Principal Investigator delivered to national and international post-graduate students an address entitled "Beyond Mirages: Researching the Sahara". The purpose of this presentation was to raise awareness about the developing in the UK of a research community interested in the history, geography and cultural aspects of the Sahara desert. Many post-graduate students expressed that their views on this field had changed as a result of this intervention, with some using Twitter to share their discoveries.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://postcolonialencounter2017.wordpress.com/
 
Description Launch of "Empires of Emptiness" exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The launch of the "Empires of Emptiness" exhibition by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor Sir David Eastwood, on 7 March 2016 was an excellent opportunity to promote the exhibition within and beyond the University of Birmingham whilst at the same time gathering feedback about the strategy of communication of research results implemented by this indoor and outdoor exhibition. The event was also attended by the AHRC Theme Leader Prof. Charles Forsdick, who spoke about the innovative nature of this exhibition concept.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/sections/french/events/2016/exhibiti...
 
Description Launch of the Empires of Emptiness Exhibition in Fusion Gallery, Ironbridge - 30 May 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact On 30 May 2016, the official launch of the Empires of Emptiness exhibition allowed the team to publicize around Shropshire the Empires of Emptiness exhibition. The event was attended by both the Head of the College of Arts & Law, as well as the chairwoman of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. Attendees reported that their worldview had changed as a result of this event, and the chairwoman of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust mentioned that this exhibition opened new ground for the Fusion Gallery, which had never hosted any similar event. Two local politicians (councillors) were also in attendance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Preparation of Empires of Emptiness exhibition with teachers - UoB School, 16 December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This workshop intended to identify the needs of teachers at UoB School in anticipation of the set up of the Empires of Emptiness School in mid January 2017. Participants reported that the workshop had allowed them to envisage numerous ways in which they and their pupils could engage with the forthcoming exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation in Constantine (Algeria) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Berny Sèbe presented the results of the "Outposts of Conquest" project on the occasion of a talk at the Institut français in Constantine, together with Algerian project partner Sid-Ahmed Kerzabi (Institut français de Constantine, 9 February 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness at Sandhurst Military Academy - 12 March 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The aim of this presentation as part of the "Wardig" seminar series at Sandhurst Military Academy is to explore the potential military applicability of the findings of the Outposts of Conquest project. It is hope that discussions with the military staff might lead to further cooperation with potential users of the research findings for strategic or operational purposes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness in Warwick - 15 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Through this lecture delivered at the invitation of the University of Warwick and entitled "Beyond L'Atlantide and Beau Geste: Desert fortifications and the French conquest of the Sahara (1880s to the present day)", I was able to engage with a range of post-graduate students, researchers and members of the public about the project. Members of the audience reported a significant change in their views about the suitability of the Sahara as a topic for academic study.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness in York (28 February 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact I was able to present the Empires of Emptiness project as part of the activities of the University of York's seminar series on 'Medievalism and Imperialism' (Centre for Modern Studies). The discussion enriched the framework of the research by creating connections with early modern history in other areas of the world than those studied in the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.york.ac.uk/modernstudies/events/2018-19/spring/desert-spaces/
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness on the grounds of the University of Birmingham School, 19 January - 25 May 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Through this initiative, pupils at the University of Birmingham School as well as from other schools in the local area had the opportunity to engage with the "Outposts of Conquest" project. The purpose was to gauge the potential of using cutting-edge research in Modern Languages to engage with other disciplines in order to strengthen the appeal of Modern Languages against a context of general decline. We were also expecting to see if pluri-disciplinarity was viable in the context of secondary education. Feedback received from pupils and teachers through a variety of channels (feedback forms, interviews, online questionnaires and writing competitions) has demonstrated that the exhibition generated a broad appeal, and also that teachers from disciplines other than Modern Languages engaged with it. This has paved the way for further initiatives in that area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/lcahm/departments/languages/news/2017/empires-of-emptiness.aspx
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness project to schoolchildren - 15 July 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The Principal Investigator presented the Outposts of Conquest project to pupils of the University of Birmingham School on 15 July 2016, eliciting many questions and prompting parallels with current affairs - especially around the role of Islam, the legacy of colonialism and the geostrategical value of desert spaces. Pupils reported that they had discovered new ways of thinking as a result.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of Empires of Emptiness to pupils of University of Birmingham School - 23 March 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 200 pupils attended this lecture delivered on the occasion of the School Assembly in the morning of 23 March 2017. Pupils were offered the opportunity to engage in depth with the topic and approach of the exhibition, and the feedback from the School was excellent. The School-University Relationship officer reported that "The pupils definitely enjoyed it [the event] and it will be useful for them to associate you now with the exhibition."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Presentation of Exhibition project to UoB School teachers - 21 June 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On 21 June 2016, the Principal Investigator presented the Empires of Emptiness project to teachers at the University of Birmingham School, presenting its research results but also its relevance to their pupils. The discussion with teachers revealed many avenues of collaboration which could be explored.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of Outposts of Conquest at the University of Aix-en-Provence (France) - 20 April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI presented the results of the Outposts of Conquest project through a presentation entitled Empires du vide : La Grande-Bretagne, la France et la Russie à la conquête des espaces désertiques (XIXe-XXe siècles)', delivered at the University of Aix-en-Provence on 20 April 2016. The talk was extremely well received, and gave rise to questions that fed into the preparation process for the book manuscript.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of Outposts of Conquest to audience at Centre for Postcolonial Studies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI presented the Outposts of Conquest project to an audience gathered by the Centre for Postcolonial Studies of the Institute of Historical Research, London. The paper, entitled 'Silent Sentinels in Seas of Sand: Fortresses in the Sahara, 1850s to the present day', was presented at Senate House on 21 September 2016, and gave rise to many questions. The event changed the perception of desert spaces among the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of a longue durée history of the Saharo-Sahelian regions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I used the results of Outposts of Conquest to present a geostrategical analysis of the Saharo-Sahelian region to the students of the HIRISS (histoire et relations internationales) Programme at the University of Montpellier 3 - Paul Valéry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation of results - Cavalaire sur Mer (France) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Berny Sèbe presented the research results of the "Outposts of Conquest" project on the occasion of a public talk at the Municipal Library of Cavalaire sur Mer (Southern France). Entitled "(Sur)vivre au Sahara, de la préhistoire à nos jours", it took place on 24 November 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.spectable.com/conference-sur-vivre-au-sahara-de-la-prehistoire-nos-jours/295406/335960
 
Description Presentation of results at the Institute of Political Science, Aix-en-Provence (France) - 1 December 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The PI delivered a talk entitled 'Les forts sahariens au XIXe siècle: montrer la puissance dans le désert' on the occasion of the international event "Armes et Relations Internationales" held at the Institute of Political Science (Sciences-Po) in Aix-en-Provence (France) on 1 December 2016. The audience reported deep changes in their perception of the role of fortifications in colonial conquests.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of results at the University of Montpellier (France) - 14 April 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The PI presented a paper entitled 'Conquête réussie mais décolonisation ratée ? Les enjeux géostratégiques du Sahara depuis les indépendances, entre héritage historique et nouvelles dynamiques socio-politiques' on the occasion of the HIRISS Research Seminar at the University of Montpellier on 14 April 2016. The feedback from students and colleagues highlighted that the project had allowed them to think about desert spaces in an entirely novel way.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Presentation of results in Algiers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Berny Sèbe presented the results of the "Outposts of Conquest" project on the occasion of a talk at the Institut français in Algiers, together with Algerian project partner Sid-Ahmed Kerzabi (Institut français d'Alger, 11 February 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation of results in Tlemcen (Algeria) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Berny Sèbe presented the results of the "Outposts of Conquest" project on the occasion of a talk at the Institut français in Tlemcen, together with Algerian project partner Sid-Ahmed Kerzabi (Institut français de Tlemcen, 13 February 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Presentation on the situation of the Sahara on the occasion of an FCO Africa Day, 21 march 2017 (Sandhurst Military Academy) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact On the basis of the expertise I had acquired as a result of the Outposts of Conquest project, I was invited to present to members of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, as well as officers from Sandhurst Military Academy, a brief on the situation in the Sahel as part of the FCO Africa Day.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Seminar paper in Southampton 22 October 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This paper given on the occasion of a research seminar in the history department of the University of Southampton allowed me to test out some of the fundamental theories which are intending to develop in our monograph. The lively discussion which followed the paper was extremely helpful, and allowed us to gather useful complementary information.

The talk was well attended and generated several e-mail requests for further information. Several members of the audience mentioned that they would develop an interest in Saharan history as a result of this talk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Sorbonne - Paris IV talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Drawing upon findings of the "Outposts of Conquest" project, Dr Sèbe delivered a keynote presentation entitled "La question de l'état dans les zones sahariennes" on the occasion of the international workshop on "L'état dans le monde arabe" (21 May 2015).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description University of Liverpool seminar, February 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This Research Seminar Paper ('Looking for Contemporary Remains of Russian Strategies of Conquest in the Kazakh Steppe') was extremely well attended, and this allowed us to get a very rich discussion with colleagues from the University of Liverpool, as well as a few non-academic members of the audience who asked interesting questions which enriched our own theoretical and practical framework.

We understand that several colleagues who attended this session of the University of Liverpool's Departmental Research Seminar Series in History found this talk inspirational, and intended to take some elements of our methodology, and the creative definition of our object of study, as a starting point for their own future research projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Oxford, February 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Berny Sèbe presented a talk entitled "One people, one goal, one faith'? Balkanisation, Tuareg separatism and Political Islam in the Sahel region" intended to raise awareness about the military and socio-political situation in the Sahel region (University of Oxford, 7 February 2014).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description University of Oxford, May 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Berny Sèbe presented the wider implications of the findings of the "Outposts of Conquest" project, considered within the context of radical Islamist terrorism in the region. This talk, entitled "Conflicts in the Sahara: the many lives of the Tuareg question in Northern Mali, from localized rebellion to global Jihad", was organised as part of the "Changing Character of War" programme of the University of Oxford (28 May 2013).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description University of Oxford, November 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This keynote paper ('Outposts of Conquest: the fortresses of the Steppe and the Sahara in comparative perspective') was given on the occasion of the workshop entitled 'Deserts, Steppes and Inner Spaces in World History' which was held at the University of Oxford on 7 November 2012. It generated sustained exchanges with the audience in the Q and A session, which were beneficial to our preparation of the research framework for our project.

One of the conference's organisers mentioned that he would be interested in joining our research team for future projects; he also mentioned that our talk inspired him to develop projects looking at deserts and empty spaces. Our talk offered an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of deserts and empty spaces in Global and World History, to a wide and highly qualified international audience in these disciplines.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description University of Oxford, October 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The workshop on "Strategies of Imperial Control in Arid and Semi-Arid Environments: The Steppe and the Sahara" was held at All Souls College, Oxford, on 12 October 2013. It attracted an international audience with a range of interests centring on deserts and arid environments. Attendees reported that their perception of the colonial conquest of the Sahara and of Central Asia had changed as a result of this workshop; further activities in this area were requested.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/college-artslaw/french/outposts-workshop-programme.pdf
 
Description University of Portsmouth, May 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation keynote/invited speaker
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop presentation entitled 'Using Visual Materials in Research/Teaching Study Day', which was given as a keynote at the University of Portsmouth, presented the way in which visual material could be used in a project like 'Outposts of Conquest', not only for research but also for teaching and impact-related activities. The talk generated many questions afterwards, reflecting sustained levels of interest among the audience.

This was a teaching-orientated conference (sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust), and I gathered that my talk was extremely well-received. Several members of the audience mentioned that they were considering possible applications in higher education teaching of the strategies I presented. My talk successfully demonstrated the relevance of visual material in twenty-first century academic research and teaching, and the message seems to have been well received by the audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description UoB Culture Festival, March 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This lecture ('Looking for Traces of Empires, from Kazakhstan to Algeria: Military Architecture in Russian and French Colonies') given as part of the University of Birmingham's Culture Festival, and in partnership with the 'Postcolonial Birmingham' Research Network offered us an excellent opportunity to share our results with an informed audience of non-academics (as well as a few academic colleagues), and to test the reactions of the general public to our research questions, with a view to using these results to maximize the effectiveness of our future pathways to impact.

Several participants stated that their perception of the Steppe and the Sahara had changed as a result of this talk, and the relevance of History and Modern Languages in today's academic world was also largely commented upon.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description XIII ESCAS Conference, August 2013 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This paper ('Conquest and Colonization along the Syr-Darya: Agrarian Experiments, Food Supplies and New Settlements from the 1840s to the present day') given by the co-investigator Prof. Alexander Morrison on the occasion of the XIIIth biennial conference of the European Society for Central Asian Studies (entitled 'The Steppe and the Sown' and held at Nazarbayev University, Astana, 4 - 7 August 2013) allowed us to promote our research results to a Central Asian academic audience.

The community of Central Asian scholars was made aware of this project, which allowed us to develop fruitful exchanges which will enrich our monograph.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013