by Liv Barnett
Academics are often accused of failing to make their research matter to audiences other than themselves. Anthropologists are particularly criticized for writing theories and ethnographies that not only go unread by non-anthropologists, but are also too inaccessible to those they may be writing about. Here I hope to try and explain a central aspect of my PhD research in Papua New Guinea and share some of the ways it has got me thinking about politics and economics in the UK.
The stereotyped anthropologist gets criticized for using the experiences of a usually colonised ‘other’ for their own project of producing knowledge that counters the taken for granted understandings people have of humanity or society in ‘the West’, which are presumed to be universal to human nature. This is a legitimate argument which has to be taken seriously. Therefore, I self-consciously use some of my observations in Papua New Guinea (enabled by the generosity of those who I lived with in PNG) and the ideas of European/western social theorists.
by Laura Potts
The TARDIS programme at Chapel Break Infant School is an exemplary example of creative education and an inspirational learning environment. For 10 years, the programme has transformed classrooms into imaginative environments for young minds to explore and develop in. TARDIS stands for ‘Thinking Arts Reflective Dialogue Imagination Studio’. The aim of its resourceful staff is to immerse the children in philosophical and creative enquiry:
‘The learning consists of the development of a range of skills, including speaking and listening, debate and discussion, a variety of thinking skills, social skills, independence of thought and action and persistence. It builds a knowledge and experience of the visual arts beyond those that can be offered within the usual classroom setting.’
by Justin Reynolds
Overshadowed by the perennial pain of Brexit negotiations and fresh flurries of speculation over her leadership, Theresa May’s trip to China earlier this month passed with little comment.
Democratic freedoms in Britain’s former colony Hong Kong were briefly discussed. A few business contracts were confirmed. And the shimmering outline of some future post-Brexit trade deal could at times be briefly discerned.
What was remarkable about the visit was scarcely noted:Continue Reading
by Justin Reynolds
Frankenstein: or The Modern Prometheus, the classic novel by Mary Shelley that stands at the pinnacle of the gothic tradition and looks forward to the new genre of science fiction, was first published 200 years ago this month. Shelley’s visceral tale of the terrible consequences that follow the failure of brilliant young scientist Victor Frankenstein to take responsibility for the strange new life he creates, is both of its time and utterly contemporary.
It can be read as a high Romantic fantasy set against a background of electric storms, shimmering Alpine peaks, Rhineland forests and Arctic wastelands, and as a subtle meditation on themes of knowledge and responsibility that resonate with today’s hopes and fears for the possibilities opened by artificial intelligence (AI) and synthetic biology.Continue Reading
by Eli Lambe
Rich with reference and metaphor, Ali Smith’s Autumn is a triumph. Published incredibly quickly following the chaos of the EU Referendum in June 2016, it fully captures the feelings of isolation, division, and distrust that seems to have characterised the 12 months since. The atmosphere of unreality is masterfully tied together with dream-sequence, ekphrasis, and lies. The principal character, Elisabeth sums it up concisely as an eight year old in 1993: “It’s about history, and being neighbours.”Continue Reading
by Sunetra Senior
When we think of having a ‘self-narrative’, there might be connotations of egotism and/or triviality, and some of us may even draw a complete blank. It isn’t mentioned very often, and when it is, there’s this fashion of deconstructing it: the notion of having your own conscious story as being strangely self-indulgent, or in its best light intriguing, but ultimately useless. But in a world that is increasingly trying to tell us who we are, where nationalism is on the rise, in even the most *apparently* free-thinking of countries and conformity is king, having a healthy self-narrative – the perception of how our life experiences have come to define and shape us – is not only valid and beautiful, but I would argue, key to rejuvenating our social freedom.
by Liam Hawkes
For many who choose to ascribe to it, environmentalism is a clear moral question. We have a moral responsibility to care for and not abuse our planet. This is possibly one of the most common and important aspects to any environmentalism as it provides a motivation for action. Not just sitting comfortably saying we should do things, but actually getting out there into the world and doing them. This active engagement with nature and the environments around us goes much of the way to ground environmentalism in the practical, not theoretical. This is why our own individual understandings of what and where nature is can be the key to unlocking the inner tree hugger in us all.Continue Reading
by Liam Hawkes
There’s something about the nature of anxiety which makes it a distinctly personal, solitary thing. Anxiety in its many forms is an insidious creature which so easily permeates even the most confident of personalities. We can see in the press about the terrible nature of mental health care in the UK at the moment, and the pledges towards the improvement of the system. When we see that 75% of people receive no help with their disorders, or on average people wait for up to 10 years before treating their anxiety. Is it not time to think a little more deeply about our own experiences and whether they are translatable?
Things change, people change, and anxiety is a coping mechanism. It is a method of mourning for past experiences or uncertainty future events. Existentially speaking, it is inescapable. It is the acute awareness of one’s own mortality. In this sense then, existential anxiety and anxiety in general seems to exist for a perfectly understandable reason. However, the debilitating nature of the disorder can sometimes be so intense that it cannot be expressed. And does this suggest something which is not inherently social about the experience? Which could perhaps make it untranslatable.
by Liam Hawkes
I haven’t read a lot of science fiction. I have only heard of a handful of authors, and probably couldn’t name many of their books. But as soon as I turned the first page of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris, I was hooked. His beautiful philosophical musings – in Bill Johnston’s English translation – about the nature of consciousness, perception, and the environment struck a chord with me. Which started me thinking about how we interact with our own environment here on Earth, and how perhaps we could benefit from a revaluation of our ideals. Continue Reading
by Faizal Nor Izham
Although Asia as a whole will always be making great strides economically, much more remains to be seen in the way of democracy and human rights. There has always been the myth that Asian values and democracy are incompatible — a well-known fact in Asia, especially in the more developing countries — but in the Internet and social media age, there appears to be a renewed demand for freedom, especially when people’s livelihood and most basic rights are in jeopardy.
However, despite these assumptions, a more thorough analysis shows that Asian history is actually rich in philosophies and traditions that are well-steeped in democratic ideals.Continue Reading
by Robyn Sands
At the end of last month Green Party parliamentary candidate Rupert Read caused widespread offence by posting a series of tweets appearing to question the validity of trans women’s gender identities and claimed to be ‘troubled’ by use of the word cisgender, in opposition to the term ‘transgender’.
He then tweeted a blog post he’d written in January 2013 in which he defended feminist writers, such as Julie Burchill, who had been accused of transphobia, and described trans status as a sort of “opt-in version of what it means to be a woman”. His tweets were a response to a controversial and transphobic poster seen in women’s toilets in Bristol University, which heavily implied that allowing trans women in to women’s toilets would lead to them assaulting cis women, and he seemed to be defending that position. He has since issued an apology, and responded to criticisms by saying that he only meant to “discuss a hypothetical philosophical position”. He further stated that “All that I have done is join many feminists in saying that it is up to women, not anyone else- and certainly not me- to decide who gets let in to women-only spaces, such as women’s toilets”.
by Jack Palmer
Like any well-trained student, I’ll open with a quote. It’s one from the forever-sniffing, forever-scruffy, cultural critic and contemporary theorist Slavoj Žižek: “We need theory more than ever today. We should not feel terrorized by this false sense of moralistic emergence: ‘no time for theory, people are starving’ and so on. My god, it is only through theory that we have at least a hope to learn what to do!”
Žižek’s assertion is a provocative one: it challenges our understanding of that word ‘theory’. In the scientific sphere, ‘theory’ means a comprehensively proven idea – one, crucially, that forms the foundation for knowledge. In the humanities by comparison, ‘theory’ is abstract: it’s speculative, faddish and maybe even a little indulgent. But the claim staked here is that theory in the humanities is not all groundless conjecture; for Žižek it’s vitally grounded, and where the real work of thinking happens.
by Jack Brindelli.
When Michael Gove came out as a fan of Antonio Gramsci – the thinker known in certain sections of academia as “the last acceptable Marxist” – there was of course outrage from the left. “Michael,” they cried, “you have, if you ever read him, missed the point.” But clearly, so did they. Gove, it has become clear over the course of his dismembering of the education system, very much understands Gramsci. Because we, who stand against this government’s wanton destruction of the welfare state, are not fighting a war of facts. As Chavs… author Owen Jones rightly points out on a regular basis: were that the case, after four years of calamitous cuts and pig-headed privatisation, we would surely have won by now.