- IoI Forum
- Postgraduate Forum
- Venue: London
- Date: Ongoing
The postgrad forum provides an opportunity for students in the arts, humanities and social sciences to present their work in a context that encourages reflection on how the social and political trends shaping the contemporary world interact and cut across disciplinary boundaries.
The forum is committed to academic freedom, both the freedom to pursue specialised knowledge within distinct subject areas and the freedom to speak out on wider issues of public concern. It poses the question of what it means to be a postgraduate student at a time when academia faces the challenge of at once avoiding obscurantism whilst resisting demands for immediate policy relevance.
Meetings are held regularly throughout the academic year at the London School of Economics. Members of the forum present their work – including draft articles, thesis chapters and research designs – for comment and discussion. Past discussions have focussed on work in the fields of history, sociology, political theory, education, international relations, cultural studies and literary theory.
If you are a postgraduate student and would like to join the forum, or would like further information, please contact James Gledhill (LSE) and Maria Grasso (University of Oxford) at email@example.com.
The 2006/07 and 2007/08 series of the Postgrad Forum are archived here.
Date and topic tbc
The Forum usually takes place at 7pm at the London School of Economics. See http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/ for directions to the LSE and http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/mapsAndDirections/findingYourWayAroundLSE for finding your way to the room.
Thursday 23 April 2009
Michele Ledda, teacher and writer on education, presented The Privatisation of Knowledge and the End of Universal Education
The privatisation of knowledge is often discussed as the monopoly of scientific discoveries and technological know-how by big corporations. But what if government policies and cultural trends promoted both by the left and by the right alike were limiting children's access to freely available knowledge? The third largest area of state expenditure in the UK after social security and health, education is more than double the size of the defence budget (£78 billion in 2007-08). But the meaning and content of education have radically changed. Every Child Matters's five objectives (be safe; stay healthy; enjoy and achieve; achieve economic wellbeing; make a personal contribution to society) make it clear that personal wellbeing, rather than intellectual development, is the main focus of the education system. This paper examines trends in the privatisation of education today. It argues that the education currently provided by the state aims to prepare children mainly for private life and work and neglects the aim of educating citizens for the public world. These trends should be challenged since they represent the end of the progressive ideal of universal education.
Thursday 26 February
Nathan Coombs, DPhil candidate in political philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London, will present Who is a 'real' Marxist today?
Not so much aiming to provide a final answer but to raise a series of provocative questions; he will ask if Marxism today is reduced to a method of political economy, cultural critique, a philosophy of complaint; is it now just a paradigm of economism, productionism; is it still, in other words, a revolutionary philosophy in the absence of a really existing revolutionary movement? He will argue that we should not look for any final answer to this conundrum, but acknowledge that Marx-ism should be divorced from its supposed determinate content, excepting that which constitutes its original event in world history. Alongside its twin event of Hegelian philosophy, we should rather conceive Marx-ism as the orientation of subjects in revolutionary movements to the event of Marx: conceiving society as totality and enacting torsion in the social fabric towards the production of equality. He will propose that the gap between the passage from Marx-ist *analysis* of social conditions to the Marx-ist *response* of how to realise antagonism, is what constitutes Marx-ism as the ever-changing, chameleon-like horizon of radical thought. In the absence of this irresolvable tension at the heart of Marx-ism - *its irrational kernel* - he will propose that 'bad faith' inevitably creeps into Marx-ist thinking that loses fidelity to the original event of Marx. As such, and in an analysis that draws upon thinkers from Hans-Georg Gadamer to Vladimir Lenin, we can understand the bizarre spectre of Marx-ists who entered the "tourniquet" of Marx-ism on the left and spin out on the right.
Thursday 29 January 2009
Pauline Chakmakjian, MA, Dept of History, University of Wales, Lampeter, presented The Socio-Political Role of Freemasonry in Japan
Originally a Western phenomenon imported into Japan by a foreign military group, Freemasonry has existed in Japan for nearly 150 years with its very own Grand Lodge in Tokyo created 50 years ago and based on the Western model. The participation of Japanese nationals in Freemasonry was instigated and encouraged by General MacArthur. The aims and objectives of Freemasonry, most especially its attention to faith, hope, and charity, help to contribute to a more compassionate way of perceiving the less advantaged in Japanese society whereas at one time traditional notions of honour in the country would have prevented those more unfortunate such as the orphaned and mentally and/or physically handicapped from being nurtured at a higher level.
As Freemasonry is a relatively obscure subject, this talk will describe what Freemasonry is and what it aspires to accomplish in addition to explaining its presence in Japanese society as well as its future significance in being a quasi-spiritual organisation somewhat akin to popular "new religions" such as Tenri-kyo. Comparisons will be made with how Freemasonry functions in other countries worldwide.
Wednesday 17 December 2008
Ros Barber, PhD candidate, University of Sussex, will present Questioning the Shakespearean Orthodoxy
Does it matter who wrote the works of Shakespeare? Would we read the plays and poems any differently if we believed they were written by Christopher Marlowe? We may be about to find out. Until recently it was believed that doubts about Shakespeare's authorship of the works attributed him were first raised 164 years after his death, and that the Shakespeare Authorship Question is a relatively recent phenomenon. This paper will demonstrate that doubts about Shakespeare's authorship began in the year of the very first publication to appear under the name 'William Shakespeare' and provide evidence from the late 16th and early 17th centuries to suggest a number of Shakespeare's contemporaries believed that 'Shakespeare' was a pseudonym.
That such evidence exists and has been largely ignored by scholars raises interesting questions about the nature and influence of our belief systems. When we 'know' something we will tend not to perceive evidence conflicting with that belief, and will attempt to interpret evidence to support it. This research suggests that scholarship – in all disciplines - would benefit significantly if we were able to remove restrictions to our thinking by recognising that all 'knowledge' is essentially 'belief'.
Wednesday 19 November 2008
Dolan Cummings, Research and Editorial Director, Institute of Ideas; Editor, Culture Wars, presented a draft of his forthcoming essay on The Republican Idea of Freedom
Does it matter if the authorities have arbitrary power over us, if they don’t actually use that power to impede our actions? Is there any more to freedom than the right to be left alone? There is a more radical, ‘republican’ current in political thought, which has challenged more qualified notions of freedom - whether that of Hobbes in the 17th century or Berlin in the 20th. What do these historic debates about the nature of freedom have to contribute to our understanding of it today? How important is the idea of freedom to politics in our time?
Wednesday 1 October 2008
Alex Hochuli MA student in European Studies at King's College London presented Romantic Anti-Capitalism and the Consumer Society
Anti-capitalism has shadowed capitalism throughout its history, to the extent that anti-capitalism could be said to be the ‘best expression of capitalism in the eyes of history’. One such case is that of ‘romantic anti-capitalism’. The latter originally emerged as a yearning for that which was lost in the process of capitalist development. But far from being a historically particular phenomenon, romantic anti-capitalism can be framed instead (as does Michael Lowy) as a universal worldview, recurring periodically throughout capitalist modernity, and having certain definite characteristics. As distinct from the Marxist critique of capitalism, the Romantic critique situates itself as the diametrical opposite of the prevailing spirit of capitalism. In the contemporary period, with widespread disillusionment with modernity, one would expect a revenge of the Romantic worldview.
With the decline in political conflict over the realm of production (and its attendant theoretical repercussions), the realm of consumption has taken centre-stage. This paper attempts to identify whether contemporary anti-consumerism can be categorised as ‘romantic anti-capitalism’. Anti-capitalist critiques of the consumer society flourished in the ‘romantic revolt’ of the 1960s counterculture (Debord, Marcuse), and although there has been no comparable upsurge in radicalism today, anti-consumerist attitudes are widespread. This paper argues that, nevertheless, today’s anti-consumerism fails to match up entirely to the criteria set out by Lowy, in part because the ‘artistic critique’ of capitalism and the romantic worldview was incorporated into the new spirit of capitalism emerging post the 1960s.