MLAC events, PGR Forum, Research Groups

Weekly Bulletin 1-7 February

After last week’s careers workshop, this week’s forum will be a session with Dr Mike Thompson from the Spanish department on teaching and assessment, looking at methods, tips and best practice. Mike is currently the Director of Undergraduate Teaching in the School of Modern Languages, and will be coming to the forum on Thursday at 5pm to dispense some of his extensive wisdom, have a chat with us, and answer any questions we might have. If you are thinking of coming, please email by Wednesday at 5pm.


Monday 1st February


Evidence on Trial Public Lecture: Professor Dame Athene Donald DBE, FRS, University of Cambridge –Divided by a Common Language: How Can Words Confound the Evidence, 18:15-19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre

As a scientist Professor Dame Athene Donald likes to think she uses language precisely and that everything she says is backed up by evidence. She expects others feel the same whatever their discipline. The reality is she can use a word like ‘stress’ to mean something mechanically precise; for others it conveys simply feeling there’s too much going on in one’s life. She regularly ‘plays’ with her data but it doesn’t mean she’s massaging or cheating; inClimategate this became a big issue. Moving between disciplines, between science and policy or taking science to the public all pose major challenges if the evidence is to be accepted by everyone. Click here for more information.


The Scottish Soldiers Project – Public Event, 20:00-21:15, Great Hall, Durham Castle

The University is inviting members of the public – organisations, public bodies and interested individuals – to hear more about its Scottish Soldiers archaeology project and to comment on next steps. The Durham University archaeology team, joined by Canon Rosalind Brown of Durham Cathedral, will present their findings and ask for feedback on further research, reburial and commemoration. All welcome – entrance is free of charge but please note that due to venue capacity, this event will be open on a first come first served basis. Click here for more information.


Tuesday 2nd February


IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture: Dr Jon Hesk, University of St Andrews – Deliberation, decision-making and evidence in Classical Greece, 17:30-18:30, Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College

The surviving texts of Classical Athens show that its citizens prized creative, enjoyable and devastating performances of verbal contests, often conflating the form of an argument with its substance. On the other hand, this developing democracy worried that insults, entertaining rhetoric and certain kinds of emotional appeal were compromising its processes of deliberation and decision-making. So, the texts of the period also offer illustrations of the need for proper evidence-based proof and for slow, sober and careful reasoning. We have discussion of the dangers of arrogant thinking or hasty judgements in the face of contingency, ambiguity or uncertainty. We have reminders of the importance of the evidence of divine will provided by oracles and omens. This tension between ‘performance’ and ‘evidence’ manifests itself across a variety of genres which were fundamental to Athens’ social, moral, religious and political domains: tragedy, comedy and speeches from trials and political debates It is also confronted in the writings of the period’s great intellectuals (Thucydides,Xenophon, Plato and Aristotle…). In his lecture, Dr Hesk will show how this performance/evidence tension shaped the classical Greek development and function of key genres and disciplines which we now take for granted: drama, rhetoric, historiography and philosophy. But he will also suggest that these Greek works offer a valuable model for our very current, modern situation. By underlining and exploring the difficulty of achieving virtuous and effective evidence-based decisions – whether collective or individual and whether in public or private domains – the classical Greek material can enrich public and academic debates about who decides what in our own societies. These ancient texts also speak to a key contemporary question: what is the best way to ensure that our deliberations and judgements are informed by relevant knowledge, evidence and testimony, whilst remaining faithful to democratic imperatives? Click here for more information.


Behind the Scenes at the Museum with Sandy Nairne: New Public Portraits – Icons and Idols at the National Portrait Gallery, 18:00-20:00, Hogan Lovells Lecture Theatre, Palatine Centre

Looking back over twelve years of commissioning new portraits, Sandy Nairne, former director of the National Portrait Gallery will discuss the key issues involved in this complex process. Questions will include the hierarchy of different media, the levels of trust required between sitter and artist, the relationship between public and self-image, and the role of the media in our understanding of public figures today. Citing recent works as diverse as Sam Taylor-Johnson’s video portrait of David Beckham, Judi Dench painted by Alessandro Raho, Zaha Hadidportrayed in digital form by Michael Craig-Martin, and Tony Blair painted by Alastair Adams, Sandy will examine the question of what makes a successful public portrait. Click here for more information.


Textual Evidence (The Life of Texts) Public Lecture Series: Professor Julian Horton – Textual Analysis: Once More on the First Movement of Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ Sonata, Op. 31, No.2, 18:00-19:30, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library

This lecture revisits the analytical reception history of Beethoven’s ‘Tempest’ Sonata, Op. 31, No. 2. Composed in 1802, and explicitly associated by Beethoven with a compositional ‘new path’, the ‘Tempest’ is habitually viewed as initiating the so-called ‘middle period’. Since Carl Dahlhaus’s Ludwig Van Beethoven und seine Zeit (1987) at least, the first movement in particular has become a nexus for recent historical, analytical and philosophical discourse seeking to explain the significance of Beethoven’s post-classical turn. More than this, the compositional techniques that the movement exhibits have become pivotal for recent theories of early Romantic musical form. Most influentially, Janet Schmalfeldt (2011) has observed in the ‘Tempest’ a dialectical concept of formal process, which reflects the close historical proximity of Beethoven’s music and Hegel’s philosophy, and which for her distinguishes early Romantic forms from their classical forebears. For further information please contact or click here.


Visual Evidence (Ghosts – the Evidence of Spirits) Public Lecture Series: Professor Nicholas Roe, University of St Andrews – ‘We talked about Ghosts…’: John Keats’ Shadows, 18:15, ER140

“…and it sure must be

Almost the highest bliss of human kind,

When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.”

The closing lines of John Keats’s first published poem, ‘To Solitude’, speak of escaping to anotherworld of ‘haunts’ and ‘kindred spirits’. Perhaps this isn’t surprising, given the deaths of his father, mother, brother, grandmother and other relatives, and his harrowing duties at Guy’s Hospital. Keats talked about ghosts with his friends, recalled that Coleridge told him a ghost story, and populated his poems with numerous ghosts and shadows. The narrative in Isabella turns upon a ghostly encounter, as does ‘Ode on Indolence’; in ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ being ‘here’ is to grow ‘pale, and spectre-thin’, while the full-fruited stanzas of ‘To Autumn’ are aware of an elusive presence ‘like a gleaner’, glimpsed ’by a cyder-press’. In this talk Prof Roe wants to explore the lure of the ghostly in Keats, and what his realms of shadows may tells us about his poetic achievement. Click here for more information.


Wednesday 3rd February: Behind the Scenes at the Museum: Masterclass with Sandy Nairne, former Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, 9:30-12:00, Birley Room, Hatfield College

Following his public lecture on Tuesday 2 February 2016, Sandy Nairne, writer and curator and former Director of the National Portrait Gallery, will be giving a masterclass on working with museums and art galleries, which forms part of CVAC’s impact-related training programme in ‘Working with Museums’. The focus of the masterclass will be on the role of museums and art galleries in extending public engagement with history and using materials in collections as a field of active interpretation. The masterclass will take the form of an informal question and answer session. This will offer an opportunity to explore in greater depth the ideas presented in Sandy Nairne’s lecture. It will also afford participants the opportunity of discussing with Sandy Nairne particular ideas that they may have about projects relating to public engagement. Click here for more information.


Justice and the Arts Research Group – Roundtable: Plagiarism and Identity Theft, Dr Annalisa Cippolone, Dr Catherine Dousteyssier-Khoze, Dr Tom Wynn, 12:00, ER154


Thursday 4th February


Professor Carlo Caruso – A.E. Housman and Giacomo Leopardi: A Chance Encounter? 16:45-18:00, Williams Library, St Chad’s College

A Centre for Poetry and Poetics research seminar. All welcome. Contact m.s.o’ for more information about this event.


Durham World Heritage Site 2016 Lecture: Professor Robin Coningham, Durham University –‘Ships of Gold’: UNESCO, Pilgrimage and Preservation in South Asia, 17:30, Learning Centre, Palace Green Library

The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the Cafe, Palace Green. The lecture and reception are free and open to all, however, booking is essential. Whilst interviewing stakeholders in the Nepal Terai in 2015 about their expectations of change resulting from the development of a nearby Buddhist pilgrimage site, one elderly participant encapsulated her aspirations by referring to it as a ‘ship of gold’. On further discussion, she suggested that the development, in combination with rising number of visitors, would bring her and her village wealth, employment, roads, electricity and security. Pilgrimage is one of the fastest growing motivations for individual travel with an estimated 600 million ‘religious and spiritual voyages’ undertaken each year. Whilst much focus in Europe has been placed on the revival of earlier sites, such as ‘St Cuthbert’s Way’ or the ‘Camino de Santiago’, pilgrimage in South Asia is agreed by most to have played a critical role for thousands of years. Recent figures generated by the Asia Development Bank, however, have predicted exponential growth in pilgrim numbers from outside South Asia, with a peak of 22 million in the year 2020. With reference to Durham University’s research in South Asia, including the UNESCO-sponsored excavations at Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha (Nepal), this presentation will comment on some of the very real challenges to the survival of tangible heritage from increasing numbers of pilgrims and visitors to heritage pilgrimage sites. These challenges range from damaging contemporary ritual practices to the very real need to offer humanitarian infrastructure such as pathways, electrical power lines and sewerage and water pipes. Reflecting on Durham University’s experience with UNESCO in responding to a major financial investment of millions of dollars in pilgrim and tourist infrastructure across South Asia by the Asia Development Bank, this presentation will describe some of the technical and methodological archaeological approaches employed to support sustainable pilgrimage at key sites. It will also offer comment on the very real social and economic impacts of pilgrimage on some of South Asia’s poorest communities and on some of the very real challenges that we still face in delivering such programs. Click here to book.


Café Politique: Questions of Statehood: What Does it Mean to be ‘Non-Recognized’? 18:00, Ustinov College

The Global Citizenship Programme invites colleagues at Durham University to challenge the notion of Statehood and to question power and politics behind hegemonic processes of becoming recognised by the international system of States. Café Politique poses the question what does it mean to be ‘non-recognised’ by drawing on several contemporary examples of contested spaces that emerge as a result of or in reaction to Statehood.


Philip Steinberg, Professor of Political Geography and Director of IBRU, Durham University : ‘Contesting the Arctic: Politics and Imaginaries in the Circumpolar North’

Amjed Rasheed, PhD student of SGIA, Durham University & Muhammad Mahmood Saleh, PhD student of SGIA, Durham University and Lecturer in Politics at Salahaddin University, Erbil: ‘Kurdistan and the issue of statehood and sovereignty: the case of Kurdistan region of Iraq and the Kurdish cantons in Syria’

Edward Walker, PhD student of SGIA, Durham University : ‘Catalan independence and the international dimension of recognition.’

Click here for more information.






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