MLAC Events Bulletin: 24th-30th October

Monday 24th October

IAS Fellows’ Seminar – Grahame Clark’s Map of the World: Europe, Australia and Global Prehistory

13:00-14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Ann McGrath (Australian National University)

On the wall of his office, archaeologist Grahame Clark, who held the prestigious Disney Chair of Cambridge’s Peterhouse College, displayed a world map on which he indicated all the places to which he had sent his former students. The image of a senior academic in the British imperial metropole enacting a plan to send out young men to the peripheries of Empire anticipates a new era of grand discovery. This time, the brave young men would explore the deep pasts of lands previously outside the gamut of both history and prehistory.

At a time when historians are calling for more expansive geographic and temporal scales for history (Guldi and Armitage 2014; Christian 2004), the work of earlier twentieth century scholars who narrated grand global human pasts may prove instructive. This paper considers in particular the work of early British archaeologists and/or prehistorians Grahame Clarke and Gordon Vere Childe, the Abercrombie Chair at Edinburgh. In doing so, it examines the early relationships between history, prehistory and archaeology.

The disproportionate role of Cambridge archaeological training on the development of the discipline in Australia – dubbed ‘Cambridge and the Bush’ – has received considerable attention. Many of Australia’s leading archaeologists were trained there, including UK-born Rhys Jones, Jack Golson, Wilfred Shawcross, Australian born-John Mulvaney, Isabel McBryde and South African born Carmel Schrire. Although the vantagepoint of early prehistoric archaeology appears to have been distinctively European, it is worth considering the impact of southern exchanges, as well as the extent to which the relevant professions succeeded in ‘colouring in’ the world.

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Tuesday 25th October

IAS Fellows’ Public Lecture – The Multi-Scale World (Dr Patrick McGivern, University of Wollongong)

17:30-18:30, Sir James Knott Hall, Trevelyan College

Scientists often distinguish between a wide variety of scales in world. For example, biologists distinguish between organism scales and species scales, ecologists distinguish between patch scales and landscape scales, and physicists distinguish between micro scales and macro scales. There are two prominent ways of understanding this diversity of scales. According to the first, divisions between scales represent arbitrary choices in how we describe the world: the world itself does not have distinct scales, though it is often convenient for us to describe it as if it did. According to the second, distinct scales represent real divisions in the world that exist independently of our particular motives and interests. In this talk, Dr Patrick McGivern will explain the significance of these two alternatives for a range of problems concerning scale and will defend a version of the second view: we live in a multi-scale world, and recognizing real divisions between scales is crucial for understanding it.

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 Wednesday 26th October

Networks Reading Group

12:00, A56 (also 16th November, 14th December)

This group will read a range of texts on new ontologies, new materialisms, systems theory, or intellectual and literary networks The reading for the first session is:

Niklas Luhmann, Chapter 1: System and Function in Social Systems, translated by John Bednarz, Jr. with Dirk Baecker (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1995). pp. 12-58.

This is available in e-book form from the library.

The group is open to colleagues and postgraduates from all departments. Suggestions for reading for future sessions are gratefully received; contact

Click here for more information. 

The Styles Project – Defining, operationalising and implementing academic reasoning in school curricula.

13:00-14:00, ED134

This lecture is presented by Dr Per Kind (School of Education). Reasoning is often taught in education as a topic-neutral phenomenon, for example, with focus on critical thinking and logic (i.e. deductive, inductive and abductive thinking). The styles project takes a different approach and focuses on the topic-dependent reasoning of academic cultures.

The contention is that the 21st century society draws heavily on academic reasoning and this reasoning therefore should have focus in education as preparation for citizenship. The reasoning is also part of the cultural heritage that schools subjects pass on to new generations. It means all school subjects should identify academic reasoning relevant to their academic domains and operationalise this into curriculum material. Students, in other words, should be taught religious, literacy-related, historic, socio-political, mathematical and scientific reasoning rather than general logic and critical thinking. To realise this idea, the styles project has turned to cognitive history, which regards reasoning as a cultural product and study historic artefacts to see how academic styles of reasoning have developed historically. Using the literature, which has had a main focus on scientific styles of reasoning, the project has developed a curriculum model and teaching material for Science. Examples and preliminary data from using the material in teaching will be presented, together with further plans for looking into other school subjects.

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The Fourth Robert Layton Public Lecture: What makes partly opaque beliefs and practices culturally successful?’

14:00, Arnold Wolfendale Lecture Theatre, Calman Building

Dan Sperber (CEU, Budapest)

People — and children in particular — don’t accept assertions or instructions blindly; they exercise some degree of epistemic vigilance. This vigilance can be directed at the source of the information: who to trust? It can also be directed at the content: what to believe? When a content is partly opaque — as is typically the case with religious beliefs and practices — then vigilance towards the content is ineffective and vigilance towards the source becomes determinant on its own. Opaque contents from a trusted source are, somewhat paradoxically, more likely to be accepted and to spread than contents more open to evaluation. Earlier work on apparently irrational beliefs had shown how this helps explain their propagation. The talk extends this line of explanation to the case of cultural and in particular religious practices, drawing on experimental work by developmental psychologists Gergely Csibra and Gyorgy Gergely on communication and imitation in infancy, and on forthcoming work of anthropologist Radu Umbres on imitation in cargo cults. It compares these cognitively rich explanations to explanations based on the conformity bias suggested by the work Rob Boyd, Peter Richerson, and Joe Henrich.

Dan Sperber is a French social and cognitive scientist, professor in the departments of philosophy and of cognitive science at the CEU, Budapest. He is the author of three books on anthropological themes: Rethinking Symbolism (1975), On Anthropological Knowledge (1985), and Explaining Culture (1996). He is also the co-author, with Deirdre Wilson, of two books on human communication, Relevance: Communication and Cognition (Second Revised Edition, 1995) and of Relevance and meaning (2012). A new book with Hugo Mercier, The Enigma of Human Reason, will be published in 2017.


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Durham Castle Lecture Series

Elements of a Theory of Global Politics: from the Holocaust to the 21st Century

20:00-21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle, Professor David Held
The issues that increasingly dominate the 21 century cannot be solved by any single country, no matter how powerful. To manage the global economy, prevent runaway environmental destruction, reign-in nuclear proliferation, or confront other global challenges, we must cooperate. But our tools for global policy making – chiefly state-to-state negotiations over treaties and international institutions – have broken down. The result is gridlock. This lecture will explore the dynamics of gridlock and will ask whether we can find any pathways through it for policy reform and breakthroughs in managing global challenges.

Doors open at 7.30pm. Seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. No ticket is required.
Lecture commences at 8pm.

Contact for more information about this event.

Friday 28th October

Museums at Night – Sarah Riseborough reads ‘Tale of the Tower’

19:00-19:45, Durham Castle

As part of the national ‘Museums at Night’ event, the artist, storyteller and performer Sarah Riseborough comes to Durham Castle to read her captivating short story ‘Tale of the Tower’ in the intimate and atmospheric surroundings of the Norman Chapel.

Sarah Riseborough is an artist who focuses on performance and has recently presented work in Interakcje in Poland, Belfast and BALTIC and Gallery North in Newcastle. She is currently working with text and her experience of the tower at Dunstanburgh Castle was the starting point for her artist’s book Tale of the Tower to unfold. It is an atmospheric verse that follows the fortunes of an aspiring hero who is borne of the legend of a vampiric witch and her captive.

This event is free but booking is essential. Please remember to cancel your booking if you find that you are unable to attend so that someone else can take your place.

Please book your place via Eventbrite.

Click here for more information.


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