Author - Catherine Ellis, Blog, MLAC events, News, PG events


Monday 6th February

IAS Fellows’ Seminar – Abrupt Climate Change: What is abrupt? How fast is fast?

13:00-14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Jack Williams (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

A common trope in discussions about contemporary climate change is that the expected rates of 21st-century climate change are abrupt and faster than anything in the past. Is this true? This seemingly simple question quickly requires diving into questions of scale. What do we mean by abrupt, and should our definition be scale-neutral or scale-specific? Does our answer depend on whether we look at mean global temperature changes or regionally, given e.g. the remarkably rapid climate changes in the North Atlantic and western Europe during the last deglaciation? How well can we characterize past abrupt rates of change, given geological sampling protocols that might have a temporal resolution anywhere from 100 to 106 years between samples? These scale-dependent answers matter to ecologists seeking to conserve species biodiversity and ecosystem function in a rapidly changing world, for they inform our understanding of whether, from a species perspective, current rates of change are anomalous or merely another instance of rapid change in an ever-dynamic world.

Fellows’ seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin’s Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Click here for more information.


The Scale of Things Public Lecture Series: Towards a Political Theory of Terrain

18:15-19:15, Ken Wade Theatre, Calman Learning Centre, Professor Stuart Elden FBA (University of Warwick)

Terrain is an important concept in both physical and military geography. However the term is often used in a relatively unproblematic way to describe the forms and textures that define particular spaces. This lecture draws elements from both traditions but situates them within a more explicitly theoretical-political inquiry, that of thinking the materiality of territory. Terrain is important in understanding territory because it combines materiality, strategy and the need to go beyond a narrow, two-dimensional sense of the cartographic imagination. Instead, terrain forces us to account for the complexity of height and depth, the question of volume. Terrain makes possible, or constrains, various political, military and strategic projects. It is where the geopolitical and the geophysical meet.

All attempts at fixing territorial boundaries and shaping territories are complicated by dynamic features of the Earth, including rivers, oceans, polar-regions, glaciers, airspace and the sub-surface – both the sub-soil and the sub-marine. These complexities operate at a range of spatial scales, from the boundaries of nation-states to urban infrastructure projects. Taking the measure of these factors is crucial for a political-legal theory of territory more generally. Essentially the key question is: how can theories of territory better account for the complexities of the geophysical?

Click here for more information.


Tuesday 7th February

IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – Small States, Healthy Nations: on the political economy of Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland

17:30-18:30, Senate Suite, University College, Professor John Hall, McGill University

Small and culturally homogeneous states feature prominently in indices of competitiveness within the world political economy. The lecture suggests that this is not an accident: the vulnerabilities which small nation-states face has led them to become stronger because both scale and cohesion encourage flexibility and resilience. An examination of the ways in which Denmark, Ireland and Switzerland managed the financial crisis that began in 2008 supports this view, not least when pointing to differences between the three cases.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Click here for more information.


Wednesday 8th February

Networks Reading Group

12:00, A56

This group looks at work in new ontologies, new materialisms, systems theory, and intellectual and literary networks. It has looked at work by Bruno Latour, Caroline Levine, Franco Moretti, Niklas Luhmann, Benjamin Bratton and Mario Blaser. The group is open to suggestions for suitable reading, so please do bring forward your ideas. Colleagues and postgraduates welcome.

Contact for more information about this event.


Temporal and Spatial Scales: Scale in Ecological Systems, Past and Present – seminar series – Up/down scaling: Issues, problems and practices workshop

12:00-14:00, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s College
Ecological systems, past and present, can be investigated on a wide range of spatial scales, from very local (such as a single pond) to global. Ecological systems can also be studied over different timescales, from seconds to millions of years. For practicality and convenience, it is often necessary to make observations at one scale, but generalise them across scales. Up- or down-scaling observations and/or models is becoming increasingly important in exploring real-life events. There is also a pressing need to apply knowledge of modern ecological micro’ scale data to the ‘macro’ ecological record of the past: much research into human evolution, for example, would benefit from greater interaction with ecologists of modern systems and a more detailed understanding of ecological pattern and process at multiple scales. This IAS-supported network will link ecological researchers working at different scales and on different time periods, across the University and beyond, integrating knowledge and catalysing interdisciplinary and novel research.

Meetings will be held weekly on Wednesday lunchtimes (12.00 – 14.00) in the Kenworthy Room at St Mary’s College, Durham University, from 25th January until 15th March 2017 inclusive. There will be a mix of seminars given by external speakers and more informal opportunities for ecological researchers to update each other on their current work, share ideas and develop collaborations. The ‘Scale in Ecological Systems, Past and Present’ network is being organised jointly by Dr Sarah Elton, Department of Anthropology (who works on Pliocene and Pleistocene palaeoecology and has a special interest in the inter-relationships between Old World monkey evolution, ecology and morphology) and Professor Brian Huntley, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (who investigates the relationships between environmental change and organismal distributions, as well the composition, structure and dynamics of ecosystems).

Attendance should be confirmed with

Click here for more information.


The Virtues and Vices of Virtue Epistemology

13:00-14:00, ED134, School of Education

A seminar from Dr Richard Smith of the School of Education, Durham University. Everyone is welcome to attend, and booking is not required.

There has been an explosion of interest in virtue epistemology in recent years. There are two particular sources of this: first, the perceived failure of traditional epistemology to give an account of knowledge in terms of true, justified belief has led philosophers away from the question of what knowledge is to questions about the qualities or virtues of the good knower. Secondly, the suspicion that character education, which has also seen a resurgence, is based on little more than subjective preferences if not outright crankiness has been accompanied by the aspiration to show that the intellectual virtues have more solid grounds. I argue that much recent work in virtue epistemology displays a number of flaws. For example, intellectual virtues cannot be distinguished from moral virtues as readily as some writers appear to believe; little account is taken of research that suggests our virtues are often context-specific; virtues and vices are seen as characteristics of the individual, so that questions about the social and material forces that shape them are disregarded; the intellectual virtues are not univocal and stable so that, for instance, intellectual accuracy could easily be distinguished from pedantry; there is a tendency to analyse intellectual virtues in terms of knowledge and truth – as if it were not problems with these concepts that had inspired the return to virtue epistemology – with the result that many interesting qualities, in particular the vices, that do not lend themselves to this analysis are neglected. I illustrate many of these points by giving an account of the virtue of irony and the vice of what Aristotle calls alazony (alazoneia), the self-aggrandisement or boastfulness, nicely captured by the modern term ‘bigging up’, that now commands high political office and that, in the form of ‘Impact’, increasingly colonises the academic imagination.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.


Ecologies and the Arts

Dr Elizabeth McKinnell, Department of Philosophy: “Thinking on One’s Feet: Solitary Walkers in Social Landscapes”

17:00, ER 205

All welcome.


Glass Slippers, Stinky Cheese Men and Percy Jackson: An Introduction to Folklore in Contemporary Children’s Literature

17:30-19:00, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Dr Jennifer Ford (Hong Kong University)

An Inventions of the Text seminar, to which all are welcome.

What exactly is folklore and where does it come from? Folklore embodies recognisable motifs and themes that continue to delight, amuse, perplex and sometimes frighten readers of all ages. Recent retellings and revisions of folklore, such as fractured fairy tales, reveal the rich and often subversive nature of folklore in contemporary children’s and young adult literature. This seminar will explore some of the reasons why folklore continues to be such a strong presence in classrooms, libraries and in literature for children and young people. Drawing on literary criticism as well as children’s librarianship and education theories, the questions of why these stories continue to hold such fascination for children and why teachers and parents continue to read these stories to children will be discussed.

Dr Ford teaches children’s literature in a Masters programme in Information Science in the Faculty of Education at HKU, and she is a qualified librarian as well as having a doctorate in English literature. Her research spans the disciplines of education, literary criticism, developmental psychology and librarianship.

Contact for more information about this event.


Professor Charles Fernyhough on ‘Children, Voice-Hearing, and Imaginary Friends’

17:3019:30, Palace Green Library

Many children hear voices, although the experience is not well understood in this age group. In this talk, Prof Fernyhough will explore how the experience of hearing voices relates to the common phenomenon of imaginary friends. Understanding the similarities and differences between these two aspects of psychological development can enhance our understanding of both kinds of experience.

All are welcome to attend this public lecture, but places are limited and can be reserved in advance through Eventbrite.

This event is part of the linked programme of events around Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday, a major exhibition on voice-hearing produced by Hearing the Voice and Palace Green Library.


Bishop Van Mildert Annual Lecture: The Church of England and European Protestantism, 1558-1662: New Light on an Old Theme

17:30-18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College
The fifth annual Bishop Van Mildert Lecture will be presented by Professor Anthony Milton of Sheffield University, who will be speaking on The Church of England and European Protestantism, 1558-1662.
This public lecture is free and open to all.

Contact for more information about this event.

The Ustinov Workshop: Culture and Behaviour

18:00-20:00, Ustinov College, Fisher House

Have you ever considered how you behave differently when you speak different languages? Let us explore the mysterious side of culture and behaviour together.
In this workshop we are going to start with formal and informal greetings from various cultures, and then word-guessing games based on gestures only will be provided to see how the meanings are reflected upon different cultural symbol systems, and lastly we are going to brainstorm the relationship between language and behaviour from personal experiences.

All welcome. Refreshments provided.

Contact for more information about this event.

Dressing to Impress’: Chinese Formal and Informal Costume and Dress Accessories (Qing Dynasty 1644-1911)

19:30-21:30, St Aidan’s College

Friends of the Oriental Museum 2016/17 Lecture Series.
Lecture by David Rosier, NADFAS Accredited Lecturer. The lecture will initially provide an insight into the highly regulated system of Formal Court Costume which determined the clothing, and insignia, for the members of the Imperial Clan (nobility) but which also extended to senior officials of the Government and Armed Forces.
In direct contrast there will be a review of the nature, and form, of informal wear, robes and dress accessories, that members of Chinese High Society would choose to wear when no longer constrained by Court regulations. A particular focus will be on the highly decorative costumes of the ladies of the court and which will include aspects such as robe attachments, jewellery and footwear.
Textiles on display.
This lecture is open to all (there is a small charge for visitors).

Contact for more information about this event.


Durham Castle Lecture – Prof. Timothy Garton Ash

20:00-21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle

Professor Timothy Garton Ash, University of Oxford, will deliver a lecture entitled “Free Speech Under Attack” on Wednesday, 8 February in the Great Hall, Durham Castle at 8pm. Doors open at 7.30pm. Seats are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. No ticket is required.

‘Free Speech Under Attack’
Wherever we look, from Turkey to Russia, in Egypt, China, Poland and now in the United States, free speech is under attack. The threats range from direct censorship and what Timothy Garton Ash has dubbed ‘the assassin’s veto’ to more subtle ones, such as fake news, online echo chambers and filter bubbles. Yet the internet should give up unprecedented opportunities for people to express themselves and communicate freely ‘regardless of frontiers’, as Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights demands. Drawing on his path-breaking book Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World and the Oxford University Free Speech Debate project ( Timothy Garton Ash explores the transformed circumstances for free speech and what can be done to defend it.

Timothy Garton Ash is the author of nine books of political writing or ‘history of the present’ which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last thirty years. He is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

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.


Thursday 9th February

IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – Public Intellectuals, Grassroots Movements and the Politics of Scale

17:30-18:30, Ustinov Room, Van Mildert College, Professor Ida Susser, Hunter College

In her long-term work on social movements, both with respect to urban displacement and global health, Professor Ida Susser has explored the relationship between public intellectuals, grassroots movements and political change.
Public intellectuals can be understood as two-sided, as they transmit ideas from the global or national level to groups at the local level and also transmit innovative ideas and practices upward. The frameworks of discourse adopted by public intellectuals can also be implicated in defining national boundaries and other crucial political and social issues.
Her current research is concerned with the remaking of scale in Europe as populations have been faced with the politics of austerity. Since the 2008 crisis, the ways in which nation states in Europe have been represented, in terms of the rights of immigrants, the power of nationalist regions, the economic responsibilities of governments to their constituents and other questions of scale have been highly contested. This lecture will explore the involvement of public intellectuals and social movements in these and related arenas.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Click here for more information.


Acting and Imaging: Theatre and Theology in the work of Dorothy L Sayers and Charles Williams

17:30-19:15, Dun Cow Cottage Seminar Room, Dun Cow Cottage, Dun Cow Lane, Durham

Dr Frances Clemson (Durham University) will give this seminar as part of the Catholic Theology Research Seminar series.

This seminar series provides a forum for scholarly discussion of pertinent issues in the Catholic traditions of theology and church. Seminars usually take place three times per term. They draw together people with specialist interests across the traditional theological disciplines (scriptural, historical, philosophical, systematic, liturgical, ethical and practical/pastoral) and social-scientific approaches.
There is a pre-seminar drinks reception from 5.30pm with the seminar beginning at 5.45pm. A group from the seminar often goes for a meal afterwards.
All are welcome. If you wish to attend, please register at

Contact for more information about this event.


Friday 10th February

Early Modern Group Seminar: Linda Pollock (Tulane), ‘Affect and Morality in Seventeenth-Century England’

16:30-18:00, Seminar Room 1, History Department, 43 North Bailey

All papers take place on Wednesdays 4.30pm to 6pm (unless otherwise stated) in seminar room 1, History Department, 43 North Bailey, Durham.

Contact for more information about this event.


Barrie Ormsby Art Exhibition Launch Event – St Mary’s College

18:30, Kenworthy Hall St Mary’s College

The exhibition will include landscapes of West Durham, compositions from music and explorations of social and mythical themes. A launch event will be held on Friday, 10th February from 6.30 pm in the Kenworthy Hall at St Mary’s College.

Barrie Ormsby was born on Tyneside in 1945 and studied at the Ruskin School of Fine Art, Oxford from 1963 to 1966. He has lived and worked from the landscape in West Durham since 1970 and is a founder member of the Bearpark Artists’ Co-operative. His murals can be seen in Durham, Bishop Auckland, Morpeth, Newcastle and Sunderland. He has exhibited throughout the north and his last major show was in Cambridge.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.


Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th February

5th Durham Postgraduate Colloquium on Translation Studies

11th February 09:00 to 12th February 18:00, Durham Castle, Durham University, UK

The Centre for Intercultural Mediation at Durham University is currently organizing this conference, which is due to take place in Durham Castle on 11-12 February, 2017.

The event takes place every year in Durham and we invite postgraduates and researchers from all over the Europe gather together, sharing their new research findings and discussing the current and future trends in Translation Studies.

This year the topic is: Translation and Diversity–Communicating Approaches in Translation Studies. We will have Annie Brisset and Michael Cronin as our keynote speakers. In addition, every participant has 20 minutes to present his/her research and 10 minutes to answer questions raised by audience. This is then followed by a round table discussion on the topic.

We have made clear our aims and scope, lists of speakers and advisory board, schedule and registration fee in the Call for Papers document, which I attach here.

Please see Colloquium details and call for Papers. The deadline for application is 2 December 2016.

Contact for more information about this event


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