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Monday 13th February

IAS Fellows’ Seminar – High-resolution in vivo imaging of the human retina: A window of opportunity for visual neuroscience

13:00-14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Hannah Smithson (Oxford University, UK)

Our research focuses on the neural mechanisms that underlie perception. Using a newly developed Adaptive Optics Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscope (AOSLO), which measures and corrects optical distortions in the eye to obtain high-resolution images, we are able to resolve individual cells in the living human eye as it moves during a visual task. The AOSLO allows us to (i) monitor the structural and functional progression of retinal diseases at the cellular level; (ii) assess the fine control of eye-movements, with application as biomarkers for neurodegenerative conditions; and (iii) measure blood flow through the finest retinal capillaries in response to neural processing of visual stimuli at specific retinal locations. We are particularly interested in using such techniques to gain a deeper understanding of sensitivity control in the retina. Visualization of individual cells in the living human eye has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of vision, both in health and in disease.

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: To the Limit – adventures in distance, time and energy

18:15-19:15, Ken Wade Theatre, Calman Learning Centre, Dr Christine Sutton

Experiments that probe distances less than a millionth the size of an atom. Particles that live for less than the time it takes for light to cross the atomic nucleus. Matter as it would have been when the Universe was less than a millionth of a second old. To learn more about the fundamental particles of matter, researchers explore some of the extremes of the physical world, in particular nowadays at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. In a journey that began more than a century ago, they visit some of the current limits of scales in distance, time and energy.

Dr Christine Sutton is an honorary member of CERN, where she was editor of CERN’s magazine, the CERN Courier from 2003-2015. She became fascinated by the physics of fundamental particles as a student, and followed this up with a PhD and some time in research. She then worked for the magazine New Scientist and went on to be active both in research and in writing about particle physics, being author of several books for the general public, including Spaceship Neuturino (with Frank Close and Michael Marten) The Particle Odyssey. After 10 years in research support and teaching at the University of Oxford, she joined CERN in 2002.

This lecture is free and open to all.

Click here for more information.

‘Whose Line is it anyway’: Direction and Meaning

19:00-21:00, Lindisfarne Centre, St Aidan’s College, Durham

A fun theatre workshop using drama techniques to explore the meaning of written text and the power of direction. Performance strategies will also be explored. The workshop will be led by Brigid Hames who is a Scottish theatre educator and practitioner, with a background in literary studies. Light refreshments and drinks will be served, and everyone is welcome from across the University and our local communities.

To book a place please email

Contact for more information about this event.

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Tuesday 14th February

Modern European Research Seminar: Mary Vincent (Sheffield): Iconoclasm: the ‘martyrdom of things’ in the Spanish Civil War

17:15-18:30, Seminar Room 1, History Department, 43 North Bailey

Contact for more information about this event.

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‘Give a hand to your neighbour’: Margaret Thatcher and Pornography

17:30-19:00, Senate Suite, Durham Castle, Antony Mullen

A free public lecture; all welcome.

This paper considers why 1980s British fiction turned to pornography in order to explore Thatcherism’s contradictions. First I will discuss why pornography is a significant, but overlooked, context to return to in rethinking Thatcher’s Britain. Not only did a more market-orientated economy drive changes in the way porn was produced and consumed, but it was also a period in which new debates about porn were opening up in feminist and queer theory. This happened despite Thatcher’s call for a return to Victorian values, such as self-restraint. Then, focusing on Martin Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note (1984) and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Swimming-Pool Library (1988), I will map out fiction’s response to this cultural change. Ultimately what we see in these novels, and in fiction more widely, is an attempt to use pornography as a means of exposing an ostensible contradiction in Thatcherism: namely, between the idea of the free individual on the one hand and Thatcher’s rejection of “the permissive society” on the other.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Colonial visual cartographies: Shimla in amateur films

18:00-20:00, Lecture Room 009, Elvet Hill House

A lecture by Annamaria Motrescu-Mayes, Research Fellow and Tutor at Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, on Shimla’s colonial identity. The visual management of Shimla’s colonial identity remains a key research topic within British imperial scholarship and across South Asian identity studies. This talk explores the ways in which conflicting ideological networks, colonial iconographies and shifting interpretations of geographical hegemony have been recorded by amateur filmmakers throughout the twentieth-century.

Drawing on theories of perception and memory studies the talk will centre on the analysis of several case studies in which imperial first-person perspectives have shaped the visual identity and the visual consumption of Shimla as a complex geo-political space.

Dr Motresu-Mayes is a Research Fellow and Tutor at Clare Hall, a Research Associate and Affiliated Lecturer at the Centre of South Asian Studies, and gives annual guest lectures at the Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Her research centres on British imperial studies and considers the construction of racial, gender and political identities in visual records and their relevance to current historical studies. Through annual lectures and workshops she has secured several long-term research and educational partnerships with the Azim Premji Foundation and the Azim Premji University (Bangalore, India), the Centre for Women’s Development Studies (New Delhi), and Sichuan University (Chengdu, China). In both her research and teaching at Cambridge, Dr Mortrescu-Mayes has made extensive use of and assisted with the establishment of online film archives of amateur (colonial) media such as ‘Images of Empire’ (Bristol), ‘Colonial Film’ (London) and the online archive held by the Centre of South Asian Studies.<br.
This lecture is one of a series being held in parallel with our exhibition ‘In the Image of the Other: Visualising a British-Himalayan Town, Shimla’, on view now at the Oriental Museum.
This lecture will be held in room EH009, Elvet Hill House, adjacent to the Oriental Museum. 1 hour lecture with 30 to 45 minutes for discussion.
Free of charge, all are welcome.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Wednesday 15th February

Psychosis, Agency, and Narrative: An Interdisciplinary Workshop

09:30-17:20, Joachim Room, College of St Hild & St Bede

How does it feel to be you acting in the world or actively entertaining your own thoughts? And what happens when such a feeling is taken away, or conferred upon someone or something else?

Hallucinations, delusions, inserted thoughts and dissociation can all undermine the intuition that we are the ones controlling our own thoughts and actions. Since our experience of the surrounding world and of our own selves is tightly linked to this sense of agency, its loss, disruption or misattribution can severely affect all aspects of our conscious life.

This one-day workshop examines the theme of lost agency from a number of disciplinary perspectives, with a view to exploring how conceptions of agency in different disciplines might be productively related. The event is organised by John Foxwell (English Studies, Durham) & Ben Alderson-Day (Psychology, Durham) and will feature talks from:

The workshop will close with a discussion chaired by Charles Fernyhough and Marco Bernini (Hearing the Voice).

This event is free and open to the public, but places are limited and can be reserved in advance through Eventbrite.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.

Work in Progress Seminar

12:00-13:00, ER152

New Research in (Post)colonial and Francophone Studies

Joanna Allan, Peter Baker & Joe Ford

Temporal and Spatial Scales: Scale in Ecological Systems, Past and Present – seminar series

12:00-14:00, Kenworthy Hall, St Mary’s College, Professor Jack Williams (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Jack and his lab study vegetation change and its drivers, across diverse spatial and temporal scales, with an emphasis on the environmental changes of the last 20,000 years as a model system for global change research.

All are welcome. Attendance should be confirmed with

Click here for more information.

Child well-being and schools

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

A seminar from Professor Jonathan Bradshaw of the University of York. Everyone is welcome to attend, and booking is not required.
Professor Bradshaw will review the results of recent comparative research on child subjective well-being which is of relevance to schools. The data will include macro country level analysis and micro child level analysis of the Health Behaviour of School-aged Children and the Children’s Worlds Surveys. It will compare children’s views about their schools, their relationships with teachers and peers (including bullying) and what impact this has on their overall life satisfaction.

Contact for more information about this event.

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Translation Workshop: German Author Ulrike Draesner

13:00, ER146

Ulrike Draesner, acclaimed poet and novelist, will be presenting a workshop based on the translation of some of her mesmerising poems, in which she explores the unlimited possiblities and ambiguities, of not only the German and English language, but the concept of language per se.

As preparation for the workshop, participants are expected to have read the following poems: pangen, rohling, chorophyll, wölf, von grammatik.

Contact for more information about this event.

Ustinov College Race Crime and Justice presents: Criminal (in)justice – exploring inequalities within the criminal justice system

18:30-20:00, Ustinov College, Fisher House

Join RCJ, Professor Anthony Amatrudo and Professor Roger Smith to explore issues of criminal (in)justice.
If the purpose of the Criminal Justice System is to ‘deliver justice for all’ (Garside, 2008), why are inequalities continually reproduced within the system itself?

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information. 

Durham Castle Lecture: The state of the planet: Our course towards a resilient future

19:30-21:30, Great Hall, Durham Castle
Yolanda Kakabadse, International President of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)and former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment visits Durham to deliver this public lecture. The planet is entering an era of unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth–where human activities are causing natural systems to collapse. August 2016 – in less than eight months, humanity had used nature’s budget for the entire year. Each year this date–where we have depleted our annual natural capital–gets earlier. How is it possible to use more from nature than nature can provide?

Global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by more than half since 1970. The world is wiping out species populations and natural systems that allow human populations to survive and prosper. Destruction of natural living spaces that are the sources of water, food, energy and materials essential for wildlife and human existence is a massive threat, as are overexploitation of wildlife and climate change.
But we have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them if we care about our own survival and prosperity. Yolanda argues that consumers, business and governments need to shift from short-term to long-term thinking that provides for lives worth living well into the future and discuss solutions that can slow and reverse the deepening slide and depletion of natural systems.

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

Click here for more information.


Thursday 16th February

Agamben reading group

17:00, A56

The Use of Bodies is possibly Agamben’s master work, concluding his famous Homo Sacer series. Moving from early Greek philosophy to the present, from Plato and Aristotle, through Paul and the Church Fathers, scholasticism, Leibniz and Spinoza, to Heidegger, Debord and Foucault, the book asks the following questions: What are bodies? What is at stake philosophically in the exploitation of our own bodies and those of others? How are bodies affected by our habits, our care, our mastery of techniques? How might thought about human potentiality and life be reinvigorated by a new conception of bodies and their uses? Because Agamben’s thought ranges so widely, the group aims to bring together colleagues and postgraduates from MLAC and other departments to collectively read this fascinating and complex text.

Contact for more information about this event.

Tanya Luhrmann on ‘The Voice of God’

17:30-19:00, Palace Green Library

Professor Tanya Luhrmann (Stanford University) on ‘The Voice of God’
God is in some ways the ultimate uncertainty, since God has no material trace which gives certain evidence of presence.

The great achievement of the cognitive science of religion has been to demonstrate that evolved, “natural” qualities of our minds readily generate intuitions about supernatural agency. Yet it is also true that Christians also report that faith is hard: that it takes effort, and that this effort arises from the uncertainty of God’s presence. This talk makes the case that people find evidence of God’s presence in mental events; that different practices of attending to mental events shape mental experience; that different cultures and different theologies emphasize mind and mental process in distinctive ways, and that this has consequences for the way people experience God. I compare the experience of hearing God speak among charismatic Christians in Accra, Chennai and the Bay Area in the United States, and find that God’s voice is recognized differently and experienced differently in these theologically similar but culturally different settings.

Click here for more information.

IAS Fellow’s Public Lecture – Measurement Problems in Ancient Greece – Time and Speed

18:30-19:30, Leech Hall, St John’s College, Dr Barbara Sattler, University of St Andrews

We usually assume that we can measure all happenings with the same temporal units (seconds, hours, etc.) and can put them in the same calendar. And we take it for granted that we can also measure the speed of processes. From the perspective of the ancient Greeks, however, both points are inconceivable. In this lecture Dr Barbara Sattler will talk about some of the reasons why such a unified account of measurement is unknown in ancient Greece and some of its philosophical consequences by looking at the following three points:

  1. The lack of a unified calendar throughout the early Greek world:

Calendars differed from one city-state to the next, even within one polis more than one calendar may be used simultaneously, and they did not provide an easy way for a sequential ordering of years. This reflects a special understanding of the relationship between past, present, and future that she will analyse.

  1. The lack of a single temporal framework:

The very idea that all occurrences can be put in a temporal relation to each other (they are either before, after, or simultaneous with each other) is foreign to the ancient Greeks. Dr Sattler will analyse the effect this lack has on the quality of temporal experiences.

  1. Conceptual and mathematical problems for complex measures:

Finally, Dr Sattler will analyse some of the reasons why early Greek mathematics and philosophy would not allow for complex measures, that is, for measures that combine two kinds of magnitudes, as speed combines time and space.

Click here for more information.


Saturday 18th February

Voices, Visions, and Divine Inspiration

13:00-18:00, St Chad’s College Chapel

Join the Hearing the Voice project to explore the spiritual aspects of hearing voices and the way in which these rich and enigmatic experiences have been represented and interpreted in different religious contexts from the medieval period to the present. Together we will investigate the spiritual voices and visions of medieval visionaries – including the French saint Joan of Arc, whose voices inspired her to lead an army; the English mystic Julian of Norwich, whose Revelations of Divine Love retain a powerful influence today; and Margery Kempe, author of the first autobiography in English – as well as the role and representation of voice-hearing in early Mormonism, Buddhism and ayahuasca rituals.

The event features a public lecture by Corinne Saunders and a panel discussion with Durham University’s Chris CookHilary PowellAdam PowellDavid DupuisIsabel Clarke (Clinical Psychologist, author of Psychosis and Spirituality) and Satyin Taylor (Department of Spiritual, Religious & Cultural Care East London NHS Foundation Trust). A wine reception between 5pm and 6pm will feature readings of specially commissioned works by Sara Maitland and winner of the 2016 Queen’s medal for poetry, Gillian Allnutt.

All welcome. Places are welcome and can be reserved in advance through Eventbrite.

This public symposium will advance some of the aspects presented in our Hearing Voices exhibition, which is currently on display at Palace Green Library.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.


Sunday 19th February

Exploring London’s Past – An Insight into the University of London’s Project to Map London.

14:15-16:00, Holgate House, Grey College

The Layers of London project will create a ground-breaking interactive online map through an extensive programme of public engagement and crowd-sourcing, resulting in a dynamic website allowing users to explore and engage with London’s history.

This talk will be given by Seif El Rashidi, former coordinator of Durham’s World Heritage Site, and now Project Development Officer for Layers of London.

Contact for more information about this event.

Click here for more information.


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