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Do Not Fear Austerity: A Public Meeting with Yanis Varoufakis

Alessandro de Arcangelis, UCL PhD student in History, reports on a ‘public meeting’ with Yanis Varoufakis, and his advice to Jeremy Corbyn.
30 September 2015
Alessandro de Arcangelis More...

Starts: Oct 1, 2015 12:00:00 AM

A Syrian tragedy turning into a European tragedy

Gëzim Krasniqi, Fellow at UCL’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, traces the shifting routes chosen by refugees from Syria—and how the EU’s lack of a coordinated policy has been turning the Syrian tragedy into a European one. It has left the Balkan states with a refugee crisis impossible to master.
23 September 2015
Gëzim Krasniqi More...

Starts: Sep 23, 2015 12:00:00 AM

Fathers, Sons, and Grandfathers: Migration Across Generations

Through the stories of three generations in thirty families, Julia Brannen explores men's lives, migration, employment, fatherhood, father-son relationships and intergenerational transmission over the life course. As the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War unfolds across continents, she traces the stories of migrant generations that have gone before, of Irish grandfathers who left Ireland in the mid-20th century and Polish fathers who came to Britain in the 21st century, together with a group of white British 
9 September 2015
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Starts: Sep 9, 2015 12:00:00 AM

The Art of the Impossible: Culture, Philosophy and Dissent from Havel to the Present

Publication date: Jan 18, 2012 07:25 PM

Start: May 23, 2013 12:00 AM
End: May 25, 2013 12:00 AM

23-25 May 2013

23-25 May 2013

Christopher Ingold LT
20 Gordon Street

A conference organized by the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies


This, then, is Havel’s tragedy: his authentic ethical stance has become a moralising idiom cynically appropriated by the knaves of capitalism. His heroic insistence on doing the impossible has ended up serving those who ‘realistically’ argue that any real change in today’s world is impossible.’  Slavoj Žižek

On 23 December 2011, the funeral mass of Václav Havel was celebrated with a degree of ceremony that not only commemorated his personal achievement but also signalled the end of an era.  Havel’s death apparently confirmed the transformation of one of the most astonishing events in post-war Europe—the collapse of Communism—from living memory into complete historical narrative.  Yet, the dramatic story of 1970s and 80s dissidents and the path to 1989—this story of private individuals helping to bring about what seemed impossible—has assumed ever greater relevance to the present.

Today, the structures that appeared to have triumphed in 1989, and in what followed, are now themselves the subjects of contestation in, inter alia, the Arab Spring, China’s Charter 08, Greek anti-austerity protests, Wikileaks and pirate parties, and the Occupy Movement.  Thus, a triumphalist narrative, with its implied ‘they all lived happily ever after’, cannot provide the end to the story.  Rather than a closed chapter, ‘East European dissidence’ and its conception of politics as the art of the impossible appear an open book.

This conference seeks to identify the political, cultural, and philosophical questions that underlie ‘East European dissidence’ and to consider their implications for dissent today.  

Opening remarks by HE Michal Žantovský, Czech Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Speakers: Tim Beasley-Murray (UCL), Jonathan Bolton (Harvard), Svetlana Boym (Harvard), Paulina Bren (Vassar), Peter Bugge (Aarhus), Tamara Caraus (Bucharest), Padraic Kenney (Indiana), Klara Kemp-Welch (Courtauld), James Krapfl (McGill), Martin Palouš (Prague), Delia Popescu (LeMoyne), Martin Putna (Prague), Mikołaj Rakusa-Suszczewski (Warsaw), Tom Rowley (Cambridge), Jacques Rupnik (Paris), Charles Sabatos (Istanbul), Avi Tucker (Texas), Veronika Tuckerova (Texas), Kieran Williams (Drake), Peter Zusi (UCL).


  • £50 general
  • £25 student (non-UCL)
  • Free for members of UCL community

For information, email Dr Peter Zusi or Dr Tim Beasley-Murray

GCII colour

The event is supported by the UCL European Institute and the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction.



 Day 1: Thursday 23 May -Dissent & the Moral Life: Legacies of Havel
9.00-9.45 Registration, Tea & Coffee
HE Michal Žantovský Opening Remarks
10.00-10.45 Jacques Rupnik (Sciences Po) Václav Havel and the Legacies of Dissent Revisited
Aviezer Tucker (UT Austin)
Living in Truth: Moral Authenticity as Dissent
Delia Popescu (Le Moyne) Lived Responsibility: Václav Havel’s Practical Approach to Private and Public Responsibility
Kieran Williams (Drake) Havel’s Subversive Ohnisko
 2.15-3.00 James Krapfl (McGill)  Europe, 1989-2012: A Progress Report on the Global Revolution in the Sphere of Human Consciousness
 3.00-3.30  Tea & Coffee
 3.30-4.15 HE Martin Palouš (Knihovna Václava Havla) The Parallel Polis Thirty Years Later: Protecting Václav Havel’s Legacy for the 21st Century
Related event: Masaryk Lecture (7:30p.m.) at Slovak Embassy.
Kieran Williams: ‘The Past of Czechoslovakia—Not the Future of Britain?’
 Day 2: Friday 24 May - Thick Histories
9.30-10.15 Peter Bugge (Aarhus) Zooming In: Discovering and Defining Dissent in Svědectví before 1977
10.15-11.00 Jonathan Bolton (Harvard) Worlds of Dissent: Scenes from the Life of Charter 77
11.00-11.30 Tea & Coffee
11.30-12.15 Veronika Tuckerová (UT Austin) Thoroughly Possible: Ivan Martin Jirous’s “Merry Ghetto” and its Legacy
12.15-1.00 Charles Sabatos (Yeditepe University, Istanbul)
The Erotics of Dissince: Foreign Writers and Women in the Czech Underground
1.00-2.00 Lunch  
2.00-2.45 Tamara Caraus (New Europe College, Bucharest) From Charter 77 to Charter 2008: A Cosmopolitan Solidarity of Dissidents?’
2.45-3.30 Mikołaj Rakusa-Suszczewski (Warsaw) The NO LOGO Message: Polish Youth Against ACTA
3.30-3.50 Tea & Coffee
3.50-4.35 Padraic Kenney (Indiana) Who Controls the Square? Occupied Spaces & Democratic Transformation
6.00pm Baroness Sarah Ludford, MEP
Conference Reception, Europe House
 Day 3: Saturday 25 May - Aesthetics and Politics
10.00-10.45 Tea & Coffee
10.45-11.30 Peter Zusi (UCL)
Dissent at Rest: The Aesthetic Impulse to the Active Life
11.30-12.15 Tom Rowley (Cambridge)
Samizdat as Literary and Political Device: Evgenii Fedorov’s Deep Opposition
12.15-1.30 Lunch  
1.30-2.15 Tim Beasley-Murray (UCL)
Politics and Impossibility
2.15-3.00 Klara Kemp-Welch (Courtauld) Reticence as Dissidence? A Historiography of Antipolitics for Art History
3.00-3.30 Tea & Coffee
3.30-4.30 Svetlana Boym (Harvard) Arts of Dissent: From Sinyavsky to Pussy Riot