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UCL Grand Challenges

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Come together with the finest minds to discuss, debate and explore topics through a cross disciplinary lens.

There are exhibitions, lectures, seminars, discussions and performances every day at UCL. You can find out more on the UCL Events website.

Below we have picked out some of the events supported and inspired by the UCL Grand Challenges:

Laughter as a Political Tool - Zunar in Malaysia

Thursday 17th January, 18:00 - 20:00

IAS Common Ground, Ground floor, South Wing, UCL London WC1E 6BT

How can laughter be used as a tool to challenge existing political structures? In this talk, the political cartoonist Zunar will address this question.

Throughout his career, Zunar has challenged and exposed corruption and abuses of power by the government in his home country of Malaysia. He uses art as a form of resistance - and has been attacked, arrested, detained, and investigated under the Sedition Act and the Penal Code for doing so. Five of his cartoon books have been banned by the Malaysian government on the grounds that the contents are “detrimental to public order.” His office in Kuala Lumpur has been raided, and thousands of cartoon books were confiscated. The printers, vendors, and booksellers have been harassed.

Zunar is the only Malaysian selected by Amnesty International for their biggest annual international campaign, ‘Write for Rights (#W4R) 2015′. He holds that when one’s country is facing a moral crisis and beset by corruption, abuse of power and violations of human rights, then it is one’s duty to take a firm stand against those responsible for it. As a cartoonist, Zunar feels compelled to show this stand in his work. Drawing cartoons, to him, becomes a fight for justice.

In addition, an exhibition with a selection of Zunar’s artworks and responses from UCL academics to it, will be held in UCL's North Cloisters from 14th-23rd January. This exhibition will showcase Zunar’s artworks that aim to face of corruption, lies and scandal through humour and laughter. These are urgent issues relevant not only to Malaysia, but globally - particularly in the age of post-truth, where accusations of corruption and collusion seem to have little purchase. More information is available here.

This event and the accompanying exhibition, are organised in conjunction with UCL's Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding and the Institute of Advanced Studies as part of the IAS Laughter series. 

Registration is open now.

Trans Studies, Trans Lives - Past, Present, and Future

Saturday, 25 March 2019 

IAS Common Ground, Ground floor, South Wing, UCL London WC1E 6BT

This symposium seeks to recognise the difficult histories and structural issues faced by trans people, but also to ensure the present and future of trans people’s lives are not defined by oppression.

In 2018, the Human Rights Campaign described anti-transgender violence in the US as “A National Epidemic” and The New York Times reported, “‘Transgender’ Could Be Defined Out of Existence Under Trump Administration”. In the UK, trans identities have been subject to similar attacks, with The Times publishing 323 largely critical articles on transgender rights and lives in 2018 alone. In response to the hostility, violence, and misunderstandings perpetrated against trans people, the UCL Grand Challenge of Justice & Equality has funded a one-day symposium to celebrate Trans Studies and Trans Lives.

The symposium, convened by Dr Ella Metcalfe, Dr Christine ‘Xine’ Yao, and Dr Ezra Horbury, seeks to recognise the difficult histories and structural issues faced by trans people, but also to ensure the present and future of trans people’s lives are not defined by oppression. It aims to showcase the endurance, joy, and creativity of the trans community with a selection of academic, autobiographical, and creative pieces on the theme of trans studies and trans lives. The call for papers is now open with academic, autobiographical and creative pieces of approximately 20 minutes in length on the theme of Trans Studies and/or Trans Lives invited. As well as academic papers, non-academic perspectives and less conventional pieces are also encouraged. Submissions should be sent to transstudieslives@gmail.com by 3 March 2019. More information is available here.