Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


IAS Talking Points Seminar: Representing Grenfell: Race, Class and Cultural Translation

07 June 2022, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Representing Grenfell: Race, Class and Cultural Translation

With Dr Claire Launchbury (Visiting Research Fellow, IAS). Respondents: Daniel Renwick and Dr Clive Nwonka

This event is free.

Event Information

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Institute of Advanced Studies


IAS Common Ground
Ground floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building
United Kingdom

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In this seminar I am looking to assess the narratives and cultural production written and composed in response to the Grenfell fire atrocity as we approach its fifth anniversary. I will be focusing on the bridgework that is undertaken in representations made by writer-activists, who Rob Nixon compellingly describes as ‘highly motivated translators’ (Nixon 2011). Bridgework here is understood as the passage from atrocity to recovery in a putatively therapeutic move, and not, importantly, as one of cultural ventriloquism (although notorious examples of this exist). While the Inquiry continues, as does the call for accountability and justice, my project here is to investigate the modes of commemoration and continued visibility that representation provides as means of adversity-activated development (Papadopoulos 2007). This therapeutic objective informs my readings of texts by Roger Robinson, Jay Barnard, Lowkey and Potent Whisper, the photo-text Gold and Ashes by bereaved family member, Feruza Atewerki and others. I also reflect on the work being put in place to create community archives in the context of my research on postwar Lebanon where archival projects are frequently a means of contesting state-led amnesia. Understanding Grenfell to be, as Nadine El-Enany outlines, ‘perhaps the most extreme instance in which people with geographical or ancestral histories of colonisation have been unable to escape their condition of coloniality in contemporary Britain’ (2019), I explore how the fire was a case of deeply embedded racialised violence operating critically, at the intersection of race and class in contemporary Britain.


Dr Claire Launchbury

(Visiting Research Fellow, IAS)


Daniel Renwick

 (Videographer and writer)

Dr Clive Nwonka

 (Lecturer in Film, Culture and Society)

Photo: Feruza Afewerki


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