Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)



Themes 2017-18

The research themes for 2017-18 are Lies and Vulnerabilty.


IAS Junior Research Fellows Dr Joe Stadolnik and Dr Gregory Whitfield are researching this theme.

This theme is open to the widest possible interpretation and is assumed to address the concerns of many disciplines and departments while providing a frame for thinking across or even bypassing entrenched or established modes of thinking. It could include the following concerns:

  • Deceit, mendacity, misinformation and falsehood
  • Technologies of deception and denial, digital developments and the fabrication of facts, fictions, factoids and fibs
  • Alternative facts, post-truth, fake news, double-speak and misrepresentation
  • Counter factual narratives, myth and make-believe, stories and fables
  • Language and lying, ontologies of lying
  • The long history of lying
  • Extracting the 'truth': torture, duress and persecution
  • False evidence, ideologies, fakes and forgeries
  • Heresy and hearsay, rumour and gossip, wilful ignorance and secrets, evasion and erasure
  • Polemics, persuasion, propaganda and politics, conspiracies and concealment
  • Veridical evidence, witnessing, perjury, oaths and testimony, lying and the law
  • Lie detectors and mind machines, brain scanners and neuroscience, forensics and fabrication
  • Ethics and honesty, withholding information and economising with the 'truth'
  • Masquerading and masking, conmen and tricksters, self-preservation, subjectivity and strategic display/disguise.
  • Repression, refusal, regression and deferral

The IAS is examining this theme in collaboration with the Mishcon Academy at Mishcon de Reya, establishing a programme of events around these particular areas:

  • Technologies of deception and denial, digital developments and the fabrication of facts, fictions, factoids and fibs
  • Alternative facts, post-truth, fake news, double-speak and misrepresentation
  • Ethics and honesty, withholding information and economising with the 'truth'
  • Veridical evidence, witnessing, perjury, oaths and testimony, lying and the law


Lauren Slater on 'Lies and Lying'


Time and Date: tbc
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The Institute of Advanced Studies is delighted to welcome Lauren Slater for this talk. 

In Lying, first published in 2000, Lauren Slater forces readers to redraw the boundary between what we know as fact and what we believe through the creation of our own personal fictions. Mixing memoir with mendacity, Slater examines memories of her youth, when after being diagnosed with a strange illness she developed seizures and neurological disturbances - and the compulsion to lie. Openly questioning the reliability of memoir itself, Slater presents the mesmerizing story of a young woman who discovers not only what plagues her but also what cures her - the birth of her sensuality, her creativity as an artist, and storytelling as an act of healing.


A psychologist and writer, Lauren Slater is the author of several memoirs: Welcome to My Country: A Therapist's Memoir of Madness, Prozac DiaryLove Works like This: Travels Through a Pregnant YearLying: A Metaphorical MemoirThe 60 Thousand Dollar Dog: My Life with Animals, and Playing House: Notes of a Reluctant Mother. She has also published a book of fiction: Blue Beyond Blue; and two books of nonfiction: Opening Skinner's Box: Great Psychological Experiments of the 20th Century, and Blue Dreams: The Story and the Science of the Drugs that Changed our Minds.

Slater is the editor of The Complete Guide to Mental Health for Women (Beacon Press) and the 2006 Guest Editor of Best American Essays. She has received numerous awards, including a 2004 National Endowment for the Arts award, multiple inclusions in Best American volumes, and a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her essays have been chosen multiple times for inclusion in the Best American Series and her essay Bloodlines won a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Slater is currently at work on her 10th book.

The IAS Lies Public Lecture Series is part of our 2017-18 research theme Lies and is generously supported by Mishcon de Reya's Mishcon Academy.

All welcome. Please register here.

Past Events

UCL IAS Lies: 'Trust Me' - A Symposium on the Language of Medical Expertise and Imposture in English, 1400-1900

Trust me.jpg

Time and Date: 9am - 7 pm, 25 May 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

'Trust Me' is an interdisciplinary symposium on the long history of medical publicity. How did medical practitioners craft a language to cultivate confidence in their knowledge and abilities in English? Our conversation will trace how the assurances (and overassurances) of expertise-expressed in mountebanks' medicine shows, print medical advertising, bedside manner, and training literature-adapted to new paradigms of knowledge, media technologies, and regulatory regimes to win the trust of patients and authorities. We will explore the history of that language, as well as the forms of its dissemination in literary and public culture: how did this language circulate as a dramatic genre, a political problem, or style of speech? In this, we will follow this set of professional medical practices as it was translated into social life and the popular imagination, and how these practices shaped broader cultural attitudes about medical expertise and the people who claimed it.

M. A. Katritzky (Barbara Wilkes Research Fellow in Theatre Studies, Open University) will deliver the plenary lecture. The full program is TBA.

This symposium was organized as part of the 'Lies' research thread at the IAS by  Joe Stadolnik, in partnership with Dr Elma Brenner and the Wellcome Collection.

All welcome. Please register here.

Democracy and (dis)trust in the experts

Democracy and distrust

Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 24 May 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS is delighted to welcome Dr Alfred Moore and Dr Zeynep Pamuk for this Lies seminar.

Dr Alfred Moore: Dynamics of Trust and Distrust 

How are trust and distrust related? Distrust is often - at least implicitly - framed as the mere absence of trust. Yet some important strands of liberal and democratic thought (e.g. Bentham) suggest a more complex relationship: we might trust in authorities to the extent that we believe there are mechanisms in place to make them trustworthy. Specifically, the active distrust of some might generate the conditions for the trust of others. Although various theories of institutional and political trust have emphasised the importance of monitoring and vigilance to minimise the risks of trust, less attention has been paid to ways in which trust and trustworthiness can arise from practices premised on distrust. In this paper I set out to give a fuller account of the dynamics of trust and distrust, which I will elaborate with some examples from science, the economy, and politics. 

Alfred Moore is a Lecturer in the Department of Politics at the University of York. He works on contemporary political theory, and he is the author of Critical Elitism: Deliberation, Democracy, and the Politics of Expertise (2017, Cambridge University Press).

Dr Zeynep Pamuk: A Political Epistemology for Uncertain Times

We believe that decisions made with more knowledge produce better outcomes. The ideal decision-maker is typically modelled as an agent with full information. At the same time, most political decision situations are defined as much by what we don’t know as what we know. Modern societies must make policy decisions on the basis of expert knowledge that is uncertain, incomplete and subject to disagreement. These epistemic difficulties are compounded when non-expert decision-makers must evaluate complex information without sufficient expertise and under time pressure.

Neither the value of having knowledge, nor the fact that available knowledge is often fallible and incomplete should be controversial. Yet we have not paid sufficient attention to the implications of the fact of imperfect knowledge for how the use of expertise should be treated in political decision-making. Even when we recognize the limitations of the knowledge we have, we still act as if trying to obtain the best available approximation or to identify the correct expert would be the right thing to do.  The purpose of this paper is to challenge this approach and to show that the recognition of the shortcomings of our epistemic condition should change our procedures and institutions of decision-making. I argue that we should adopt a “second-best” approach, which requires focusing on possible failures, raising or lowering evidentiary standards, employing strategies of deliberate ignorance, or shifting power and responsibility to different agents and institutions depending on the particular context and purpose.

Dr. Zeynep Pamuk is a Supernumerary Fellow in Politics at St John’s College, University of Oxford.

All welcome. Please register here.

Medieval Fiction and Its Contraries

Medieval Fiction and Its Contraries

Time and Date: 4 - 6 pm, 18 May 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Dr Julie Orlemanski, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University of Chicago

When we theorise about literary fiction, we tend to define it against its contraries - against fact, truth or history; in opposition to scripture and belief; contra error and lie. This talk reflects on the 'others' of medieval fiction as both a historiographic problem and a literary-critical one, and along the way it argues for a comparative approach to the study of fiction in literary studies at large.

All welcome.  Please register here.

UCL IAS Lies: Truth, Lies, and Cheap talk - Formal studies on information aggregation

Cheap talk

Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 9 May 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Speaker: Francesco Squintani (Professor of Economics, University of Warwick)

All welcome. Please register here

Post-Truth Politics and the Rise of "Bullshit"

Post-Truth Politics and the Rise of Bullshit.jpg

Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 30 April 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

As part of this year's research theme on 'Lies', the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies is delighted to welcome Adrian Blau from King's College London for this talk.

To what extent are we experiencing what some people call "post-truth politics"? Several commentators have approached this question by using Harry Frankfurt's notion of "bullshit" - a particular kind of nonsense, which Frankfurt characterises as phoniness, indifference to truth. G.A. Cohen has discussed a different kind of bullshit: unclarifiable unclarity, i.e. something which is not clear and cannot be made clear. In this talk, Blau will show that there are at least three further types of bullshit, and that each of the five types of bullshit violates core principles of rationality. He will then relate each type of bullshit to different aspects of post-truth politics.


Adrian Blau is Senior Lecturer in Politics in the Department of Political Economy and Director of Education at King's College London. He works on democratic theory and practice, including deliberative democracy, deliberative policy-making, electoral systems and party systems; corruption, Hobbes, history of political thought, and research methods. Dr Blau recently published Methods in Analytical Political Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and he is currently writing two books: Hobbes's Failed Science of Politics and Ethics, and First-Past-The-Post: Is It Fair? Does It Work?

All welcome. Please register here.

False Promises - Human Rights and the Politics of Hypocrisy

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Time and Date: 6.30 - 8.30 pm, 20 April 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS is delighted to welcome Dr Emma Mackinnon, Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, for this talk. 

When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt, who had chaired the drafting committee, presented the new document to the American public under the title "The Promise of Human Rights." Recent historians have echoed this claim, arguing that the UDHR represented a promise from the postwar powers, and from the United States in particular, on which to found a new international order. René Cassin, also one of the document's drafters, described the UDHR in France on similar terms: a renewal of the promises of 1776 and 1789. 

 And yet, especially in the two decades following 1948, both countries faced accusations of hypocrisy for openly violating their promises: France for colonial violence and the use of torture in Algeria, the US for racism and white supremacy. Certain critics charged both countries with failing to put stated ideals into practice - with saying one thing and doing another - and demanded the more complete fulfilment of past commitments. But looking to the Algerian resistance, including the work of Frantz Fanon and Ferhat Abbas, as well as to African American activists, particularly Malcolm X, I identify an alternative critique. For such critics, I argue, hypocrisy arose not from the failure to make good on a promise, but from the way the promise itself had been made. Denouncing the promises of the past as lies, they made use of the language of human rights to demand the making of new promises. Returning to this critique allows us to reconsider the meaning of hypocrisy in relation to the making and keeping of promises, and the interplay between universal ideals and imperial practices.

All welcome. Please register here.

Lying in Early Modern English Culture - From the Oath of Supremacy to the Oath of Allegiance

Hadfield lies.jpg

Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 16 April 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS is delighted to welcome Professor Andrew Hadfield (University of Sussex) for this talk.


Andrew Hadfield is Professor of English at the University of Sussex and visiting professor at the University of Granada. He is the author of a number of studies of early modern literature and culture including Edmund Spenser: A Life (2012), winner of the Elizabeth Dietz Memorial Award, and Shakespeare and Republicanism (2005), winner of the Roland H. Bainton Prize for Literature. He is currently co-editing the Complete Works of Thomas Nashe and is chair of the Society for Renaissance Studies.

All welcome. Please register here.

Defamation: A Roundtable on Lies and the Law


Time and Date: 6.30 - 8.30 pm, 22 March 2018
Location: Room D103, 25 Gordon Street, First floor (above Gordon's cafe UCLU)

As part of this year's research theme on 'Lies', the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies will be hosting a panel discussion on the present and future of defamation law. How can the law best protect rights of speech and of privacy in a digital age? Has the Defamation Act of 2013 allowed for the publication of truths, opinions honestly held, or speech in the public interest? How has a new standard of harm respected the rights of the claimants and defendants in practice?


  • Dr Alex Mills (UCL Laws)
  • Professor Rachael Mulheron (Queen Mary Law)
  • Robert Sharp (Head of Campaigns, English PEN)
  • Dr Judith Townend (Sussex Law)

The discussion will be hosted by Harry Eccles-Williams, Associate at Mischon de Reya.

Please register here.


Christina Sharpe on 'Lies and Lying'

Christina Sharpe.jpg

Time and Date: 6.00 - 8.00 pm, 21 March 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The Institute of Advanced Studies is delighted to welcome Professor Christina Sharpe for this talk. 

Christina Sharpe is a Professor at Tufts University in the department of English and the programs in Africana and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her second book, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, was published by Duke University Press in November 2016 and was named in The Guardian newspaper and The Walrus as one of the best books of 2016. In the Wake was a finalist for nonfiction for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards. Her first book Monstrous Intimacies: Making Post-Slavery Subjects(2010) was also published by Duke University Press. She is currently completing the critical introduction to the Collected Poems of Dionne Brand (1982-2010) to be published by Duke University Press and she is working on a monograph: Black. Still. Life.  Sharpe has recently contributed essays to the book accompanying Arthur Jafa's first solo exhibition Love is the Message, The Message is Death, an essay called The Crook of Her Arm to a collection on the work of the artist Martine Syms, an essay on Luke Willis Thompson's autoportrait (2017), and a brief essay on Emma Amos's Take One (1985-87).

This talk is organised in collaboration with Autograph ABP. The IAS Lies Public Lecture Series is part of our 2017-18 research theme Lies and is generously supported by Mishcon de Reya's Mishcon Academy.

Misinformed: A Roundtable on Social Media and the Shaping of Public Discourse

Social Media Map

Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 5 February 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The UCL Institute of Advanced Studies will be hosting a roundtable discussion on media and politics in the age of the viral post, troll farm and automated botnet. How has the new digital media environment changed the ways we form opinions, elect representatives, challenge governments, create divides and bridge them? Bringing together researchers in political science, digital culture, journalism, and social media analysis, the roundtable will address the specific challenges posed by the ascendancy of platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to democratic societies, and about the possibilities these technologies might open up.


  • David Benigson, CEO, Signal Media
  • Anastasia Denisova, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
  • Lisa-Maria Neudert, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford 
  • Gregory Whitfield, Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL

Please register here.

Psychoanalysis in the Age of Post Truth: Panel Discussion


Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 24 January 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

As part of this year's research theme on 'Lies', the IAS is pleased to welcome an interdisciplinary panel discussion about the role of psychoanalysis in the age of post-truth.

Panellists include Lionel Bailly (Psychoanalysis Unit, UCL), Mairead Hanrahan (SELCS, UCL), Rye Holmboe (History of Art, UCL), David Morgan (Psychoanalyst and Organiser of The Political Mind), Mignon Nixon (History of Art, UCL), and David Tuckett (Psychoanalysis Unit, UCL).

All welcome. Please register here.

Marcel Theroux in Conversation with Rye Dag Holmboe about The Secret Books

The Secret Books by Marcel Theroux

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 1 December 2017
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Seeking adventure, a young man flees the drudgery of shopkeeping in Tsarist Russia to make a new life among the bohemians and revolutionaries of 19th century Paris. Travelling undercover in the mountains of British India, he discovers a manuscript that transforms the world's understanding of the historical Jesus. Decades later, in a Europe threatened by unimaginable tragedy, he makes a despairing attempt to right a historic injustice. This breathtaking novel by the award-winning author of Far North and Strange Bodies tells the extraordinary tale of Nicolas Notovitch and his secret gospel. It is the epic story of a young man on the make in a turbulent world of spies and double-cross, propaganda and revolutionary violence, lost love and nascent anti-semitism -a world which eerily foreshadows our own era of post-truth politics. Based on real events, The Secret Books is at once a page-turning adventure and an examination of the stories that humans are willing to kill and die for.

Marcel Theroux is a novelist and broadcaster. He has published five novels. His second novel, The Paperchase, won the Somerset Maugham Award. His fourth novel, Far North (2009) was a finalist for the U.S. National Book Award, the Arthur C Clarke Award, and was awarded the Prix de l'Inaperçu in 2011. His most recent novel, The Secret Books, was published this year by Faber & Faber. He lives in London.

Rye Dag Holmboe is Fellow in Contemporary Art at University College London. His writings and interviews have been published in The White Review, Art Licks, and in academic journals.

All welcome. Please register here.

Evidential Images

Nadar 1894 Exhumation D'Un Prétendu Louis XVII

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 29 November 2017
Location: Garwood Lecture Theatre, First Floor, South Wing

The IAS will host a panel discussion exploring what, exactly, photography and film can prove about 'what actually happened'. What truths could the camera capture?

As part of this year's research theme on lies, our panellists will discuss how technologies and genres of visual media make claims to truthfulness each specific to themselves. What kind of evidence have makers of true crime documentaries like The Jinx caught on tape? How could photography, painting and print each claim to reproduce the Dauphin's true likeness in the post-revolutionary France? How was Japanese newsreel footage of events in the Pacific screened for foreign audiences? Panellists from UCL and SOAS will explore the not-so-straightforward relationship between seeing and believing through the lens of modern media history.


  • Professor Stella Bruzzi (UCL, English and Film Studies),'"Evidence verité" and some of the issues raised by recent true crime documentaries'
  • Dr Richard Taws (UCL, History of Art), 'Dead Ringers: Afterimages of the French Revolution'
  • Dr Marcos Centeno (Film Studies, SOAS), 'Seeing Liberators, Seeing Perpetrators: Displaced Images of the Japanese Empire'

All welcome! Please register here.


IAS Junior Research Fellows Dr Allison Deutsch and Dr Peter Leary are researching this theme.

This theme is open to the widest possible interpretation and is assumed to address the concerns of many disciplines and departments while providing a frame for thinking across or even bypassing entrenched or established modes of thinking. It could include the following concerns:

  • A state of being wounded, subject to harm or injury
  • A relational condition of dependence invoking external and internal forces or dangers
  • Figurations of vulnerability, in literature, art, humanitarian discourse, politics and poetics
  • The constitution/construction of vulnerable subjects and groups, regions, languages, populations or communities
  • The instrumentalizations of vulnerability in human rights discourse, humanitarian studies, refugee studies, public policy and politics
  • Vulnerability and victimhood: ethics, values, agency and moral judgement
  • Vulnerability and violence: epistemic, actual and strategic
  • The relationship of 'vulnerability' to 'precarity', 'fragility' or 'risk'
  • Vulnerable forms: genres, mediums, practices, objects, structures, materials, modes of being, life-worlds
  • The gendering/ageing/sexing of vulnerability: vulnerability and intersectionality
  • Vulnerability and visibility, vulnerability and difference, vulnerability as image
  • Vulnerability and the law, discourses of protection, care and control, compassion and support
  • Vulnerability, performance and performativity
  • Vulnerability and power, vulnerability and strength/resilience


IAS Vulnerability Symposium: Food Decay - Art, Sensation, Materiality

nadar panade.jpg

Time and Date: 10am - 6.30pm, 22 Jun 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

This symposium considers food as subject matter, metaphor, and material in art, in order to explore the vulnerabilities of artistic form, of art's audiences, and of the category 'art' itself.

Speakers will address the representation of food in art, art criticism, visual and material culture, and literature since the nineteenth century. We seek to explore the sensual complexity of responses to diverse media, in response to art historical methodologies and languages that are dominated by concepts of visuality. Speakers will consider still life by Chardin, Courbet, Vollon, and Manet, alongside illustrated gastronomic literature, fin-de-siécle novels, photography, and film. How do these painted, printed, articulated, shot, and digitized representations of the culinary evoke multi-sensory experience in differing, but mutually inflecting ways?

We will approach this question through the concept of decay. In the nineteenth century, critics sometimes claimed that works of art or the figures within them seemed to be decomposing like aging meat or ripening cheese. Often this was to debase art, challenging its claims to temporal endurance and continuing value, suggesting that the materials of art were fragile, vulnerable forms. The organic materiality of paint often seemed particularly unstable. In so doing, critics even suggested that art was capable of threatening the viewer's body, provoking reactions best described through the senses of taste, smell, and touch. Rather than conceiving of the eye as an instrument that functioned at a safe distance, many described it as a vulnerable organ through which the entire body was made subject to harm or injury. Opening out such expressions of ambivalence, anxiety, and disgust creates space to interrogate embodied encounters with art in the present as well as in the past. Whether real or metaphorical, food has played a central role in art, its criticism, and its institutions.

Speakers Include:

  • Jinhee Choi, Reader in Film Studies, King's College London
  • Frédérique Desbuissons, Lecturer in History of Art, University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne
  • Allison Deutsch, Junior Research Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London
  • Briony Fer, Professor of History of Art, University College London
  • Gustavo Gomez-Mejia, Lecturer in Communication Studies, University of Tours
  • Marni Kessler, Associate Professor of Art History, The University of Kansas
  • Bertrand Marquer, Lecturer in French Literature, University of Strasbourg
  • James Rubin, Professor of Art History, Stony Brook University

Programme to follow.

All welcome. This event will be followed by a reception. Please register here.

Image: Nadar [pseudonym of Félix Tournachon], Nadar jury au Salon de 1857. Paris, Librairie Nouvelle, 1857, p. 40: 'Don't you think the Razzia by M. Loubon looks a bit like spilled meat and cabbage soup?'

Past Events


IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Zarina Bhimji in conversation with Tamar Garb

Zarina Bhimji Yellow Patch

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 30 May 2018
Location: IAS Seminar Room 20, First Floor, South Wing

The IAS Vulnerability Seminar Series is delighted to welcome the artist Zarina Bhimji for this screening and talk. Bhimji will be in conversation with Tamar Garb to discuss her 2011 film installation, Yellow Patch. Inspired by trade and immigration routes across the Indian Ocean between India and Africa, Yellow Patch is an exploration of space with a characteristically evocative use of sound.

Shot on 35mm on location in India, the film focuses on distinct details of the landscape and architecture. These uninhabited spaces conjure stories about those who were once present and urge us to question why they are no longer there. Yellow Patch is part of a major body of film works that includes Waiting (2007) and Jangbar (2014). This conversation with be chaired by Gabriella Nugent.


Zarina Bhimji, born in Mbarara, Uganda in 1963, is a photographer, filmmaker and installation artist who lives and works in London. Bhimji received a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, and an MA in Fine Art from the Slade. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007; was artist-in-residence at the DAAD programme in Berlin, and debuted the film Out of Blue at Documenta XI, Kassel, Germany, in 2002; and she received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award in 1999. She has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions, including most recently at Nottingham Contemporary (2017); South London Gallery (2017); Whitechapel Gallery (2012); the Art Institute of Chicago (2009); Tate Liverpool (2007); Tate Britain (2003) and the Hayward Gallery (2006). Her work is held in collections including Tate, UK; The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, USA and Moderna Museet, Sweden.

Please register here.

Image: Film still of Bhimji, Zarina (2011) Yellow Patch, single screen installation, 35mm colour film, HD transfer with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. 29 min 34 sec.

IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Uncertainties and vulnerabilities in the context of climate change - Perceptions and experiences from 'above' and 'below' in India

Uncertainties and vulnerabilties.jpg

Time and Date: postponed indefinitely
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS is delighted to welcome Professor Lyla Mehta, Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, for this Vulnerability Seminar.

Climate shocks and stressors such as cyclones, floods and droughts, changing rainfall patterns and extreme temperatures are some examples of uncertainties that local people, planners and policy makers in the global South are confronted with regularly. It is well known that uncertainties in climate change projections are particularly high. These, combined with economic and political drivers of change have made local level effects difficult to predict. The paper demonstrates that while uncertainty debates in climate change have emerged as a 'monster' or 'super wicked problem' for scientists and policy makers alike, quantitative assessments and models (usually based on probabilities and ecological risk assessment) remain at the heart of the scientific method. But do these factor in the lived realities of local people women and men especially in the global South? A rich ethnographic literature has meticulously captured the everyday realities of uncertainty and the multiple coping mechanisms that people at the margins deploy to make sense of, live with and adapt to climate change related uncertainties and vulnerabilities. Still, uncertainties and vulnerabilities linked to climate change are often framed in a top-down manner by scientists, modellers and researchers from 'above', which then get translated to top-down policy prescriptions. The disconnect between such framings and policies and the everyday lives of communities from 'below' could also lead to the emergence of new uncertainties and vulnerabilities. The paper draws on ongoing research in India (dryland Kutch,Sunderbans and Mumbai, India) to analyse diverse discourses and practices of climate change and uncertainty from 'above', 'middle, and 'below.' It asks whether there are ways to bridge the different perspectives in order to foster more productive and socially just ways of dealing with uncertainties and social transformation. 


Professor Lyla Mehta works in and co-leads the Resource Politics cluster at the Institute of Development Studies, UK, and is also a Visiting Professor at Noragric, Norwegian University of Life Sciences. A sociologist working in development studies, she uses the case of water and sanitation to focus on rights and access to resources, resource grabbing, the politics of scarcity, gender , power and policy processes. Her work also concerns climate change and uncertainty and gender, displacement and resistance. She has extensive research and field experience in India and southern Africa.

All welcome. Please register here


IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Vulnerability and Censorship

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Time and Date: 12 - 1:30 pm, 30 April 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS is delighted to welcome Professor Anthony Julius for this Vulnerability seminar.


Professor Julius is a highly regarded lawyer and Deputy Chairman of law firm Mishcon de Reya. He is also a noted scholar and author who has written extensively on law, literature, art, and culture. Having completed a PhD with UCL English and taught at UCL Faculty of Laws, in 2017 he joined the Faculty as the first ever Chair in Law and Arts. 

All welcome. Please register here.

IAS Vulnerability Seminar: Landscapes of Vulnerability - A conversation with artists Lola Frost and Edmund Clark

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Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 25 April 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

What is the relation of vulnerability to precarity, fragility and risk in the making of art? How might art make visible vulnerable states and subjects in ways that challenge conventional aesthetic, political and social categories, subverting existing hierarchies of power while staging quiet, yet potent, modes of dissent?

Anna Marazuela Kim, IAS Fellow, writer and photographer brings two artists into conversation whose new bodies of work, in painting and photography, bring into view bodies confined both institutionally and psychically.


Lola Frost, painter

Merleau-Ponty's phrase 'The Flesh of the world', as a metaphor for an aesthetically attuned and reversible process in which "doubling, difference and desire" are "crocheted into all that is there", serves as a template for exploring the risks, precarities and vulnerabilities of Frost's painted landscapes of an improper uncanny sublime (see image above). The artist's presentation will explore the subversive interventions of her practice within the tradition of the sublime in painting. Such subversion extends to the performance of 'doubling, difference and desire' as a riposte to a social and perceptual imaginary preoccupied with subject-object and mind-body dichotomies and hierarchies. This is an imaginary which continues to sustain masculine privilege, the repression and regulation of the 'carnal', cognitive control, visual mastery and instrumental and purposive reason. This norm-contesting practice invites us to consider the risky and transient vulnerabilities of unguarded and libidinal psychic life, opening up the productive potential of 'the precarious encounter'.

Edmund Clark, photographer

Edmund Clark.jpg

My Shadow's Reflection is part of a new body of work by the artist-in-residence of Europe's only entirely therapeutic prison environment, HM Prison Grendon. Clark's photographs comprise architectural images of the prison, pinhole images of the occupants, and close-ups of flora and fauna growing in situ, picked and pressed by the artist. Opened in 1962, the prison's inmates agree to accept responsibility for their offences, offering full-time commitment to intensive group therapy while exercising a degree of control over the day-to-day running of their lives via democratic decision-making. Through research and evaluation, evidence shows that Grendon reduces levels of violence and disruption, while lowering reoffending levels after release. In Place of Hate, the exhibition of Clark's work as the prison's artist-in-residence, showed at Ikon, Birmingham until 11 March 2018. The exhibition combines photography, video and installation to explore ideas of visibility, representation, trauma and self-image, addressing how prisoners and the criminal justice system are perceived and discussed by the public, politicians and media in Britain today.


Edmund Clark is an award-winning artist who links history, politics and representation. His research-based work combines a range of references and forms including bookmaking, installations, photography, video, documents, text and found images and material. Recurring themes include developing strategies for reconfiguring how subjects are seen and engaging with state censorship to explore unseen experiences, spaces and processes of control and incarceration in the 'Global War on Terror' and elsewhere. Clark has published six books and exhibited widely, including major solo exhibitions at the International Center of Photography Museum, New York, the Imperial War Museum, London, and Zephyr Raum für Fotografie, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim. His work has been acquired for national and international collections including the ICP Museum and the George Eastman House Museum in America and the National Portrait Gallery, the Imperial War Museum and the National Media Museum in Great Britain.

Anna Marazuela Kim is an art historian, critic and cultural theorist whose research engages the deep structures of images and our complex relation to them, from Plato to the present digital age, drawing together ethics and aesthetics, phenomenology, urban studies, anthropology, religion and technology. Since 2011, she has been a member of Institutes of Advanced Study and international, cross-disciplinary research groups advancing studies of iconoclasm and iconic presence; images and religious conflict; and the role of the arts in civic thriving. Her primary research focuses on histories and theories of iconoclasm. A second area of research concerns art, conflict, terrorism and the new image wars, the subject of a book in progress. Dr. Kim is also an advisor to King's Centre for Strategic Communications in War Studies and Research Fellow of the Thriving Cities Project, Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture (University of Virginia).

All welcome. Please register here.

First Image: Lola Frost, The Flesh of the World

Second Image: Edmund Clark, My Shadow's Reflection

Vulnerability Seminar: Vulnerability and post-imperial identities: from Brexit to Ancient Rome and back

Vulnerability and Post-Imperial Identities

Time and Date: 4 - 6 pm, 20 March 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Dr Andrew Gardner, Institute of Archaeology, UCL

The narrow majority for the Leave campaign in the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership has a number of explanations, but the impact of the demise of the British empire upon identities within the UK must be among them. In particular, the vulnerability of English identity needs to be examined from a post-colonial perspective if we are to understand some of the long-term dynamics of imperialism, and their consequences for the future of the United Kingdom. In this seminar, a comparative dimension will also be pursued, with analysis of the Roman empire - which inspired many aspects of British imperialism - shedding further light on the politics of identity in colonial and post-colonial contexts.


Andrew Gardner is Senior Lecturer in the Archaeology of the Roman Empire at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. His publications include An Archaeology of Identity: Soldiers and Society in Late Roman Britain (2007) and Evolutionary and Interpretive Archaeologies: a Dialogue (ed. with Ethan Cochrane, 2011); he is currently working on a monograph on Roman Britain. His research interests are centred upon the social dynamics of Roman imperialism, and the diverse legacies of the Roman empire into contemporary times.

Please register here.

Vulnerability Seminar: Living with Uncertainty - Precarity, Vulnerability and Service Industry Workers on Screen

Living with Uncertainty

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 14 February 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

This talk will theorize precarity as a global workplace issue and forceful change to labour practices through a series of critical observations extracted from Dr Keith B. Wagner's forthcoming book, Living with Uncertainty: Precarious Work in Global Cinema. As a glaring omission in the study of film, this paper will trace different filmic manifestations of precarity in the gig-economy and services industries found in films by Jia Zhangke (China), Marwan Hamed (Egypt), Neill Blomkamp (South Africa), Sebastian Silva (Chile) and Bong Joon-ho (South Korea). Such an approach provides a much-needed revivification of labor-themed films and complicates claims that these directors are simply film festival darlings or entrepreneurial auteurs. As the first film and media scholar to theorize precarity, Dr Wagner makes both macro- and microscaled evaluations as a means to call attention to workers' real and cinematic misfortunes, articulating what Kathi Weeks (2011) calls 'the problems with work' in the twenty-first century. 


Keith B. Wagner is Assistant Professor of Global Media and Culture in the Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry (CMII) at University College London. He is the co-editor of Neoliberalism and Global Cinema: Capital, Culture and Marxist Critique (2011) and China's iGeneration: Cinema and Moving Image Culture for the Twenty-First Century (2014). His monographic study entitled Living with Uncertainty: Precarious Work in Global Cinema is under contract with a major US academic press and will be published in 2019.

Please register here.

Vulnerability Seminar: Narratives of Vulnerability - Rethinking stories about the figure of the refugee in Europe

Vulnerability Image

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 7 February 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The IAS Vulnerability Seminar Series is delighted to welcome Kate Smith from the University of Huddersfield for this talk. The role of vulnerability in relation to mechanisms of governance and social welfare practices has received growing interest, but how 'vulnerability' is operationalised in asylum policy is less well understood. This paper explores narratives of vulnerability in relation to the figure of the refugee in Europe.

Taking a narrative approach to stories told about refugees, I put forward the argument that access to asylum has gradually moved away from spontaneous asylum seeking to more controlled routes. This transition has increasingly drawn on the notion of vulnerability to highlight distinctions between people who deserve protection and those who do not. In particular, this paper focuses on the ways in which the UK Syrian Vulnerable Person's Resettlement Programme is underpinned by stories of 'the vulnerable' and exemplifies the latest hierarchy of rights and entitlements to emerge in relation to the figure of the refugee. I also offer insights into some of the ways in which asylum policies create the conditions where vulnerabilities are generated and produced. As such, this paper brings a critical perspective to the state increasingly narrowing the protection space for refugees and redefining 'the vulnerable' as an essential marker of asylum policy.


Kate Smith is a Research Fellow (Asylum and Migration) at the University of Huddersfield, UK. She was awarded an Economic and Social Research Council funded scholarship in 2009 to explore the narratives of women refugees and her PhD is entitled "Challenging dominant narratives: Stories of women seeking asylum". Kate has worked on academic and non-academic research with women and children. She is interested in understanding the gendered lives of people who migrate and the narratives that shape their stories. Kate has presented widely and is the author of a number of publications that explore asylum support, immigration detention, theories and practices of resistance, and narrative methodologies. She has a new co-edited book, Opportunities and Challenges for Feminist Narrative Research (Palgrave Macmillan) published August 2017. Her recent work has centred on concepts of vulnerability in relation to people who seek asylum and how access to asylum has gradually moved away from spontaneous asylum seeking to more controlled routes.

Please register here.

Vulnerability Seminar: Vulnerability and Law

Vulnerability Image

Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 31 January 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Professor Jonathan Herring, University of Oxford

The law is traditionally centered around the norm of an able-bodied, competent, independent, self-sufficient and autonomous man. This creates a legal systems which privileges the values of autonomy, privacy and bodily integrity. This paper will explore the challenge in the vulnerability literature to this norm and consider what the law might look like if it used as its norm the vulnerable, interdependent, and relational person as its starting point.


Jonathan Herring is the Vice Dean and Professor of Law at the Law Faculty, Oxford University and DM Wolfe-Clarendon Fellow in Law at Exeter College, Oxford University. He has written on family law, medical law, criminal law and legal issues surrounding vulnerability, care and old age. His books include: Vulnerable Adults and the Law (2016), Caring and the Law (2014), Older People in Law and Society (OUP, 2009), European Human Rights and Family Law (Hart, 2010) (with Shazia Choudhry), Medical Law and Ethics (OUP, 2018), Criminal Law (Oxford University Press, 2018), Family Law (Pearson, 2017) and The Woman Who Tickled Too Much (Pearson, 2009).

Please register here.

Vulnerability Seminar: Stupid Shame


Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 17 January 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Professor Steven Connor, University of Cambridge

This talk will consider the vulnerability of those assigned to a category which most human groups treat with angry revulsion: the stupid. Professor Connor will suggest that stupidity is more tightly than ever twinned with shame in our growing epistemocracy. But if the power to shame is toxically potent, the condition of shame, though the most exquisitely painful form of vulnerability, may also harbour surprising, and dangerous powers of insurgence.

Steven Connor is Grace 2 Professor of English and Fellow of Peterhouse in the University of Cambridge. From October 2018 he will be Director of Cambridge's Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). He is a writer, critic and broadcaster, who has published books on many topics, including Dickens, Beckett, Joyce, value, ventriloquism, skin, flies and air. His most recent books are Beyond Words: Sobbing, Humming and Other Vocalizations (2014), Beckett, Modernism and the Material Imagination (2014), Living by Numbers: In Defence of Quantity (2016) and Dream Machines (2017) . His book The Madness of Knowledge will appear in 2018. His website at stevenconnor.com includes the texts of talks and lectures, broadcasts, unpublished work and work in progress.

Please register here.

#MeToo: A Panel Discussion on Vulnerability and Visibility


Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 21 November 2017
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The impact of the online #MeToo campaign and the ongoing fallout following the exposure of Harvey Weinstein continues to be felt across politics, the arts, and media. Against this backdrop and as part of the IAS 'vulnerability' research theme, this panel will discuss the complex relationship between vulnerability and visibility. Panelists will touch on the ways in which visibility can be empowering - exposing the reality of sexual violence, or giving a voice and platform to disadvantaged groups - but also how visibility can sometimes leave women and others vulnerable to various forms of harassment or abuse.

Contributors include:

  • Shaista Aziz, Journalist, writer, and stand-up comedian
  • Dr Tiffany Page, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Cambridge
  • Kate Parker, London Director, The Schools Consent Project
  • Laura Thompson, PhD researcher, City University London

The event will be followed by a wine reception.

All welcome! Please register here.

Research Centres

Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust and Genocide Studies

The twentieth century was one of the most violent periods in history, while the twenty-first century appears ever more precarious and unstable. Around the world, violence on racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and national grounds has far-reaching and long-lasting social consequences: increasing the risk of communicable diseases; diminishing access to food supplies, health and other public services; and increasing migration and human trafficking. And collective violence has deep-seated personal consequences, as individuals deal with the effects of persecution, abuse and trauma, often transmitted across generations. At the extreme, collective violence may result in genocide, as one group seeks to eradicate another entirely. Moreover, the resolution of issues around perpetrators and victims - whether in terms of retribution, compensation, reconciliation or in contested cultural representations - may persist for decades after specific conflicts have subsided.

Collective violence is socially, culturally and politically patterned: it affects members of groups defined by shared general features rather than personal identities; people may become perpetrators not from individual motives but because they are mobilised to act violently on the basis of group identities and wider causes. Violence can flare up episodically or be a persistent underlying feature of systems based on racism or sustained by repression and surveillance, with consequences for interpersonal relations over the long term. Precisely because collective violence is socially, culturally and politically patterned, we consider 'collective violence' as an analytical category in its own right. This requires a new way of thinking across disciplines.

The UCL Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (UCL-CCV) adopts a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the processes, character and implications of collective violence, past and present. In addition to historical analyses of major incidents of collective violence - notably the Holocaust and other aspects of Nazi persecution, as well as genocides and other eruptions of violence across the world - we seek to make significant analytic contributions to understanding collective violence in political, cultural, geographic and social context, exploring also what follows in the wake of such violence.

We aim to:

Foster multi-disciplinary and collaborative research designed to transform understanding of the causes, character and legacies of collective violence;

Develop relevant collections of archival, oral and other sources, focusing across the spectrum - loosely defined in terms of 'perpetrators, victims and bystanders';

Develop theoretical frameworks and substantive insights that have a public impact, informing wider understanding of difficult issues, and where appropriate assisting the delivery of meaningful interventions.

Core themes and topics

Colleagues associated with the Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust and Genocide Studies hold established positions in different departments at UCL and come together within the IAS for relevant events and interdisciplinary discussions. Areas in which colleagues currently work include (but are not limited to) the following interdisciplinary clusters and groups:

Persecution, Complicity, and Justice: this group focuses on: questions around complicity and perpetration, and social processes around what are conventionally termed 'perpetrators, bystanders and victims'; and questions of justice, reintegration, and representation in post-conflict periods. It seeks to understand both the processes at the time of persecution and the long-term reverberations of collective violence for those involved and for members of subsequent generations.

Visual Imagery and Collective Violence: colleagues associated with this group examine how visual images develop, sustain or challenge prejudices and stereotypes; the incendiary role of images in cultures of violence and violation, both historically and in the present; approaches to representation and interpretation of collective violence in sites and institutions for remembrance and public education.

The State, Education and Collective Violence: the focus here is on states and collective actors in intervention and pre-emptive action; predicting conflicts and flashpoints; the role of education in mediating potential conflicts and pre-empting outbreaks of violence, and in conflict resolution after periods of violence.


Research Associate: Dr Stefanie Rauch

Senior Honorary Research Fellow: Dr Joanna Michlic

Honorary Research Fellow: Dr Robert Knight

Affiliated Research Fellow: Dr Boaz Cohen

Research Projects

AHRC-funded project (2018-2021) Compromised Identities? Reflections on Perpetration and Complicity under Nazism

PI: Mary Fulbrook; Co-I: Stephanie Bird

Research Associate: Stefanie Rauch


Read about recent and future events here.

Centre for Critical Heritage Studies

The Centre for Critical Heritage Studies (CCHS) is a collaborative international, interdisciplinary research centre, jointly run between the University of Gothenburg and UCL. It operates at UCL as an inter-faculty research centre led by the Institute of Archaeology and supported by the Institute of Advanced Studies. It involves researchers from across the University including the departments of Anthropology, Archaeology, Information Studies, and the UCL Urban Laboratory.

Funding for the Centre was awarded for six years from April 2016 by the University of Gothenburg Centers for Global Societal Challenges call for research centre funding. The Centre's remit is to respond to the challenges posed by heritagization processes and globalization, including the hegemony of 'North Atlantic universals' in heritage policy and practice.

The centre is conducting joint research, initially under five main thematic areas:

  • Making global heritage futures
  • Embracing the archive - critical archival and digital humanities studies cluster
  • Curating the city - transdisciplinary approaches in urban settings
  • Heritage and wellbeing
  • Heritage and science

Alongside the thematic research areas, the Heritage Academy aims to be a bridge between the academic world and the surrounding society, in line with UCL's commitment to strengthening dialogue between research and practice.

About the small grants

CCHS invites applications from UCL academic staff or doctoral/ postdoctoral students to its Small Grants Scheme, which funds projects that lead to or support collaborative research on critical heritage studies. Funding of up to £2000 per application is available per project. In very exceptional circumstances we may consider applications up to £4000. There is no minimum limit for awards.

We particularly invite proposals that:

  • involve collaboration between staff based in different UCL departments, and/or utilise cross-disciplinary approaches;
  • aim to achieve research impact (through scholarly output, public engagement, influence on policy and practice, knowledge transfer or similar);
  • aim to prepare the ground for new, extended research projects (including grant applications).

Applications should show how the proposal contributes to the themes of existing CCHS research (if applicable), or alternatively, how it expands and contributes to the development of new themes or areas of research in critical heritage studies at UCL.

  • For any enquiries, please contact CCHS Research Centre Administrator Hannah Williams, criticalheritage@ucl.ac.uk
  • The deadline for applications is 31st October 2017
Centre for Early Modern Exchanges

The Centre for Early Modern Exchanges studies the dynamic interactions between places, cultures and societies within Europe and beyond in the period from approximately 1500 to 1800, asking how these processes of exchange produced the states, vernacular literatures, cultures and material textures of the modern world.  From translation to trade, we are engaged in developing more complex models to account for the transformation of the globe across these three centuries. We host the interdisciplinary and interdepartmental Masters Programme in Early Modern Studies, run seminars, workshops and conferences and provide a home for the early modern at UCL.

Centre for Early Modern Exchanges website

Centre for Editing Lives and Letters

The Centre for Lives and Letters is a collaborative research laboratory populated by scholars interested in finding digital solutions to archival questions. We have expertise primarily in the early modern period (loosely, 1500-1800), but our focus is wide ranging, incorporating both the handwritten and the printed word, including letters, printed books, diaries, marginalia, libraries and archives, so we can extend outside these [time] boundaries. We are interested in using online tools for making archives matter, but we are also enthusiastic about creating conceptual frameworks and structures for understanding the larger questions surrounding the study of text and context. When presented with archival data, we seek to extend our knowledge further by testing the data with a pioneering digital method.

Centre for Editing Lives and Letters website

Centre for Multidisciplinary & Intercultural Inquiry

CMII is an important centre for multidisciplinary post-graduate programmes and related research areas. It draws on expertise at UCL from diverse fields including literature, art, film, history, geography, anthropology and population health. CMII houses Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, Film Studies, Gender Studies, African Studies, European Studies, Health Humanities and PPE of Health. It fosters research projects such as the AHRC funded 'Reverberations of War in Germany and Europe since 1945', 'Colonial Film' and the Cine-Tourist. It encourages research collaboration between colleagues at UCL as well as nationally and internationally, and participates in the Hermes consortium for literary and cultural studies, the British Comparative Literature Association, The Screen Studies Group and the Bloomsbury Gender Network.

Centre for Multidisciplinary & Intercultural Inquiry website

Centre for Research into Dynamics of Civilisation

The UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) seeks to understand the social phenomenon of 'civilisation' and to challenge the often politicised role it is being made to play in the modern world. 'Civilisation' describes a social phenomenon greater than the nation. It has been identified by materials, languages, institutions and habits that are spread over time yet remain linked to one another as an integrated system. Civilisation appears on the map of modern political debate, whether in international policy (where it is used to build transnational political structures) or in the popular and controversial  idea of a 'clash of civilisations'. Yet what is a civilisation? How does such a category still have value despite its compromised usages in the past? And why and how is it being utilised now in regions such as Africa, China, India or the Middle East to challenge and to remap social and political geographies?

Our aims are to:

  • create a network of interested researchers and stimulate collaborations within and beyond UCL
  • offer small grants for projects and support  for applications for external funding
  • develop an exciting programme of public events, workshops and lectures
  • encourage and generate new directions for research
  • raise the profile and maximise the impact of UCL research on civilisation

CREDOC website


The Centre for the Study of Social and Cultural Complexity

The FRINGE Centre explores the roles that complexity, ambivalence and immeasurability play in social and cultural phenomena. A cross-disciplinary initiative bringing together scholars from the humanities and social sciences, FRINGE examines how seemingly opposed notions such as centrality and marginality, clarity and ambiguity, can shift and converge when embedded in everyday practices. Our interest lies in the hidden complexity of all embedded practices, taken-for-granted and otherwise invisible subjects. Illuminating the 'fringe' thus puts the 'centre' in a new light. Learn More

The FRINGE Centre is an initiative founded and funded by the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies and housed at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.

FRINGE Centre website

FRINGE Centre Logo
Gender and Feminism Network

The Institute of Advanced Studies recently founded a Gender and Feminism Network,  a new initiative designed to provide a focal point for UCL (as well as other London-based and international) scholars conducting research in and teaching about gender and feminism from across the humanities and social sciences. In doing so, we are building on the work already done by colleagues on the MA in Gender, Society and Representation and PhD in Gender & Sexuality Studies, which have been running at UCL for over a decade. We aim to bring a wide range of expertise and knowledge from across faculties, schools and institutes into productive interdisciplinary dialogue. In doing so, we seek to enhance the core mission of the IAS to sponsor critical thinking and engaged enquiry within and across conventional institutional boundaries. 

So many scholars at UCL are engaged in their scholarship and daily lives with questions of gender, sexuality and feminist politics. We envisage the IAS Gender and Feminism Network as a hub through which to feature UCL scholars doing innovative work in this field, while also hosting talks and conferences featuring internationally-recognised specialists in the study of gender and sexuality.

If you have expertise or research interests in this field, please contact Philippa Hetherington, School of Slavonic and East European Studies (p.hetherington@ucl.ac.uk), who will be co-ordinating the network.

A schedule of fortnightly seminars, reading groups and a large international conference in Autumn 2016 can be downloaded here.

Health Humanities Centre

The UCL Health Humanities Centre draws together staff from different disciplines, departments and faculties engaged in teaching and research on matters relating to health, illness and well-being. Staff are currently based in the departments of History, Science and Technology Studies, Anthropology, Archaeology, Philosophy, Mental Health, Population Health, Global Health, Laws, Political Science, The Institute of the Americas, Geography, Political Science, The Slade School of Fine Art, and the School of European Languages, Culture and Society and the Medical School. It provides a UCL forum for teaching and research in the health humanities, through Masters programmes, conferences, seminars, workshops, and public engagement. It draws upon upon UCL's disciplinary strengths, while fostering further interdisciplinary collaborations.

The Health Humanities Centre was established in 2015 through joining together the Centre for Philosophy, Justice and Health, the Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, and the former History of Medicine Centre. It forms part of the new UCL Institute of Advanced Studies and the Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural inquiry and is supported by UCL's Science, Medicine and Society Network.



The UCL Health Humanities Centre runs two interlinked MAs:

The MAs share common core courses, while having specific routes. There are jointly administered through the Centre for the Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry.


The Centre convenes the following regular events:

  • Fortnighty Health Humanities Work in Progress Seminar, which showcases current research
  • Weekly Seminar on Social Values and Health Priority Setting
  • The joint UCL/KCL Bioethics Colloquium
  • Public Seminar on the History of Psychological Disciplines
  • Ongoing reading groups in the history of the medicine and the history of the psychological disciplines
  • Conferences and Workshops


Professor Sonu Shamdasani and Dr James Wilson

Health Humanities Centre website


qUCL is a university-wide network of staff and students that brings together teaching and research across UCL on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and queer (LGBTQ) equalities, identities and histories.

qUCL website

Secularity and Secularism Studies (SSS)

SSS is a centre for multi- and interdisciplinary research into secularity. Its work encompasses philosophical and political secularisms, as well as an array of so-called secular phenomena, be it atheist, non-theist and nonreligious populations, the de-sacralisation of literature and the arts, or any number of modern institutions that are designated as secular, including the university itself. SSS supports and showcases research from colleagues around UCL on these themes, and encourages research collaboration with national and international partners as well as across UCL. It provides a home for research projects approaching these topics from any disciplinary or cross-disciplinary perspective, including the John Templeton Foundation-funded project, 'The Scientific Study of Nonreligious Belief' (SSNB). The SSS also runs seminars, lectures and other events and hosts visiting fellows working in these areas.

Secularity and Secularism website


Area Studies Re-mapped

If we can no longer conceive of areas as distinct geographical regions, how can the study of area be re-thought? How can areas be mapped in ways that do not just emphasise their internal and external borders, but also their fluidity and contestation, their fringes and margins, their multiplicity and their transversal flows?

In addressing these questions, this initiative draws together a series of related movements across the fields of Area Studies, Modern Languages, Geography, History, the History of Art, Politics and International Relations, Archaeology and Anthropology, and beyond.

African Studies Research Centre

The UCL African Studies Research Centre (ASRC) serves as a nexus of collegial interaction and education for ongoing projects across the continent. Africa is the primary research area for more than 35 permanent members of staff at UCL and a new group of African Studies MA and MSc programmes, with streams in Environment, Health and Heritage, started in 2015. The ASRC also runs multiple seminar series and symposia which it coordinates with national and international academic partners.

African Studies Research Centre website

African Studies Research Centre events webpage

The Institute of Advanced Studies also houses the research activities of Megan Vaughan, Professor of African History and Health.

Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World

The UCL Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World (CSSA) brings together researchers and postgraduate students working on South Asia from across the disciplines. The Centre forms an important part of UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies, and promotes research and teaching related to the geographical region of South Asia and its intersections with the wider world, including the South Asian diaspora.

Centre for the Study of South Asia and the Indian Ocean World website

China Centre for Health and Humanity

The UCL China Centre for Health and Humanity (CCHH) takes an interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching, and is strong in the social sciences: history and culture, archaeology, the environment, law and international health and development. It is committed to UCL's Grand Challenges especially as they relate to China: global health, sustainable cities, intercultural interaction and human wellbeing.

The Confucian concept Ren 仁, the quality that makes individual and society 'human' or 'humane', is at the centre of contemporary Chinese ethical discourse and CCHH will take up this debate in relation to health. We support interdisciplinary research and education in all these aspects of China's health, and China's impact on world health, past, present and future.

China Centre for Health and Humanity website

European Institute

The European Institute is UCL's hub for research, collaboration and information on Europe and the European Union. We work to stimulate new research and support multidisciplinary collaboration across the University and across its unrivalled span of disciplines. In addition, we provide a conduit between the University and the wider public, as well as policy-makers, civil society and the media. We offer a diverse programme of public events, provide expert analysis and commentary, build up networks and alliances and aim to provide an intellectually stimulating environment for researchers at all stages of their careers.

European Institute website

Institute of the Americas

UCL Institute of the Americas (UCL-IA) is a leading multidisciplinary specialist institution for the study of Latin America, the United States, the Caribbean and Canada. It acts as a focal point in the UK for students and researchers seeking to develop in-depth regional and continental knowledge of the Americas. As a centre for postgraduate study specializing in the social sciences and modern history of the Americas, it offers six taught postgraduate degrees, a suite of undergraduate courses, and provides specialist supervision to doctoral level, as well as mentoring of post-doctoral fellows, on a wide range of themes and all four main regions of the Americas.

Institute of the Americas website

Refuge in a Moving World

In 2016 we saw the highest level of global forced migration ever recorded, with over 65.3 million people worldwide currently displaced internationally or internally. People seeking refuge from conflict and mass human rights violations as well as poverty and persecution across the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, but also from further afield, have crossed and resisted national boundaries both within and across these geopolitical areas. States, civil societies and individuals find themselves increasingly implicated in, and affected by, a series of interconnected conflicts and crises, with reverberations across all aspects of contemporary society. Affective and aesthetic questions as well as ethical and political ones have been posed by the images, narratives, testimonies and archives that these intersecting crises have engendered and unleashed. Cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research is essential to developing a nuanced understanding of, and a means of meaningfully responding to, the multiple human, material and representational effects that these crises continue to produce.

The 'Refuge in a Moving World' network is an initiative of the Institute of Advanced Studies in collaboration with the Institute for Global Prosperity, and led by Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Co-Director of UCL's Migration Research Unit. The network brings together experts on displacement, refugees and conflict from across UCL's research units, departments and faculties through research-led interdisciplinary events - including conferences, seminar series, workshops and public debates - in order to help us better understand the history, causes, experiences, representations and implications of these shifts in politics, people and perceptions.

If you have specialist expertise or research interests in these issues, please send your name to Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, who is coordinating the network and is Co-Director of the Migration Research Unit (e.fiddian-qasmiyeh@ucl.ac.uk).

Read more about our activities - including our new Refuge in a Moving World PhD Wing - on the MRU-Refuge in a Moving World website.

Refuge in a Moving World Logo

Past Events

UCL for Refugee Education - from Monday 20th to Friday 24th February 2017.

Prof. Abdulrazak Gurnah in Conversation: Literature, Migration and Displacement - 20 Feb, 5-7, IAS Common Ground.

John Akomfrah in Conversation: Art, Migration, Refuge and Movement - 22 Feb, 6-8, IAS Common Ground.

Migrants and Refugees at Home - 23 Feb, 6-7.30, Clarke Hall, IoE.

RiMW PhD Reading Group: 'Refugees and Space' - 24 Feb, 2-4, IAS Seminar Room 19.

Committed Ethnographies: A Documentary about Forced Evictions and Resistance in Bucharest, Romania - 24 Feb, 6-8.30, G21 Ramsay Lecture Theatre (Christopher Ingold Building).

School of Slavonic and East European Studies

The UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) is the world's leading institution for research and teaching on Russia, the Baltics, and Central, Eastern and South-East Europe. The School's mission is to foster cross-disciplinary approaches to area studies, using expertise in our primary geographical region to generate knowledge and understanding of the broader world. Our work is organized into four interrelated programmes: Economics and Business; History; Languages and Culture; Politics and Sociology. With our spectacular library and award-winning building in the heart of London, at the centre of a vibrant network of national and international connections, SSEES provides a unique and dynamic environment where students acquire the expertise and skills that employers want, including an unparalleled range of languages.

UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies Website 

Research Projects

Compromised Identities? Reflections on Perpetration and Complicity under Nazism (AHRC | 2018-2021)

This three-year project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, is run by the Centre for Collective Violence, Holocaust & Genocide Studies.  Visit the website here.

IAS Initiatives

IAS Book Launch Programme

We welcome proposals from any full-time member of staff who would like to celebrate their new book by launching it as part of our Book Launch Programme.

The launch should have some intellectual content, e.g. a conversation between the author and an interlocutor, a small panel discussion or a talk.  We will provide the space in the IAS Common Ground area (which accommodates approximately 100 people) and basic refreshments.  We would welcome the involvement of publishers with regard to signings and selling, but would then like them to contribute towards the provision of refreshments.

We plan to schedule these as evening events from 6 to 8 pm throughout the year at agreed times, pending availability.

We would also consider proposals from UCL academics who wish to engage in discussion on the occasion of the publication of books by non-UCL authors.

If you would like to hold your book launch as part of the IAS Book Launch Programme, please complete this

IAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application FormIAS Book Launch Programme Application Form and e-mail it to Catherine Stokes.

IAS Talking Points

Talking Points is a discussion forum and lecture platform that aims to bring IAS residents and Visiting Research Fellows into conversation with researchers across UCL. The format is either a lecture with nominated respondents from various UCL departments or a staged conversation followed by Q&A. The emphasis is on interdisciplinary exchange so discussants and interlocutors are drawn from a range of disciplines and fields. There is always space for audience participation/discussion. Talking Points is open to all researchers at UCL, both senior and early career, as well as postgraduate students. Please do come along and share in the debate.

IAS Residential Seminar

The Residential Seminar is held weekly during term-time and is a work-in-progress seminar open to IAS-resident Research Fellows, IAS Visiting Fellows and co-ordinators of the research centres based in the IAS.

Download the 2016-17 programme here.

The 2015-16 programme can be downloaded here.

Past Research Themes


Planetary Futures

IAS Junior Research Fellows Dr Aline-Florence Manent and Dr David Jeevendrampillai are researching this theme.

Upcoming Events

Planetary Poetics Workshop

Paul Klee Moonshine

We are pleased to share an invitation to this workshop on the theme of 'Planetary Poetics'. To be held from 21-23 September 2017 in collaboration with the Sydney Environment Institute, University of Sydney. This three-day event will investigate the paradigm of the planetary, understood variously in terms of aesthetics, affectivity, geophysical systems, political community, materiality, and technology. Over the course of the three days we will be hosting several panels, talks, screenings and an exciting programme of public events.

Planetary Poetics brings together a group of specialists from different disciplines to debate and consider a variety of critical, theoretical and creative approaches to the idea of the 'planetary', exploring the nonhuman, the post-human and humanism; singularity, the universal and the limits of cosmopolitical thought; animal studies and ecocriticism; affect, new materialism and the politics of representation; 'nature', earthly finitude and speculative realism. Each of these themes addresses planetary (and extra planetary) narratives, imaginations, experiences and worldings, and their relationships with the fractal figure of the human. Throughout the poetic and the aesthetic will be explored as means through which to engage with, dramatize and produce new knowledge about our relationship to the planetary.

Register for the Keynote Lecture here.

Register for the workshop sessions here

Register for the premiere of Village Versus Empire (2016) here

Confirmed Speakers: Andrew Barry (Department of Geography, UCL), Rosi Braidotti (Utrecht University and Distinguished Visiting Researcher at the IAS), Ute Eickelkamp (Sydney Environment Institute), Ann Elias (Sydney Environment Institute), Briony Fer (History of Art, UCL), Tamar Garb (History of Art and the Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL), Jennifer Hamilton (Sydney Environment Institute), Rye Holmboe (History of Art, UCL), Tariq Jazeel (Department of Geography, UCL)  Julia Jordan (Department of English, UCL), Iain McCalman (Sydney Environment Institute), Cat Moir (Sydney Environment Institute), Florian Mussgnug (School of European Languages, Culture and Society, UCL), Astrida Neimanis (Sydney Environment Institute), Mignon Nixon (History of Art, UCL), Killian Quigley (Sydney Environment Institute), Peg Rawes (The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL), Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen (The School of European Languages & Culture, UCL) and Kirsten Wehner (Sydney Environment Institute).

For more information please contact Jennifer Shearman (j.shearman@ucl.ac.uk). 

Towards an Anthropology of Space: Orientating Cosmological Futures

Towards an Anthropology of Space Image

An epochal 'move to space' (Olivier 2015) has been articulated by various commentators as a crucial historical turn for all mankind, from Sputnik, through the Apollo missions to the recent realigning of NASA's primary mission from Space Exploration to Space Settlement (Augustine Commission 2009). The effect of images of Earth from Space has produced 'globe talk' (Lazier 2011:606) where horizons of social worlds are now planetary in scale. These universalising rhetorics nonetheless also hide the hegemony of normative frames of reference used to define humanity's 'final frontier', along with the concept of 'humanity' itself.

David Valentine (2012) describes how Space demarks a spatial edge used to distinguish the limits of the globe, which can be both revealed and transcended by techno-science. Space exploration then, is able to act as an 'empty signifier' (Ibid) holding the promise of a spatial fix to the future of humanity whilst simultaneously delimiting this same future as it masks the endurance of the forms of relations it claims to transcend. As Debbora Battaglia suggests, the figure of the extra-terrestrial is a symptom of failures to critically understanding the conditions of social life (2005:9), perhaps symptomatic of an inability to conceive of an adequate 'constitutive outside' (Butler 1993), which is often a euphemism for a political or social 'other'.

The binary that extra-terrestrial implies may thus also be contested ethnographically. For example, Suzanne Blier (1987) has observed how dwellings of the Batammaliba track the passage of celestial ancestors through various light apertures whilst Lisa Messeri (2016) notes how Mongolian shamans have been visiting space for many years. Authors such as Alice Gorman (2005), Peter Redfield (2002) and others note how the local world of Space Centres, rocket launch sites or telescopes assume 'translocal', often neo-colonial, dreams (Redfield 2002:808) effacing local concerns. And whilst Soviets and Americans positioned Space as a location to enact utopian futures, different kinds of utopian ideological expansions may also occur through modern space narratives in places such as Ghana, China and Brazil.

What can we make of the new space race ethnographically? How would the consideration of relations between earth and off-earth life enable a fruitful theoretical development of social science enquiry? And, ultimately, in what ways can Anthropology think through the political, the material and the transcendent dimensions of an epochal turn to Space? In this workshop we will investigate the heuristic devices used in the creation of new forms of connectedness and separation that a relation with the extra-terrestrial could enable.

Past Events

Planetary Futures Seminar Series

blue marble NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stockli

What is the future of the planet? Whether the impending ecological crisis, the movement of hegemonic ideological socio-political realms or the techno-scientific promises of life on mars, Planetary Futures engages a broad range of disciplines. This seminar series will generate dialogue across disciplines and we invite participation from all who have interest in the planetary, whether as a scale of inquiry or an object of study. The talks will be of interest to those in the social sciences, particularly Anthropology, Sociology, History, Politics, STS, Geography as well as the Sciences, particularly Physics, Astronomy, Geology and Space Science. The goal is also to spur a reflection among the broader interested public on the construction of planetary imaginaries and interrogate our current academic apparatus for thinking about planetary futures.

The Series will open on 26 January 2017 with a lecture from Nahum Mantra on the role of art and the imagination in space exploration.

Nahum is an artist, musician and curator. He curates KOSMICA, an international festival for earth-bound artists, space engineers and artists, and is co-ordinator for ITACUSS (International Astronautical Federation's Technical Committee on the Cultural Utilization of Space).

Each session will start with a guest lecture from an invited speaker, followed by a plenary discussion and Q&A.

All are welcome to attend.

Unless otherwise specified, seminars take place in the IAS Common Ground (Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building).

For all queries, please contact the co-organisers: Aline-Florence Manent and David Jeevendrampillai.


Image Credit: "blue marble" NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/7Gc6C3)

Planetary Futures Reading Group

Envisioning Planetary Futures: From the Apollo Mission to SpaceX

NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center - Sun Primer

What is the future of the Planet? How is it envisioned and constructed? Does it lie in outer-space, on other planets, or does and should it remain intrinsically tied to Earth? The Planetary is an emerging focus of critical enquiry that bridges traditionally entrenched disciplinary divides across the humanities and social sciences. The Planetary is a central yet under-theorised aspect of a wide array of research engaging with the socio-political histories of the Anthropocene, the techno-scientific and intellectual imaginaries of interplanetary futures, or reflections on global warming and impending ecological crises.

Convened by Aline-Florence Manent and David Jeevendrampillai at the Institute of Advanced Studies, this informal reading group will meet fortnightly to discuss critical literature and future research directions in this exciting area of study. We invite participation from across the disciplines particularly (but not limited to) Anthropology, History, Sociology, Philosophy, Geography, History of Art, Architecture, Geology, Space Science, Astronomy, Physics and Biology.

The readings will be set by the attendees and from emergent discussions. Light refreshments will be provided.

We invite interested participants to attend our introductory welcome meeting on Thursday 26 January 2017 from 4:00pm to 5:00pm.

All are welcome.

Location: IAS Common Ground, First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Contact: For questions or additional information, please email Aline-Florence or David.

Photo Credit: NASA/SDO/Goddard Space Flight Center - "Sun Primer" (via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/dNWFvz)

Planetary Futures Conference

Political Pasts and Democratic Futures: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Sphere by Helmut Südema

Join us for this Planetary Futures conference to be held at the Institute of Advanced Studies on 1 June 2017.  The year 2016 further discredited the notion that Western democratic societies have reached the end of history. At a time when liberal democracy seems to be resting on ever more precarious foundations this conference seeks to spur an interdisciplinary conversation about the manifold ways in which political futures can and have been imagined. How have people in the past envisioned the future of democracy? What might be learned from these intellectual imaginaries for our political futures? Where and how are democratic futures reinvented and built today?

This conference aims to build on current work that highlights the historicity and plurality of democracy - whether as an idea, a political regime, or a practice. We particularly welcome contributions that explore the construction of democratic imaginaries beyond the strictly political realm, for instance through moral, aesthetic, scientific or commercial enterprises.

This conference is organised by the Planetary Futures research group at UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies. We are therefore keen to bring together scholars from a wide array of disciplinary and methodological commitments whose work might address the planetary or inter-planetary as an object of study or as a scale of inquiry.

Papers might address any one of these or related topics:

  • The stakes of adopting the planetary, the international, the cosmopolitan and/or the global as scales of inquiry
  • Competing definitions and scalar differences in the imagining of political futures
  • Issues of national sovereignty and territoriality, polarities and divisions, borders and boundaries in imaging or imagining the futures of democracy
  • To what extent does space exploration invite us to challenge central categories of political thinking (such as the state, sovereignty, the people, etc.)? How does it spur us to rethink traditional notions of democratic governance?
  • The political implications of new technologies and technologies of the future as invented now and in the past: forms of measuring, mapping, representing, coding, sharing and disseminating information that encompass a vision of the future or that have the power to shape our political and socio-economic future
  • Political, moral, aesthetic, techno-scientific or commercial representations and constructions of democratic futures as planet-wide endeavours
  • The history of futurity, the history of notions of the future, including but not only the history of science fiction as socio-political imaginaries
  • Fear of the future as a politically potent emotion; apocalypse and catastrophic visions of the future; narratives of individual and/or collective survival and the endurance of democracy

Call for Papers

Applications should include:

  • Title of proposed paper
  • Abstract (maximum 500 words)
  • CV
  • Contact information

Please send your application as a single PDF by March 31, 2017 to: democraticfutures@gmail.com


For further queries, please contact:

Aline-Florence Manent
Institute of Advanced Studies
University College London
Room G13, South Wing, Wilkins Building
Gower Street, WC1E 6BT

Image: "sphere" by Helmut Südema, via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/CoFeAW / CC BY 2.0

Sense and Sensation

IAS Junior Research Fellows Dr Dhanveer Singh Brar and Dr Alicia Spencer-Hall are researching this theme.


'Why is my pain perpetual?' (Jer 15:18): Chronic Pain in the Middle Ages

Pain is a universal human experience. We have all hurt at some point, felt that inescapable sensory challenge to our physical equanimity, our health and well-being compromised. Typically, our agonies are fleeting. For some, however, suffering becomes an artefact of everyday living: our pain becomes 'chronic'. Chronic pain is persistent, usually lasting for three months or more, does not respond well to analgesia, and does not improve after the usual healing period of any injury.

Following Elaine Scarry's (1985) seminal work The Body in Pain, researchers from various humanities disciplines have productively studied pain as a physical phenomenon with wide-ranging emotional and socio-cultural effects. Medievalists have also analysed acute pain, elucidating a specifically medieval construction of physical distress. In almost all such scholarship - modern and medieval - chronic pain has been overlooked.

The new field of medieval disability studies has also neglected chronic pain as a primary object of study. Instead, disability scholars in the main focus on 'visible' and 'mainstream' disabilities, such as blindness, paralysis, and birth defects. Indeed, disability historian Beth Linker argued in 2013 that '[m]ore historical attention should be paid to the unhealthy disabled', including those in chronic pain ('On the Borderland', 526). This conference seeks specifically to pay 'historical attention' to chronic pain in the medieval era. It brings together researchers from across disciplines working on chronic pain, functioning as a collaborative space for medievalists to enter into much-needed conversations on this highly overlooked area of scholarship.

Relevant topics for this conference include:

-Medieval conceptions and theories of chronic pain, as witnessed by scientific, medical, and theological works
-Paradigms of chronic pain developed in modern scholarship - and what medievalists can learn from, and contribute to, them -Comparative analyses of chronic pain in religious versus secular narratives -Recognition or rejection of chronic pain as an affirmative subjective identity -Chronic pain and/as disability -The potential share-ability of pain in medieval narratives, such as texts which show an individual taking on the pain of another -The relationship between affect and the severity, understanding, and experience of pain -The manner in which gender impacts the experience, expression, and management of an individual's chronic pain

Keynote address:

-Prof Esther Cohen (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), one of the foremost scholars on pain in the Middle Ages, will deliver the keynote address: 'What is Chronic Pain in a Non-Neural Age? Working Definitions, Sources, and Methodologies'.

Confirmed speakers:

-Dr Katherine Harvey (Birkbeck, University of London, UK), 'Chronic Pain and the Saintly Bishop in Medieval England'
-Dr James McKinstry (Durham University, UK), 'Headaches, Diseases, and Old Age: William Dunbar's Diagnosis of Chronic Pain' 
-Dr Michele Moatt (National Trust and Lancaster University, UK), 'Chronic Pain and Prophecy in the Twelfth-century Life of Aelred of Rievaulx
-Catherine Coffey (Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland), '"Mit zwoelf tugenden stritet si wider das vleisch": The Body Fighting the Flesh in Mechthild von Magdeburg's Das fließende Licht der Gottheit
-Katherine Briant (Fordham University, New York, USA), 'Pain as a Theological Framework in Julian of Norwich's Vision and Revelation
-Dr Nicole Nyffenegger (Bern University, Switzerland), 'Mary's Perpetual Physical Pain: Affective Piety and "Doubling"' 
-Prof Wendy J Turner (Augusta University, Georgia, USA), 'Mental Complications of Pain: Age and Violence in Medieval England' 
-Dr Bianca Frohne (University of Bremen, Germany), 'Living With Pain: Constructions of a Corporeal Experience in Early and High Medieval Miracle Accounts' 
-Dr William Maclehose (University College London, UK), 'A Locus for Healing: Saints' Shrines and Representations of Chronic Pain'


-Please register here
-The conference registration fee is £20. The fee is waived completely for concessions (students, the unwaged, retired scholars), though all attendees must register for the conference.
-The registration fee covers refreshments throughout the day for attendees, including tea and coffee at breaks, a sandwich lunch, and a wine reception. If you have any dietary requirements, please list these when you confirm your attendance. 
-Registration closes on 1st August 2017.

Past Events

Chronic Pain in the UK Today: Medical, Academic, and Political Perspectives

Chronic Pain in the UK Today Image

In 2008, the British Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson estimated that 7.8 million Britons live with chronic pain. This number is ever increasing: each year over 5 million people develop chronic pain, but only two-thirds will recover. The National Pain Audit, conducted 2009-2012, demonstrated that chronic pain sufferers 'endure a very low quality of life' compared to sufferers of other conditions. Moreover, 41% of the Audit's participants felt that their local pain specialist did not help them in managing or understanding their pain. Greater understanding of chronic pain is desperately needed to improve individual experiences and broader medical practices. This one-day free workshop explicitly aims to begin this essential, challenging work.

This event brings together medics, academics, activists, and people living with chronic pain to share knowledge of the latest research into chronic pain, and discuss ways to move forward. We will examine chronic pain from three perspectives: the medical, the academic, and the political. Leading experts from the field will present short, accessible presentations of their cutting-edge research findings, and offer invaluable analyses into the structures which shape the experience of living with chronic pain in the UK today.

This workshop is designed to facilitate a dynamic dialogue between those studying chronic pain, and those living with chronic pain. As such, the workshop will close with an open forum for attendees to comment on the presentations, and to share their experiences.

The workshop will be live-tweeted, to enable those not in attendance to contribute their thoughts and questions throughout the day. The workshop hashtag is #certainpain.

Sense and Sensation Seminar Series

João Loureiro - Senses

'Sense and Sensation' is one of the Institute of Advanced Studies' major research themes for 2016-2017. This seminar series, organised by the two Junior Research Fellows working on the 'Sense and Sensation' research strand, aims to stimulate a dialogue on this rich topic in UCL more generally. These sessions aim to draw together as many researchers as possible whose work contributes to the theme of 'Sense and Sensation', understood in its broadest possible formulation, from across the departments and schools at UCL.

We hope that by conducting a conversation between researchers and academics in this environment we will be able to engender debates outside our traditionally conceived disciplines, forge fruitful inter-disciplinary collaborations and enrich our understanding of how questions of 'Sense and Sensation' shape our knowledge of the world. The seminars' scholarly work will be supported by a welcoming, informal atmosphere in which all are encouraged to share their ideas. All postgraduate students, post-docs and staff are welcome.

The seminars will take place monthly during term-time at 4-6pm on the following Thursdays:

The first hour of each session will be given over to a presentation from a single contributor, and in the second we will discuss the ideas put forward more generally.

Each session will take place at the IAS Common Ground (Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building) except 26 May and 22 June 2017 (see above), with tea and coffee provided.

For more information, or if you have access requirements or other queries, please contact: Dhanveer Singh Brar and Alicia Spencer-Hall. We look forward to meeting you at the seminars!

Image credit: João Loureiro - "senses". (Via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

'Sediments and Arrhythmias: race, sense and sensation' Seminar Series

Sediments and Arrhythmias: race, sense, sensation Seminar Series

Within the current conjuncture of global capitalism, how are "blackness", "brownness" and racial otherness more broadly, produced, disseminated and received across sonic, visual and textual media? How has "race" as a system of analysis been reconfigured to adequately provide a grammar for these changes? In what ways are modalities of racial otherness understood as experiential categories, cultural aesthetics, intellectual practices or sites of politics in the early twenty-first century?

The "Sediments and Arrhythmias: race, sense, sensation" seminar series at the Institute of Advanced Studies will address questions of racial difference, aesthetic mediation, haptical experience and critical reflection as they shape the spheres of intellectual, cultural and artistic production by Black and Non-black people of colour in the Global North. Using the epistemologically unstable yet highly productive intersections of optics, text, sound, thought, gesture and more, the aim of "Sediments and Arrhythmias" is to speculate on the ontologies of racial otherness as they animate and disrupt many of the affective, fleshy, social and political experiences of the world. The seminar series will be built around presentations and conversations with thinkers and artists who share a common interest in mapping out the sensory valences of racial capitalism in its current form.

Dates: 23 November*/ 14 December / 25 January / 1 March / 22 March / 31 May (all dates listed fall on Wednesdays)

Time: 5pm - 7pm

Location: Institute of Advanced Studies Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, except those marked with an asterisk (*), which will take place in Seminar Room 11, First Floor, South Wing

Full list of speakers to be confirmed shortly

If you would like to contribute or require more information please contact Dhanveer Brar / Junior Research Fellow / IAS (d.brar@ucl.ac.uk)

#certainpain Twitter Chats

Senses Gone Awry Reading Group

*N.B. Please note the change of room on 28 September 2017 to IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing.*


Conflict, Confrontation and Justice

IAS Junior Research Fellow, Dr Ellen Filor is researching this theme.

Past Events

Short Histories of the British Empire, 1816-1856

While historians have often sought out big events and explosive moments, this geographically wide-ranging conference seeks to explore what short histories, individual biographies and innovative timespans can tell us about the British empire. By excluding the Napoleonic War and the Indian Revolt of 1857, we seek to move away from these large-scale, historically dominant events. Building on a vibrant field of imperial history, this conference roots itself in geographical specificities of individual imperial hubs and plays close attention the routes between the metropole and settler and sojourner British colonies.

Examining four set of key themes (rule and resistance, work and capital, movement and networks, and knowledge) this conference offers the specificities and dislocations of the local in a time of extraordinary and accelerated change. Steampower, increasing bureaucracy, the end of the slave trade and developments in warfare all contributed to a period when the British empire expanded at a swift rate.

By bringing together historians, geographers, art historians, and architects at the interdisciplinary UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, this conference will ask how approaches from disparate regions might fruitfully inform one another. Drawing attention to the 'short' but important events that shaped the British empire, we will propose revisionist chronologies and open up new terrains for study. 


10:00-10:15 - Introductory remarks: Sascha Auerbach (Nottingham)

10:15-11.15 - Rule and Resistance: Law, Justice and Governance: Natasha Eaton (UCL) Comment

  • Ellen Filor (UCL) - Sex, Virginity and Consent in Colonial Bombay: Circumventing the Cornwallis Reforms, c. 1820-1830
  • Kristy Warren - Enslavement and Childhood on Sugar Plantations in St Kitts

11:15-11:30 - Coffee Break

11:30-13:00 - Work and Capital: Economy, Labour and Social Experience: Jon Wilson (KCL) Comment

  • Kate Boehme (Sussex) - Reforming Everywhere and All at Once: Emancipation, convictism and indenture across the British Empire 1837-1838
  • Fae Dussart (Sussex) - 'Such an establishment and such arrangements!' Marianne Williams, her household and colonial community in 1840s New Zealand
  • Meleisa Ono-George - 'Procuring a Livelihood': The Politics of Interracial Concubinage in Jamaica, 1829-1833

13:00-13.45 - Lunch

13.45-15.15 - Movement and Networks: Emigration, Immigration and Migration: David Lambert (Warwick) Comment

  • Andrea Major (Leeds) - 'Hill Coolies': The Globalisation of Indian Labour, 1834-1838
  • Hannah Young (UCL) - The absentee Duchess: Jamaican emigration and the English country estate
  • Chris Wingfield (Cambridge) -The Art of Travel: Missionary authors as collectors in southern Africa, 1816-1856

15.15-15.30 - Coffee Break

15.30-17.00 - Knowledge: Science, Technology and Medicine: Kate Smith Comment

  • Tania Sengupta (UCL) - Colonial Life-worlds: Cutcherry spaces, record rooms and mufassal administration in Bengal
  • Onni Gust (Nottingham) - 'Emotion and empire: Maria Edgeworth's Ennui as colonial narrative'
  • Pete Mitchell (Sussex) - Propulsive change: steam, the East India Company and global governmentalities in 1838

17.00-17.30 - Reflections and round up: Catherine Hall (UCL) 

17.30-19.00 - Wine Reception

19.30-21.00 - Conference Meal

Please register here.


IAS Talking Points: Corruption and Race in the East India Company, 1800-1857

6 - 8 pm, 1 June 2016
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Dr Ellen Filor

Ellen's paper will explore the shifting meanings of corruption in the colonies at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Utilising a database of the hundred or so cases of corruption brought to the attention of the East India Company board of directors, this paper will explore the gap between the legislative aims of legal reforms and the workings of such laws in practice. Over the period, the numbers of Europeans being accused of corruption declined steadily between 1800 and 1857 while the number of Indians accused rose steadily. This period, therefore, saw a shift in the ways that corruption was perceived on the subcontinent: it became something the 'native' did rather than the ruling Briton. As anthropologists have suggested, accusations of corruption are one way that non-Western nations can be 'Othered' and thus tarred as 'backward' or 'traditional' societies. Examining this racialising of corruption in nineteenth-century India complicates anthropological and social science approaches to contemporary corruption.

Respondents will be Dr David Hudson, Senior Lecturer in Political Economy in the Department of Political Science and Dr Natasha Eaton, Reader in History of Art.

All welcome.  Please register here.

IAS Conflict, Confrontation and Justice Seminar: Representation and Form in Art and Politics

5 - 7.30 pm, 2 June 2016
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

The event will involve a presentation of short papers by Dr Larne Abse Gogarty (UCL) and E.C. Feiss (UC Berkeley) followed by a discussion with respondent Dr Amna Malik (Slade, UCL) and the audience.

Collective and socially engaged art has frequently been discussed as inheriting a critique of representation from earlier politicised forms of art including conceptual art and institutional critique. However, as this event will discuss, how can we understand the critique of representation within social practice as founded not only upon a deconstruction of artistic form, but also one that makes assumptions about the relationship between artistic and political representation? This is founded upon a notion that 'subject participants' might, through the artwork, gain access to political rights, an assumption which reveals a troubling slippage between the form of aesthetic and political representation. Our papers will engage in questions of political strategy and reform, seeking to produce a more dialectical view of the formation of collective subjects.

Larne Abse Gogarty will address group formation and collective art practice, exploring the relationship between psychic and political experience and E.C. Feiss will address some relations between artistic and juridical forms, and their potentialities and limits within political and aesthetic discourses of emancipation.

All welcome.  Please register here.

IAS Conflict, Confrontation and Justice Seminar: Sex in the City

6 - 9 pm, 9 March 2016
IAS Seminar Room 20/22, First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Join the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies for a seminar on the research theme of Conflict, Confrontation and Justice entitled Sex In The City.  There will be talks on Sex in Britain (Soazig Clifton, Research Associate, UCL Department of Infection and Public Health) and ChemSex (David Stuart, Substance Use Lead, 56 Dean Street) and the event will be chaired by Dr Shema Tariq (UCL Department of Infection and Public Health).

Title: Sex in Britain
What? Who with? How often? The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) have interviewed representative samples of the population every 10 years since 1990. This talk will share findings from the latest survey of more than 15,000 people aged 16-74.

Biography: Soazig Clifton is a survey researcher specialising in sexual health, based at UCL. She is part of the core Natsal study team, and has taken the findings to festivals, museums, pubs, and other public venues around the UK. For more information and findings from Natsal see sexbynumbers.wellcomecollection.org and www.natsal.ac.uk. For more on Soazig's events and projects, follow her on twitter @soazigclifton.

Title: ChemSex
ChemSex has been identified as a public health concern for gay men internationally. David Stuart will be discussing the challenges it represents to the health sector and gay communities, as well as exploring the psychosexual/psychosocial, cultural and historical drivers behind this phenomenon.

Biography: David Stuart is the Substance Use Lead at 56 Dean Street addressing the sexualised drug use by gay men (the practice commonly referred to as 'ChemSex'). He has been involved in the development of London's pioneering services Antidote, Club Drug Clinic and CODE clinic, and has been instrumental in placing ChemSex issues firmly on international Public Health agendas. He has been consulted by the governments and public health bodies of many countries across Europe, Australia and USA, including the World Health Organisation/UNAIDS.

Confronting past injustices by teaching 'forgotten' histories

12 noon - 3 pm, 16 December 2015
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Kristy Warren and Kate Donington

Dealing with the legacies of past injustices necessitates a multi-pronged approach, of which teaching 'forgotten' histories is a vital part. This talk will explore this issue using Local Roots/Global Routes, a collaborative project run by the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project at UCL and Hackney Museum and Archives, as an example. The project explored Hackney's links to transatlantic slavery, helping to expand the history already being taught about abolitionists in the area to also reflect the presence of slave-owners and people of African descent. It did this through archival research, explorations of built heritage, and direct engagement with teachers and young people.  In the process, the project also addressed constructs of the past that either ignored or distorted the histories of people of African descent, particularly the history of Africa before European contact and the role played by enslaved Africans in the fight against slavery.

All welcome to attend.

Corruption on Celluloid: Screening of Seven Days in May (1964)

5 - 8 pm, 4 December 2015
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

This showing and discussion of the corruption and conflict in Seven Days in May is led by film historian Hannah Graves and hosted by Institute of Advanced Studies Junior Research Fellow Ellen Filor. Written by The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling and starring some of the foremost actors of the era (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Fredric March), this film follows an attempted military coup to overthrow the American president because he supports a nuclear disarmament treaty. Graves will unpick the Cold War paranoia of the era and show how outside events impacted its reception by examining how Kennedy's assassination shortly before the release led to a new strategy for the premiere.

Refreshments will be provided.

Health and Humanities

IAS Junior Research Fellow, Dr Gemma Angel is researching this theme.

Past Events

Bodily Matters: Human Biomatter in Art. Materials/Aesthetics/Ethics

Bodily Matters is a new seminar series convened by Gemma Angel and hosted by University College London's Institute of Advanced Studies. We welcome scholars and artists from all fields/disciplines, and our aim is to explore the material, aesthetic and ethical aspects of human biomatter in modern and contemporary art practice.

Over the course of 2016, Bodily Matters will meet on the last Wednesday of every month from 6-8pm in Common Ground at the Institute of Advanced Studies for speaker/artist events, discussions and screenings. All are welcome.

Bodily Matters V - Emotive Matter: Blood & Tears

6 - 8 pm, 18 May 2016
Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

In this penultimate seminar in the Bodily Matters series, LA-based artist Rose-Lynn Fisher will present on her photographic series Topography of Tears, exploring the myriad emotional states that provoke human tears, and their unique and surprisingly aesthetic microscopic formations. Cambridge University anatomist and medical illustrator Emily Evans will join the discussion on emotive bodily matters, focusing on the visceral potential of human blood to provoke strong emotional reactions, and as a potent symbolic medium in contemporary art practice.

Guests will also have the opportunity to view a small exhibition of specimens from UCL Pathology Collections, which will be on display as part of Dr. Angel's ongoing research project Looking, Feeling, Knowing: The politics of seeing in relation to medical collections of human remains after the Human Tissue Act.

Emily EvansBloody Good Art

From medicine to the macabre, horror movies to the holy, it's undeniable that we love to be shocked by blood. In this talk, Emily Evans will explore a range of artworks by artists who use human blood in their work. Drawing on her own experiences of working with blood, she discusses why it's such an emotive medium. From surgeons who create sketches with their patients' blood, to artists who use the blood of gay men as a political statement, we ask the question; is it's beauty and validity of use in art outweighed by it's power?

Rose-Lynn Fisher - Topography of Tears

Topography of Tears is a study of 100 tears photographed through an optical microscope. The project began in a period of personal change, loss, and copious tears. The series comprises a wide range of my own and others' tears, from elation to onions, as well as sorrow, frustration, rejection, resolution, laughing, yawning, birth and rebirth, and many more, each a tiny history. The random compositions I find in magnified tears often evoke a sense of place, like aerial views of emotional terrain. Although the empirical nature of tears is a chemistry of water, proteins, minerals, hormones, antibodies and enzymes, the topography of tears is a momentary landscape, transient as the fingerprint of someone in a dream. This series is like an ephemeral atlas.

Tears are the medium of our most primal language in moments as unrelenting as death, as basic as hunger, and as complex as a rite of passage. They are the evidence of our inner life overflowing its boundaries, spilling over into consciousness. Wordless and spontaneous, they release us to the possibility of realignment, reunion, catharsis: shedding tears, shedding old skin. It's as though each one of our tears carries a microcosm of the collective human experience, like one drop of an ocean.

Presenter Biographies

Emily Evans (BSc PGCE MMAA RMIP) is an Anatomist and Medical illustrator. Alongside running her business as a medical illustrator in London, Emily is also senior demonstrator of anatomy at Cambridge University, UK. Additionally, Emily is the author and illustrator of 'Anatomy in Black', owner and designer at Anatomy Boutique, Artist in Residence at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, NY and a Member of the Medical Artists' Association of Great Britain, the Institute of Anatomical Sciences and the Anatomical Society. Her medical illustration and art can be viewed at emilyevansillustration.com

Rose-Lynne Fisher is an artist from Los Angeles, working in photography and mixed media. Measured in magnifications or miles, her art explores a sense of place along the micro/macro continuum in series that include microscopic tears, bone, bees, as well as aerial photography. She is the author of the photography book, BEE, the honeybee viewed in magnifications of 10x to 5000x via scanning electron microscope. Her work has been featured in print and online magazines including Smithsonian Magazine, The New Yorker, and Wired, and Harper's, among many others. Her exhibition history includes Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Boston Museum of Science, and other museums of art, science, natural history, and anthropology, in the United States, Germany, Japan, Canada, Israel, and France. She is represented by Craig Krull Gallery in Los Angeles. Ms Fisher is currently at work on a book of the tears. Further information may be found at www.rose-lynnfisher.com

Bodily Matters VI - Micro Matter: Genes & Cell Cultures

6 - 8 pm, 22 June 2016
Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Lecturer in molecular biology Dr Simon F. Park will discuss his art practice and research exploring the eukaryotic self through 'Cellfies', or cellular self portraits.

He will be joined by Louise Mackenzie, a researcher and artist working on evolution and synthetic biology, in collaboration with the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University.

Dr Simon Park, Department of Microbial Sciences, University of Surrey - Body Fluids - the Default to Order

Often treated with disgust, bodily fluids such as urine, saliva and sweat are highly complex forms of soft matter. Take for example saliva, which comprises 99.5% water. Its activity, however, resides in the other functional 0.5%, which comprises a complex mixture of electrolytes, glycoproteins, lubricants, enzymes, and antibacterial compounds. Simon Park will talk about his practice in which he seeks to explore and reveal the complexity of these human fluids. His explorations have been diverse, ranging from the development of simple and readily accessible DIY staining techniques for the analysis of bodily fluids, to more introspective works as follows.

The soft matter which escapes the body, either through deliberate and unconscious expulsion, or via intentional extraction, reveals vital and intimate signatures of our health and also our hidden biology. In all of these liquids, water is by far the majority, and acting as an inert carrier it supports and jostles hidden chemistries into action. When it is removed, and the molecules within the bodily fluids consequently stilled, complex biochemistries are revealed in the form of autogenic, and multifaceted crystallineformations, as if the water in the samples had possessed some entropic quality, that once removed, had allowed life's molecules to default into a defining order.

Louise Mackenzie, Visual Artist, Northumbria University  - Pithos

As part of my ongoing art science research collaboration with the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University, Pithos (working title) is a live bio art research project and audiovisual installation.  In this work I practice transgenic art in the tradition of Joe Davis, Christian Bök and Eduardo Kac by comparing the genetic code to language and constructing a cypher that enables me to place a sentence, in the form of synthetic DNA, within the body of the organism E. coli as vessel.  Reflecting the Pandora myth, the synthetic DNA construct (a question to the microbial other) is worked into a physical clay vessel and it's predicted evolution within E. coli is sonified as an audio work.  As an ongoing live element, generations of the living organism containing the synthetic DNA construct are nurtured and monitored for actual evolutionary change.

Bodily Matters: Artists in the Medical Museum

Pre-conference Event 6 July 2016
UCL Pathology Museum | Royal Free Hospital London

Anatomical dissection and artistic practice have gone hand-in-hand for centuries, with artists being among the first to document and record detailed observations of the internal structure of the human body. The relationship between drawing and dissection has thus long supported medical and artistic education alike. However, contemporary relationships between medical institutions and artists seeking to access their collections has been complicated in recent decades by conflict, controversy and a disjuncture between professional medical codes of ethics, and artistic intentions. This special one day event will explore the role of contemporary artists in the medical museum and dissection room, considering questions of ethics, education and public vs. professional understandings of death and the human body.

Held in UCL Pathology Museum at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, participants will be able to take part in a hands-on anatomical drawing workshop led by Dr. Lucy Lyons, surrounded by the historic pathological collections, and utilising the specimens on display. Lucy investigates drawing as a phenomenological activity that evidences experience and communicates knowledge in medical sciences. She is a lecturer in drawing research and painting at City & Guilds of London Art School, and a visiting lecturer at Imperial College London, where she teaches visual note taking for surgeons and a member of the Medical Artists' Association of Great Britain.

Following a coffee break, Lucy will be joined by artist Pascalle Pollier and anatomist Emily Evans for seminar presentations, a Q&A discussion panel and drinks reception.

More information here and buy tickets here.

Bodily Matters: Human Biomatter in Art Materials/Aesthetics/Ethics

Conference 7-8 July 2016
Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London

From Andy Warhol's oxidation paintings, made using urine, to Andrew Krasnow's two and three-dimensional artworks utilising human skin, Bill Fink's meticulously constructed images created with human hair, to Marc Quinn's blood-sculpture series Self - and Rose-Lynn Fisher's photographic series Topography of Tears - the human body has been used not merely as the subject of art works, but also as their substance. Diverse in terms of their image and object-making practices, and encompassing casting and sculptural processes, drawing, painting and photography, these artworks nevertheless have one thing in common: they can all be considered to be examples of what we term "biomaterial" artworks.

The human body has long provided a source of interest for artists, as both the subject and object of a wide range of artistic practices throughout history and across cultures. The body in art has been the subject of an extensive and growing literature that engages with themes as diverse as the history of anatomy and the arts, contemporary performance art, body modification practices such as tattooing, bioart practices that utilise living matter as its new media, and extensive feminist and queer readings of art, power and politics. Whilst the human body thus remains an important concern for scholars studying visual and material culture in fields such as art history, anthropology and the medical humanities, little scholarly attention has been paid to modern and contemporary art practices that use the raw material of the human body itself in the production of artworks.

This interdisciplinary conference seeks to address this by examining the creative manipulation and use of human biological matter in the production of artworks, their display and critical reception. Artworks in all media will be considered, providing that human biomatter has been used in the production of the work. The conference aims to explore all forms of biomatter-as-art-medium, in multiple forms: Body fluids such as blood, semen, tears, milk and vomit; excreta such as faeces, urine and sweat; skin and adnexa such as hair and nails; bone and teeth; organs and whole bodies; and cell cultures and DNA. Human bodily materials are frequently invested with highly symbolic cultural power and complex visceral and emotional entanglements, thus the use of human biomatter as art medium opens up an intriguing cultural space to reflect critically upon the relationships between materiality, aesthetics, affective response, ethics and the production of cultural meaning.

Download the conference programme here.

Conference registration is now open at UCL Online Store


Bodily Matters IV - Liminal Matter: Skin & Hair

6 - 8 pm, 27 April 2016
Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Bodily Matters IV focuses on liminal biomatter at our contact zone - skin and hair. As the most visible markers of gender, race, social class, age and health, skin and hair are both important sites for the inscription of social identity and sensory and cultural mediums of expression. From the flayed skin of St. Bartholomew to the shorn hair of Samson, skin and hair are embued with complex and often contradictory symbolic value in art, literature, myth and medicine. Frequently, these biomaterials posses qualities of ambiguity or liminality, standing at the threshold between the individuated self and other.

In this session, UCL art historian Dr Mechthild Fend will present on the phenomenon Plica Polonica, or "Polish plait", which was treated as a medical condition during the 17th century. Plica, or trichoma, is a formation of hair that may refer to a hairstyle as well as European folk medical traditions, in which matted hair was employed as a kind of amulet to "catch" illness leaving the body. UCL Institute of Advanced Studies Junior Research Fellow Dr Gemma Angel will join the discussion of liminal bodily matters, focusing on the work of Andrew Krasnow in particular, and exploring the use of human skin as a potent symbolic medium in contemporary art and broader cultural practice alike.

Guests will also have the opportunity to view a small exhibition of specimens from UCL Pathology Collections, which will be on display as part of Dr. Angel's ongoing research project Looking, Feeling, Knowing: The politics of seeing in relation to medical collections of human remains after the Human Tissue Act.

Cold refreshments and snacks will be provided. All are welcome to attend. Please register your attendance here for catering purposes: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bodily-matters-iv-liminal-matter-skin-hair-tickets-21641479247

Dr Gemma Angel, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies - Not So Empty Vessels: The Flayed Skin in Contemporary Art

The theme of flaying recurs in the ancient myths and legends of many cultures from the Aztecs to the Ancient Greeks. In contemporary culture, flaying continues to be a powerful phantasm, appearing in horror films such as The Martyrs (2008), and in popular fiction as an extreme form or torture, as well as a theme within artworks that explore the interstices of identity, skin, self and body. The cultural significance of the skin is frequently most legible were it is breached, broken and stripped away; the skin can be both mask and mirror, simultaneously concealing and exposing the interior; protective armour or vulnerable membrane; a garment imbued with powers of renewal or destruction. This presentation will chart the myriad meanings of skin via an exploration of contemporary artworks that use human skin as medium, focusing in particular on Andrew Krasnow's series of sculptural/installation works made using preserved skin.  

Dr Mechthild Fend, UCL History of Art Department - Medusa's Hair

This presentation will engage with images of a curious hair condition - consisting of braided hair - which was considered a disease between c1600 and 1900, associated with Poland, and usually called Plica Polonica. It will focus on the visual and verbal accounts of the condition in an illustrated dermatology atlas  produced at the Hôpital Saint Louis in Paris by Jean-Louis Alibert. In an uncharacteristically pejorative manner, Alibert associated the Plique multiforme with Polish beggars who look like furies when drunk. The images and accompanying descriptions conjure up the spectre of the serpent haired Medusa, a figure that was at that time also mobilised to invoke the violent aspects of the French Revolution. Along this liminal disease I will discuss issues of skin, hair, the bodies' uncertain borderlines.

Liminal Matter: Skin & Hair is the fourth event of the Bodily Matters: Human Biomatter in Art seminar series and conference, hosted by University College London's Institute of Advanced Studies. For more information on forthcoming events and conference, please visit http://thanatocorpus.com/bodily-matters/

Bodily Matters III - Generative/Nutritive Matter: Semen & Breastmilk

6 - 8 pm, 22 March 2016
Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

The third in the Bodily Matters seminar series, this session will focus on generative, nutritive and fluid biomatters - semen and breastmilk. As bodily fluids associated with the gendered body, reproduction, nurturance, sexuality and intimacy, semen and breastmilk are imbued with powerful symbolic value, and are frequently surrounded by cultural taboos. In this session, artist Jordan McKenzie will discuss his semen drawing series, Spent (Litmus) in relation to queer bodily production. He will be joined by professor of political aesthetics at Birkbeck, Esther Leslie, and artist and senior lecturer at the Slade School of Art, Melanie Jackson, who will present a lecture on their current collaborative work focused on breastmilk.

Guests will also have the opportunity to view a small exhibition of specimens from UCL Pathology Collections, which will be on display as part of Dr. Angel's ongoing research project Looking, Feeling, Knowing: The politics of seeing in relation to medical collections of human remains after the Human Tissue Act.

Jordan McKenzie - Getting Jizzy With It: Auto-drawing and Queer Bodily Production. 

Jordan McKenzie will talk about his practice of queering the canon, attempting to find ways of inserting acts of queerness into the heart of art production and its historical framings. Using satire and performative actions, his work around drawing and the wider series of interventions into Minimalism deliberately highjack claims to originality and authenticity in arts practice.

Professor Esther Leslie & Melanie Jackson - Unreliable Matriarchs

In the mythic origin stories of the Milky Way, breastmilk is violently sprayed across the heavens in a struggle between Gods and wives over the control of the supply of milk and of reproduction. Through history, it becomes no less contested a substance. The efforts to separate milk from the body are sustained, as attested, for example, in the debates around wet-nursing. Certain bodies are charged with milk production, others dissuaded. But there is a more fundamental separation of milk from the body, in order to ensure supply as an industrial staple. Through milk formula, milk emerges  as a cipher of industrial modernity. Milk is the only human 'fluid' that in the recent past was perceived to have been 'transcended' by a technologised counterpart. Today it is one of the most variously technologised substances on earth. Only now are its biodynamic adaptive properties beginning to be fully apprehended. This illustrated talk will explore representations of lactation, of giving suck, and its powdery reformulations, across a wide historical span.

A collaborative lecture based on material from the forthcoming book by Melanie Jackson and Esther Leslie.

Please register here.

Presenter Biographies:

Jordan McKenzie is a performance maker and visual artist based in London. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally in galleries, festivals and arts centres including Shame Chorus, Freud Museum (2015) Carl An(t)dre, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, (2014) An Englishman Abroad, KASA Gallery, Istanbul (2014) What's Next for the Body?, Arnolfini Gallery, (2011) Exhibitionism, Courtauld Institute, (2011). His curatorial projects include LUPA (Lock Up Performance Art) a performance space run from a disused garage on the council estate where he lives in East London, (2011-13) Co-curated with Aaron Williamson and Kate Mahony,  Look At The (E)state We're In (2014) major international conference about art and the council estate, Live(E)lseWhere (co-curated with The Drawing Shed 2014). He has received major arts bursaries from Arts Admin and The Live Art Development Agency and been an artist in residence in numerous countries including I-Park Massachusetts, USA (2012), OVADA Gallery, Oxford (2005) and Sutra Arts, Nepal (2004). He is currently a senior lecturer in Drawing at The University for the Arts, London and visiting lecturer in Critical and Contextual Studies at Kingston University. 

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London. Her books include Walter Benjamin: Overpowering Conformism (Pluto 2000), Hollywood Flatlands, Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant Garde (Verso 2002),Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (Reaktion, 2005), Walter Benjamin (Reaktion 2007), Derelicts: Thought Worms from the Wreckage (Unkant, 2014) and Walter Benjamin: On Photography (Reaktion, 2015). 

Melanie Jackson has exhibited work internationally including Dojima River Biennale, Osaka, ZKM Karlsruhe, Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago. Solo UK exhibitions include Flat Time House, John Hansard Gallery, The Drawing Room, Arnolfini and Matt's Gallery, where she is also represented. She was shortlisted for the Whitechapel Maxmara Award in 2010 and winner of the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007.

Bodily Matters II | Architectural Matter: Bone & Teeth

6 - 8 pm, 24 February 2016
Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

The second in the Bodily Matters seminar series, this session will focus on biomatter that gives the human form strength and structure - bones and teeth. Teeth and bone have powerful symbolic cultural associations with mortality, aging and death, and have been used in the visual arts and medicine as both memento mori and anatomical teaching tools. In this session, contemporary sculptor and installation artist, Gina Czarneki, will discuss her 2012 work Palaces, which incorporates thousands of donated milk teeth. She will be joined by bioethicist and lecturer at Yale Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioethics, Dr Heidi Nicholl, who will discuss ethical issues surrounding the use of human bones in art practice.

Guests will also have the opportunity to view a small exhibition of teeth and bone specimens from UCL Pathology Collections, which will be on display as part of Dr Angel's ongoing research project Looking, Feeling, Knowing: The politics of seeing in medical collections of human remains after the Human Tissue Act.

Cold refreshments and snacks will be provided. All are welcome to attend. Please register your attendance here for catering purposes: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/bodily-matters-ii-architectural-matter-bone-teeth-tickets-21113382696

Gina Czarneki, Visual Artist - Palaces

Milk teeth have a particular multi-cultural significance as a symbol of transition and of progress. Stem cells can, allegedly, be extracted from these teeth and may in the future be used to repair or remake damaged organs. Palaces was formed, like much of my work,  from numerous inputs that are a melting of present and past experiences, knowledge, memory. A palace or a castle represents ancient power systems. They represent protection, a refuge, a place of dreams and magic. Architectural constructs and constructs of the imagined. Palace represents too our belief in these constructs and in established systems of authority.  It alludes to belief systems and what we hold to be true or fantasy.

As more teeth are donated, the sculpture will begin to grow like coral as I continue to add teeth. There will be clusters of teeth forming in parts of the palace just like barnacles gather in areas and spread, or crystals form and grow. The crystal resin structure will always be visible. As more donations of teeth arrive this will gradually cover more and more of the crystal resin structure but will never completely cover this form. 

Dr Heidi Nicholl, Yale Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioethics - The Use of Human Bones in Art: A Clinical Ethics Consultation

Frameworks are a useful tool to analyse details of individual cases and to generate pertinent ethical questions and key concepts that require further analysis. One method of undertaking clinical ethics consultancy utilises a framework called 'The Four Box Method'. In this seminar I will use an adapted version of this case-based approach to explore the ethics of using human bones in art. We will investigate what is at issue, the nature of the ethical conflict (if any) and whether there are previous cases from which to draw inferences. By using this paradigm I seek to explore how human remains can be viewed in a similar way to the un-represented patient.

Architectural Matter: Bone & Teeth is the second event of the Bodily Matters: Human Biomatter in Art seminar series and conference, hosted by University College London's Institute of Advanced Studies. For more information on forthcoming events, and conference call for papers, please visit http://thanatocorpus.com/bodily-matters/

Bodily Matters I | Postmortem Portraits: Likeness, Technologies & Ethics

6-8 pm 27 January 2016
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Focusing on the face and the post-mortem body in medical and forensic contexts, Dr Gemma Angel and Kathryn Smith will explore questions of likeness, ethics, artistic practice and aesthetics in relation to representations of the post-mortem face in forensic and contemporary art contexts. Chaired by UCL pathology museum curator Subhadra Das, with guest speaker Kathryn Smith from Liverpool John Moores University FACE Lab

Guests will also have the opportunity to view a small exhibition of specimens from UCL Pathology Collections, which will be on display as part of Dr Angel's ongoing research project Looking, Feeling, Knowing: The politics of seeing in medical collections of human remains after the Human Tissue Act.

Abstracts and further details can be found here: http://thanatocorpus.com/events/

Please confirm your attendance via this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/post-mortem-portraits-likeness-technologies-ethics-tickets-20517556564

Kathryn Smith, Face Lab, Liverpool John Moores University - Technologies of the Post-mortem Face

This presentation will introduce the basic principles of craniofacial identification and depiction - otherwise known as forensic art - focusing on predictions of living appearance of individuals generated from post-mortem remains in both forensic and historical cases. The notion of 'technology' is considered in its literal sense with reference to the tools used in facial depiction (including both manual and computer-assisted methods), as well as its connotation within cultural anthropology, as the sum of a group's practical knowledge expressed through material culture. I will consider the research that supports the practical application of scientific standards in facial prediction/depiction, including current research in facial recognition, in relation to some ideas and expectations we have about portraiture, in the context of a conspicuous lack of theoretical consideration of the visual cultures of forensic work, and how aesthetic choices made by forensic artists may impact on the success or efficacy of facial depictions and vice versa.

Dr Gemma Angel, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London - Facing Death. Contemporary Art and the Medical Museum

In 1981, a sixteen-year-old Damien Hirst posed for a photograph next to the disembodied head of an unidentified (but identifiable) cadaver at Leeds Anatomy School, during an art school visit to the dissection laboratories. A decade later, the image was exhibited publicly for the first time at the Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin in Paris; Hirst credits this photograph with the beginning of his art career.

More recent exhibitions of the photograph in London have been met with public and professional outrage amongst museum curators and scholars who work with human remains, reflecting a shift in the perception of human remains held within institutional contexts. Whilst anatomical dissection and artistic practice have gone hand-in-hand for centuries, contemporary relationships between medical institutions and artists such as Hirst who seek to access their collections, have more recently been marked by conflict, controversy and a disjuncture between professional medical codes of ethics, and artistic intentions.

This paper will examine Hirst's controversial image With Dead Head (1991), in light of ethical questions about access, ownership, treatment, display and visibility of human body parts in both the medical museum, and in contemporary art practice.

Identity and Voices

IAS Junior Research Fellow, Dr Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed is researching this theme.

Past Events

Seminar Series

A monthly research forum on the theme of Identities and Voices, with a focus on concepts and theories of Recognition, are held from 4.30 to 6pm on the third Wednesday of every month during term time in the IAS Common Ground on the ground floor of the South Wing. Aims include initiating an interdisciplinary discussion on issues such as: recognition and identity, the psychology of recognition, the politics of recognition, social visibility and invisibility, recognition and ethics. (Please email Mohammed for more information.)

IAS Identities & Voices Seminar: New Concepts in the Biopsychosocial Model of Health and Disease

6 - 8 pm, 17 October 2016
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

New Concepts in the Biopsychosocial Model of Health and Disease

Join us at the Institute of Advanced Studies for a seminar in philosophy and medicine.


  • Professor Derek Bolton (Philosophy & Psychopathology, King's College London)
  • Associate Professor Maël Lemoine (Philosophy of Biology & Medical Science, Université de Tours)

The biopsychosocial model, introduced by Engel in 1977, is a holistic conception of physical and mental health. It endeavours to understand and to explain illness in terms of three interacting levels: biological, psychological and social. It has had, and continues to have, significant impact on the theory and practice of health-care. Several decades after its introduction, some of the basic assumptions of the model are being questioned. In this seminar, two philosophers of medicine and psychiatry will discuss new concepts in the biopsychosocial model, and appraise its relevance for healthcare today.

For more information (including abstracts) contact Dr Mohammed Abouelleil Rashed.

The event will be followed by a drinks reception. All welcome.  Please register here.

IAS Identities & Voices Seminar: Fourth Wave Feminism in Schools: Exploring the discursive and affective constitution of feminist groups in and around secondary school spaces

5 - 6.30 pm, 28 April 2016
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Join the IAS to hear Hanna Retallack from the UCL Institute of Education talk about Fourth Wave Feminism in Schools. Hanna will be presenting research conducted in the light of theories that we are witnessing a 'fourth wave' of feminism in which there is a resurgence in young peoples' engagement with issues related to gender and sexuality. Dr Claudia Lapping (Senior Lecturer, IoE) will be responding to Hanna's work.

Despite previous research pointing towards a de-politicisation of feminist projects in neo-liberal landscapes and the suggestion that critiques of over-arching systems of inequity are being cast aside in favour of a focus on improving affairs of the self, there is increasing evidence that a renewed and collectivised feminism has re-entered political and civic life. This presentation is concerned with the manifestation of this new 'wave' in the emergence of teenage feminist groups, in which schoolgirls can be seen to be actively transgressing neo-liberal and post-feminist narratives of 'girl power' and 'successful girls' in order to form feminist collectives within their schools. Much like the consciousness raising (or RAP) groups of the second wave, this involves face-to-face meetings that discuss issues around gender and sexuality, but within specifically school-based spaces that are able to enable, preclude, make and undo the emerging feminisms on their sites. A conceptualisation of schools as shifting spaces that play out varying modes of gendered acceptance and denial will work to support an understanding of the ways in which feminist groups are beginning to take up and create affective and discursive space within schools.

All welcome.  Please register here.

IAS Talking Points Seminar: Understanding Others Without Abandoning The World: Empathy and the challenge of 'psychotic' phenomena

6 - 8 pm, 29 April 2016
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

This talk, given by UCL Institute of Advanced Studies Junior Research Fellow Dr Mohammed Rashed, will begin with an exploration of the problem of understanding delusions and hallucinations, will continue with a philosophical critique of current attempts to solve this problem, and finally proceed by exploring various anthropologically-inspired approaches as a potential solution to the challenge of understanding others - in this case 'psychotic' phenomena.

Respondents: Dr Joseph Calabrese, Department of Anthropology, UCL and Dr James Wilson, Department of Philosophy, UCL

All are welcome to attend.  Please register here.

IAS Identities & Voices Seminar: 'Banned in China' - Post-Mao Chinese Literature & the Politics of Recognition in World Literature

11.30 am - 1 pm
IAS Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Flair Donglai Shi, Oxford University

The recent economic/political rise of China has revived discussions on modern Chinese literature as world literature. However, in a world where English now serves as the lingua franca, the cultural deficit between China and the Anglophone world still characterises the relationship between Chinese literature and world literature.

This talk discusses the position of post-Mao Chinese literature in world literature. It aims to expose how the Western/Anglophone literary authority and market wield different 'technologies of recognition', especially 'the systematic' and 'the allegorical' that Shu-Mei Shih has highlighted, to confine post-Mao Chinese literature in a constant struggle between domestic authoritarian 'literary governance' and the set of 'predetermined' interpretations and expectations from the West.

Adopting Franco Moretti's methodology of 'distant reading', Flair will discuss and analyse the presences and absences of a wide range of post-Mao Chinese writers from Gao Xingjian to Xiaolu Guo, from Mo Yan to Weihui Zhou. Through these explorations of the politics of recognition encountered by post-Mao Chinese literature on its route to world literature, this paper argues that though Chinese writers face intersecting oppression from both domestic and international cultural politics, an awareness about the mechanisms of these politics may help them come up with strategies of resistance in their world-constructing creative processes. More importantly, drawing insights from James English and Sarah Brouillette's works on literary prizes and postcolonial writers, he proposes that this awareness itself is a self-conscious and performative strategy which is necessarily characterised by peripheral writers' partial agency in today's global literary marketplace.

Octagon Friday Forum: Recognition

10 am - 5.40 pm, 5 February 2016
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Dr Mohammed Aboulleil Rashed is convening the Octagon Friday Forum on the theme of Recognition.

Medical Anthropology Seminar Series, Department of Anthropology: Mad Pride, Mad Culture and the Demand for Recognition: Difficulties in Responding to Current Socio-political Movements

4.30 - 6 pm, 21 January 2016
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd floor, 14 Taviton Street

In this talk, Mohammed will discuss his research on activism in mental health and reflect on some of the moral and political issues that arise when writing about groups campaigning for recognition and rights.

Recognition & the Paradox of Representation: The Case of Tribal Politics

4.30 - 6 pm, 16 December 2015
IAS Seminar Room 19, First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

To seek recognition is to make oneself visible in a specific way. In doing so, the subject of recognition faces a 'paradox of representation': in demanding recognition, the group inevitably presents itself to others in such a way that corresponds to what the latter may deem valuable. Thus, what began as a need for self-realisation ends up being dependent on the affirmation of others according to their own frameworks. Given this, questions arise as to the value of recognition: e.g. whether it results in moral progress, or merely confirms existing social and ideological structures.

This problem is brought into acute focus in tribal politics in India. There, certain groups work to emphasise and sometimes exaggerate their 'tribeness' in order to gain recognition from a government that responds to this.

The seminar will be based on the following reading: 'Seeking the Tribe: Ethno-politics in Darjeeling and Sikkim' by Sara Shneiderman and Mark Turin. No preparation is required; the paper will be summarised prior to discussion. 

Materialities and Technologies

IAS Junior Research Fellow, Dr Laurent Dissard is researching this theme.

Past Events

Seminar Series

The Materialities and Technologies research group will explore key ideas around the theme of Materialities and Technologies. It will draw different participants across departments at UCL and universities in London, and provide an intellectual environment where disciplinary and regional boundaries can be transcended. Key concepts related to Materialities and Technologies to be explored include, but are not limited to: Scale & Temporality, Embodiment & Corporeality, Information & Knowledge, Infrastructures & Urbanism and Poetics & Politics. Initial meetings will be devoted to establishing a regular speaker series, organising an end-of-the-year conference, as well as exploring the possibilities for publication.

Meetings at 5 pm on various Tuesdays during the academic year 2015/16 will be held in the IAS Common Ground, except on 10 May when it will take place in IAS Seminar Room 20/22 on the first floor of South Wing.

Please contact Laurent Dissard at the Institute of Advanced Studies for further information.

Neo-Ottoman Legacies, Post-Ottoman Erasures: Sites of memory in Istanbul, Thessaloniki and Budapest

 Sites of Memory in Istanbul, Thessaloniki and Budapest

8 September 2016, 12 noon - 2 pm
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

In this presentation, given as part of the Institute of Advanced Studies Materialities and Technologies research theme, Dr Jeremy F Walton will draw on Pierre Nora's concept of 'sites of memory' to explore the material textures and political effects of Ottoman legacies and Neo-Ottoman ideologies in three locations: Miniatürk, a theme park in Istanbul that features scale replicas of many prominent Ottoman structures; Thessaloniki's New Mosque, a former place of worship for the syncretic religious community of the dönme; and the Tomb of Gül Baba, a 16th century Sufi dervish and saint, in Budapest. His exposition moves in two directions. On the one hand, he emphasises how sites of memory frequently serve to bolster dominant, politicised discourses of Neo-Ottomanism. On the other hand, he traces how sites of renascent Ottoman memory - especially those outside Turkey - destabilise and contradict the premises of Neo-Ottomanism in unanticipated ways. Over the course of his presentation, he develops the concept of 'disciplined historicity' as a method for approaching sites of memory that integrates both historical knowledge and appreciation for the material and aesthetic qualities of the spaces in question.


Jeremy F Walton is the leader of the Max Planck Research Group, 'Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities', at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Göttingen, Germany, a position that he began in March 2016. Since graduating from the University of Chicago with PhD in Anthropology in 2009, Dr Walton has had the good fortune to pursue a variety of teaching and research positions. From 2009 to 2012, he was an Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow in New York University's Religious Studies Program; from 2012 to 2013, he was a Jamal Daniel Levant Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS); from 2013 to 2015, he was a member of the CETREN Transregional Research Network at Georg August University of Göttingen; and, from 2015 to 2016, he was a research fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies of South Eastern Europe at the University of Rijeka. Dr Walton's first major research project was an ethnographic study of the relationship among Muslim civil society organisations, state institutions and secularism in contemporary Turkey. A monograph based on this research, Muslim Civil Society and the Politics of Religious Freedom in Turkey, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. Dr Walton has published in a wide variety of forums, including journals such as American Ethnologist, Sociology of Islam and The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology. Additionally, Dr Walton was a co-editor of the volume Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency (University of Chicago Press) and has book chapters in Anthropology and Global Counterinsurgency, Orienting Istanbul: Cultural Capital of Europe?, The Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies and Everywhere Taksim: Sowing the Seeds for a New Turkey at Gezi. As the group leader for 'Empires of Memory', he guides an interdisciplinary team of researchers in a multi-sited project on post-imperial memory and forgetting in a variety of former Habsburg and Ottoman cities, including Vienna, Istanbul, Budapest, Sarajevo, Trieste, Thessaloniki, Zagreb and Skopje.

All welcome.  Please register here.

Archaeology as Salvage Operation in the Middle East: Ethics, Politics and Methods

Archaeology as Salvage Operation in the Middle East

10 December 2016, 9 am - 5 pm
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Ever since its beginnings, archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East has often taken the form of a salvage operation in context of development projects and military conflicts that threaten cultural heritage. Construction of dam projects, rural infrastructure projects, political instability and looting operations open doors for archaeologists to work in precarious landscapes, working at a fast pace and with duly adjusted methodologies.

While the ticking clock dictates less than desirable methodologies for surveying and excavation, salvage operations lead to unusually intensive investigation of regions producing a wealth of data, channel unexpected funding into archaeology and heritage conservation, and allow easier acquisition of official permits. The increased scale of development in countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, and the threat of violence in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has impacted the way in which archaeologists do fieldwork. They inevitably find themselves in politically-charged situations where multiple stakeholders challenge the relationship of the archaeologist to local governments, multi-national companies, local communities and activist groups.

This one-day workshop (on 10 December 2016) at UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies invites scholars to consider the ethical, political and methodological issues in archaeological salvage operations. How has this rescue nature of archaeology impacted and shaped archaeological practice in the Middle East? Where does salvage operation locate archaeologists in the political ecologies of the field? The conference will open a platform for real experiences of salvage archaeology on the ground, focusing on the ethics of archaeological salvage work in the context of development with the controversies of ecological impact and human rights violations, while salvage archaeology can be adopted as an allegorical concept for debate more broadly on the methodologies, politics and ethics of archaeological fieldwork in the Middle East.

Participants will be asked to circulate position papers (2000-3000 words) at the end of November 2016 and present them during the workshop on 10 December 2016 to open up discussion.

The conference is co-organised by Laurent Dissard, Junior Research Fellow at UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies and Ömür Harmanşah, Associate Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Please send an abstract (~200 words) to laurentdissard@gmail.com before 1 October 2016, if you are interested in participating.

Register for the workshop here.


IAS Materialities and Technologies Seminar: The Interrogator and the Prisoner - The Violence of Evidence during the Korean War

Monica Kim and Laleh Khalili

29 June 2016, 5 - 6.30 pm
IAS Seminar Room 20, First Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

If liberation from colonialism required an essential rupture with the historical past, what did that rupture look like on the level of personhood?  What did a decolonised subject look like?  And who had the authority to recognise it? 

In this discussion, Monica Kim will use the prism of military interrogations rooms during the Korean War to refract the competing claims of the United States, North Korea and India regarding their abilities to recognise the post-colonial subject. The ambitions of empire, revolution and non-alignment converged upon this intimate encounter of military warfare: the interrogator and the interrogated prisoner of war. Which state could supposedly reinvent the most intimate power relation between the coloniser and the colonised, to transform the relationship between the state and subject into one of liberation, democracy or freedom?  Drawing upon the histories of Cold War psychiatry, Korean internationalist socialism and Japanese colonial police practices, Kim lays out a landscape of the intimate technologies of warfare that came to frame the notion of US-sanctioned 'humanitarian warfare'. Responding to Monica Kim's research and giving her insights on themes and issues raised during the talk will be Laleh Khalili from SOAS.


Monica Kim is an assistant professor in US and World History at New York University and a member of Princeton's Institute of Advanced Study in 2015-2016. She is currently finishing her book manuscript Humanity Interrogated: The Wars over War in the Interrogation Room, 1942-1960, which examines the relationship between two global phenomena that have critically marked the history of the twentieth century - international warfare and formal decolonisation - through the prism of military interrogation rooms of the Korean War. 

Laleh Khalili is a professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS and author of Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Commemoration (Cambridge 2007) and Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford 2013). Her current research engages the politics and political economy of war and militaries as it intersects with infrastructure, logistics and transport in the Middle East.

IAS Talking Points Seminar: Submerged Stories - Dams and Cultural Erasure in Eastern Turkey

7 March 2016, 6 - 8 pm
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

In this talk, UCL Institute of Advanced Studies Junior Research Fellow Dr Laurent Dissard will take dams as symbols of Turkey's 'modernisation' and their associated reservoirs, artificial lakes inundating the cultural heritage of river valleys, as metaphors for the country's 'submerged stories'. He explains how technological infrastructures, which delineate the possibilities and confines of Turkey's future, have also simultaneously helped to materialise the possibilities and confines of the nation's past. In the end, he will explore the 'stories' of Turkey's 'others' (Kurds, Alevis, Armenians) left 'submerged' by the country's attempts to modernise.

Respondents: Dr Katherine Ibbett, UCL SELCS, and Dr Ruth Mandel, Department of Anthropology, UCL

Sunken Time: The Politics of Dams, Memories and Justice

Sunken Time

23 February 2016, 5 - 7 pm
IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

In this talk, part of the Institute of Advanced Studies Materialities and Technologies research focus, William Carruthers, Maria Iancu, and Caner Sayan will discuss what infrastructural technologies, dams and other hydroelectric power plants built in Egypt, Romania and Turkey, can tell us about politics, science, memory, time, justice, and the environment.

First, William Carruthers (PhD, Cambridge and Gerda Henkel Research Fellow, German Historical Institute London) adopts a History of Science and Technology perspective to examine the interplay of archaeological practice, Egyptian politics, and infrastructural development in his analysis of the Aswan High Dam built on the Nile in the 1960s. Second, in her discussion of the Ada Kaleh in Romania, an island on the Danube River submerged in 1970 after the construction of a dam, Maria Iancu (PhD, UCL) interrogates categories like memory, loss and time. Last but not least, Caner Sayan (PhD, Dundee) explores such concepts as "recognition" and "environmental justice" through the case study of contested dams and controversial hydroelectric power plants being built today on the rivers of Southwestern Turkey.

IAS Materialities and Technologies Seminar

19 January 2016, 5 - 7 pm IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

Material Politics and Roads

As part of its 'Materialities and Technologies' research focus, the Institute of Advanced Studies invites you to talk by Andrew Barry (UCL, Geography) and Hannah Knox (UCL, Anthropology) on their books:

Andrew Barry, Material Politics: Disputes along the Pipeline, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013

Penny Harvey and Hannah Knox, Roads: An Anthropology of Infrastructure and Expertise, Cornell University Press, 2015


Through case studies of the interoceanic highway in Brazil and Peru (Knox) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline (Barry), their discussion will examine the importance of materials in political life and ask what large public infrastructural projects can tell us about contemporary state formation, social relations, and emerging political economies.

Material, Visual and Digital Culture Seminar

Department of Anthropology

11 January 2016, 5-6.30 pm
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, 2nd floor, 14 Taviton Street

"We do not want guns... here": On the Materiality of Violence in Turkey's Kurdish City of Diyarbakır

In this talk, Laurent will discuss the manner in which Diyarbakir's history of past and present violence has been commemorated or erased, i.e. how it materialises or disappears in the city's urban landscape. With this case study, he also hopes to reflect upon some of the stakes behind taking violence as an analytical concept in Anthropology.