Introducing the SAS theme for Being Human 2015 – Hidden and Revealed

Working in the humanities means uncovering fascinating secrets and stories. It means challenging received ideas, and finding new perspectives on histories, cultures and languages. It means working with archives and collections, and gaining access to places, ideas and knowledge that are often off-limits and ‘hidden’ for the vast majority of people. In 2015, we want to share the excitement and intrigue of working in the humanities with the broadest possible public. In doing so, we also want to learn from them. With this aim in mind, the theme that we have settled on for this year’s SAS and Senate House Library contribution to the Being Human festival of the humanities is Hidden and Revealed. People are invited to respond to this theme freely and imaginatively. Possible points of departure however might include the capacity of the humanities to: Reveal hidden and forgotten narratives, cultures, histories, and languages. Reveal hidden spaces/places/locations. Reveal new ways of understanding and probing difficult problems. Reveal new ways of seeing, understanding, questioning. Reveal new perspectives on life, death and other core aspects of ‘being human’. Reveal and challenge secrets, censorship, and things that people would rather keep hidden! The humanities have an immense capacity to explore and reveal the secrets of the human condition – the essence of what it means to ‘be human’. For the Being Human festival 2015 we want to celebrate the huge range of work that is being done in this field within SAS/SHL itself.   Opportunities: A number of direct opportunities to get involved with the Being Human festival will be revealed very soon. In the meantime if you have...

Rethinking the Senses (Public Engagement Case Study – Dr Merle Fairhurst)

To mark the launch of our call for applications for the first SAS/Senate House Library ‘Public Engagement Innovators Scheme’, we asked some staff from across the School about their experiences of public engagement and how it has influenced their research and professional practice. In this second post Dr Merle Fairhurst, research fellow in the Institute of Philosophy, answers our questions about her experiences engaging the public with research on the AHRC Rethinking the Senses project. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and the research that you do/your role in SAS? As a research fellow on the AHRC Rethinking the Senses project at the Centre for the Study of the Senses (Institute of Philosophy), my central function is to use psychological and neuroimaging techniques to explore how we perceive the world through our various senses. I am particularly interested in the ways different streams of sensory information – say the sight and sound associated with someone speaking to you – are combined to create a unified experience. My work is complemented by dialogue and interaction with philosophers as we work together to investigate the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of multi-sensory perception. What public engagement activities have you been involved with in the School? The AHRC grant offers the chance and indeed promotes the sharing of our work with the general public and as such, we are always grateful for an opportunity to tell people about how our senses work together as well as highlight the philosophical relevance of empirical research. Our recent events have included talks in various venues, with two very exciting sessions as part of...

Communicating the Ministry of Information (Public Engagement Case Study – Dr Henry Irving)

  To mark the launch of our call for applications for the first SAS/Senate House Library ‘Public Engagement Innovators’ scheme we asked some staff from across the School about their experiences of public engagement and how it has influenced their research and professional practice. In this first post, Dr Henry Irving – postdoctoral researcher in the Institute of English Studies—answers our questions about his experiences engaging the public with research on the communication history of the Ministry of Information.   Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and the research that you do/your role in SAS? I am a researcher working on the Institute of English Studies (IES) project ‘A Communication History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46’. The project aims to better understand the Ministry’s relationship with the public by applying techniques from the field of publishing history. It is looking into the ideas which underpinned the publicity material produced by the Ministry during the Second World War and trying to gauge the public’s reaction. It is my job to trawl through the various archives which hold relevant material. What public engagement activities have you been involved with in the School? The project ‘A Communication History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46’ is AHRC funded and the IES have an explicit commitment to public engagement. This means that I have been involved in public engagement from the very start of the project in January 2014. The highlight so far has been the Being Human festival. This included a variety of Ministry of Information-themed activities and I helped to organise an exhibition, an afternoon of...

Too Much Information? The digital age investigated at the Being Human festival 2014

How are the humanities changing to meet the challenges of the digital age, and why should we care? These were among the questions asked and explored at November’s Being Human festival. In this first post in a short series, we will be revisiting some of the themes investigated during the festival which involved dozens of leading academics, artists, scientists, writers, poets and others across the UK, spending a week celebrating the humanities and exploring the varied subjects that inspire and enrich our everyday lives. Being Human in a digital age – too much information? What does it mean to be a ‘digital human’? Is this what we are now and what does it mean to live in an age of ‘data overload’ brought on by the digital? How does this impact on the human consciousness? These questions were examined on 15 November through a variety of events under the title Too much Information. At 2pm a panel of experts examined what methods from the digital humanities could offer researchers in the future. On the same day Josh Cowls, Professor Eric T. Meyer and Professor Ralph Schroeder examined the question of Who does the web think you are? This was the result. In the evening Sir Nigel Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence led another panel of experts to discuss Openness, secrets and lies in the digital world. Today, we live in a world in which information is ever more readily available, where the traces that we leave are indelible, and in which secrets are increasingly hard to keep. How are we adapting to this new idea of a ‘shared humanity’? And...

Is religion a consolation worth having?

Republished from By Professor Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge) My idea of bliss is a Sunday walk that takes in first some English countryside, and second a pleasant medieval church, with some glass or woodwork or monuments. I once even wrote a piece, published in the Larkin journal, about his poem ‘An Arundel Tomb‘, having done a little research on early 14th-century alabaster monuments and particularly the rare but lovely examples in which a knight and his lady are shown holding hands. I have no religious beliefs – but I care about our culture, and its past and the transmission of its past, and those things were intimately bound up with religious language, music, architecture and attitudes to life and death. I dare say that even when I indulge these tastes my feelings fall short of being religious. If gratitude is among those feelings, it is because I am grateful to the men and women who created the countryside, or built the churches, or decorated them or wrote about them. If a feeling of consolation comes over me, as it may well do, it is because I find it consoling to think of the rolling centuries during which quiet lives were spent building the landscape and its glories. My thoughts do not fly up further than that, and to tell the truth I am rather suspicious of those people who claim theirs do. I like the saying that religions are like public swimming pools – most noise comes from the shallow end. If I were to claim affinity with a religious tradition, it would be the apophatic tradition, the...

Sorry minister, but philistinism is not an educational policy

From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article. Republished from     By Sarah Churchwell (University of East Anglia) In the same week in which I published a piece for Times Higher Education about why the humanities matter, Minister for Education Nicky Morgan gave the following advice to young people: “If you wanted to do something, or even if you didn’t know what you wanted to do, then the arts and humanities were [once] what you chose because they were useful for all kinds of jobs. Of course, we know now that couldn’t be further from the truth – that the subjects that keep young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects [science, technology, engineering and maths].” I have several objections to the claim that the arts and humanities can’t help you get “all kinds of jobs”. First: Nicky Morgan has a humanities degree. So does George Osborne, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and David Cameron. I can’t see that it’s hurt their career prospects. Indeed, news reports regularly circulate that banks or consulting firms are seeking high-paid arts graduates to help them solve problems and resist linear thinking. My second objection, though, is to this false dichotomy between the humanities and STEM, as if education were a zero-sum game and we are only permitted to know one thing. This divide-and-conquer mentality is destroying a precious tradition that promotes curiosity, independence of thought and pure research across the arts and the sciences. What is...

Bees and Human libraries @BeingHumanFest

The Human Library (London) Thursday 20 November | 6–8pm Book now > In a digital age, human custodians and communicators of knowledge are more important than ever. This event will create a ‘human library’ where, instead of taking down books from shelves, visitors are given an opportunity to engage with academics one-to-one. The event will feature communicators of knowledge from across the School of Advanced Study, its libraries, and its research networks, offering an opportunity for the public to receive a personal 10- minute lecture on some of the leading research in the humanities. The event also features elements of film and animation that will bring the collections housed in Senate House to life. Come along to borrow some of the following ‘books’ from our living library of the humanities: Dr Richard Espley (Senate House Library) – Oceans of Knowledge Dr Alessandro Scafi (Warburg Institute) – Maps of Paradise Professor William Fitzgerald (King’s College London) –  How to Read a Latin Poem Professor Philip Murphy (Institute of Commonwealth Studies) – Writing About the Queen Professor Robin Gauld (School of Advanced Study) – Humanising Health Service Design Professor Catherine Davies (Institute of Modern Languages Research) – Women Warriors in Latin America (and the Elephant and Castle) Judith Townend (Institute of Advanced Legal Studies) – Social media and the law Dr Matthew Beaumont (University College London) – Nightwalking in London Professor Barry Smith (Institute of Philosophy) – The Philosophy of Taste Free admission | Booking required This event is led by: School of Advanced Study   Bee-ing Human (London) 21 November | 11.30am–4.30pm Book now > On Friday 21st November you can join us at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in...