Monday, 2 July 2012

Brain Capers

It's our staff research conference today. I'm not presenting this time, but I chaired a fascinating opening session this morning. The first paper was by a new Phd candidate analysing letters to the Dudley News about the new mosque which local politicians have repeatedly blocked for over a decade. What fascinated me was that all the objections (lack of integration; they're all terrorists; they're not loyal to the UK state; they're culturally alien and taking over) were virtually identical to those made about Catholics in the run-up to Emancipation (1829) - Catholics in England, Wales and Scotland were painted as overwhelmingly Irish, uneducated, liable to undercut local workers, subversive, violent terrorists and disloyal. Hence many early new Catholic churches were designed not to look Catholic - unobtrusive, calm neo-classical buildings wouldn't inflame the Protestant majority. Then neo-Gothic architecture appeared and it all kicked off, but that's another story.

The second paper was something close to my heart: a personal view of Anarcho-Syndicalism in Alicante, 1910-1923. Not that I've ever been there, but some of the authors I study were frequently suspended from the Communist Party in Britain for their syndicalist leanings (the anarchism didn't really take off, though London was a refuge for retired anarchists).

Finally, my philosopher colleague Cecile gave a magnificent tour around political resignations: what's the morality of the resignation? Is it narcissism? Pompousness? Principle? How should they be understood. On a day when Agius (but not Diamond) went, very timely indeed.

I've also been to two excellent presentations on Eastern European attitudes towards European integration, and there's more fun to come.

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