Seminar Sessions


Sarah Pickard (Université Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle) – 23 September 2020

The political repression and criminalisation of youth-led protest in contemporary Britain

This intervention deals with developments in State mechanisms attempting to repress youth-led protest and quieten young dissenting voices. Governments have sought to prevent and criminalise young people’s dissent as part of a securitisation process involving restrictive legislation, forceful policing and increased monitoring of protesters. These measures have created legislative, physical, psychological and electronic barriers to protest for young people. The paper first provides a synopsis of changes to the legislative framework regarding protests in Britain that is increasingly authoritarian. It then documents the militarisation of policing tools, methods and strategies. Last, there is a discussion on the impact of repressive measures on public protest and mainstream media representations of young protesters that inevitably affect the mobilisation of young people in their democratic right to protest.

Emmanuel Roudaut (Sciences Po Lille) – 14 October 2020

From hounded “evil men” to LGBTI campaigns for equal rights. Changing attitudes to same-sex relationships in Britain since the 1950s: a tentative assessment.

If you are a public figure in Britain today, being accused of homophobia poses a serious risk to your career. This is all the more remarkable since the UK was, until 1967, one of the most repressive countries in the Western world when it came to consensual, non-commercial sex between male adults. Official homophobia, tinged with cold war concerns, reached a climax in the early 1950s.The excesses of this moral panic caused an outcry and set in train a process of cautious reform. The partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality was dismissed by some activists as falling short of an agenda of sexual liberation and political revolution, but it took another moral panic, in the context of AIDS and the ascendency of Thatcherism, to relaunch the movement for gay rights in the late 1980s.

The last thirty years have seen a gradual lifting of legal discriminations against sexual minorities. Landmarks include the equalisation of the age of consent (2003) and the Civil Partnership Act 2004. It could be argued that social and cultural rights provided a clear dividing line in an age when New labour had absorbed most of the Thatcherite economic agenda. Gay rights provide a good example of this. The lesson was not lost on David Cameron in his effort to “detoxify” the Conservative party. The passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013 under a Conservative-led coalition government seems to illustrate a new LGBT-friendly consensus, which has not been seriously challenged by subsequent Conservative leaders.

The days are long gone when a politician’s career was instantly destroyed by the revelation of his homosexuality, but the reversal of the stigma should not be overstated, as exemplified by the case of football. Formal rights may have been achieved, and new ground may have been broken with the Gender Recognition Act in 2004, but they have yet to be translated into real rights in the experience of individuals, irrespective of socio-economic background.

Moreover, this apparent progress towards equal rights is questioned in some quarters. Beyond the welcome lifting of legal discrimination, some activists, like Peter Tatchell, voice concern about the possible internalisation of the hetero-normative (and consumer) model by LGBTQ people, and the acceptance of other forms of domination.

 Rob Skinner (University of Bristol) – 18 November 2020

‘Nationalism, the Bomb and ‘moral jiu-jitsu’: British anti-colonial networks, global peace movements and decolonization in Africa, 1959-62

Between 1959-1962 a small group of international peace campaigners sought to forge links with African leaders and launched a series of protest campaigns that they hoped would be the basis of a transnational pacifist network. From anti-nuclear campaigns in Ghana through to independence movements in Zambia,  these protesters aimed to locate African struggles at the heart of the global peace movement. At the heart of these efforts was a network of activists from Britain and the US, including the anti-apartheid campaigner Michael Scott and the Civil Rights organiser Bayard Rustin. Alongside plans for dramatic interventions in the Sahara and Central Africa, they planned to establish major training centres for non-violent activism, but their efforts largely failed – in part as a consequence of the shift towards armed struggle against the remaining bastions of colonialism in southern Africa.

But, the history of these activists’ endeavours nevertheless reveals something of the multiple and contradictory narratives around liberation, progress and development that informed international visions of the so-called Third World in the 1960s. This paper explores the ways in which these campaigns might be considered more than a ‘footnote’ in history, but offer insight into the dynamic relationships between British activist networks, global peace movements and decolonization in Africa

Yasmin Khan (University of Oxford) – 2 December 2020

Genealogy, family history and the decolonization of British India 

The decolonization of British India involved the end of British rule in South Asia in 1947 after some two hundred years. This is a seam of connection which runs deep in family histories in Britain and dates back to the eighteenth century East India Company: in memories of colonial service, continued ownership of material possessions and in the physical existence of landed estates. Often described with deep affection and carried through inter-generational memories, this paper aims to try and unpick some British genealogical engagement with histories of colonialism since 1947, and to analyse how these memories of the Indian empire have been preserved in family histories.  This has also been a history of inter-racial relationships and mixing over time. I aim to investigate the cultural worlds, which have perpetuated some forms of history telling and occluded others. The paper asks how genealogical approaches to imperial history might inform and shape our understandings of colonial rule and decolonization more generally.

Stéphanie Prévost (Université de Paris) – 20 January 2021 (postponed; a later date will be announced in due course)

Le secours britannique au moment des massacres hamidiens : vers une reconceptualisation de l’aide humanitaire ? 1895-1898

L’aide humanitaire apportée aux Arméniens ottomans rescapés des massacres hamidiens (1894-1896) reste sous-étudiée et demeure quasi absente des études sur ce que la littérature appelle « l’humanitaire moderne » qu’on fait désormais remonter nettement en amont de la Première guerre mondiale. Outre que les massacres hamidiens demeurent parfois encore dans l’ombre des études sur le génocide arménien de 1915 et que la focale a longtemps été sur le nombre de victimes (qu’on situe aujourd’hui dans une fourchette d’entre 250 000-300 000 morts) plutôt que sur les survivants, il est une autre raison pour ce quasi-silence historiographique propre au champ de l’humanitaire. En effet, comme le dénonçait déjà Brendan Simms et David J.B. Trim dans leur opus Humanitarian Intervention: a History paru en 2011, l’histoire de l’aide humanitaire est trop souvent confondue avec celle de l’intervention humanitaire, envisagée du point de vue des Etats qui décident de porter assistance, avec ou non un éventuel recours à la force, au titre d’un « droit » d’ingérence humanitaire. Or, comme le fait très justement remarquer Davide Rodogno dans son étude Against Massacre: Humanitarian Interventions in the Ottoman Empire, 1815-1914 (2011), le Concert européen, alors organe de gouvernance européenne qui réunissait la France, le Royaume-Uni, la Russie, l’Allemagne, l’Autriche-Hongrie et l’Italie, ne put se mettre d’accord sur une intervention au nom de l’humanité pour venir en aide aux Arméniens. Ainsi, cette conférence postulera que plus qu’inexistante, cette aide humanitaire était en réalité hors-cadre. On argumentera que pourtant, la reconceptualisation radicale de l’aide humanitaire que les acteurs (relief workers) en proposent  font de cet épisode un moment-pivot dans l’histoire de l’humanitaire. Privilégiant une entrée par les acteurs, cette conférence s’intéressera à l’International Committee at Constantinople, l’organe d’une collaboration transnationale méconnue et d’ampleur inédite, qui fut mise en place par l’ambassadeur britannique à Constantinople, Sir Philip Currie. Faisant collaborer entre eux, hors de toute convention inter-étatique, des acteurs consulaires de différentes nationalités, des acteurs du secours essentiellement britanniques et américains (notamment missionnaires) et des relais dans les communautés arméno-ottomanes locales, cette entreprise était hors normes. Elle contrevenait également à la compréhension traditionnelle des fonctions ambassadoriales, puisque c’était traditionnellement aux consuls d’apporter l’aide caritative aux ressortissants nationaux en pays étrangers. S’inventant un nouveau rôle, Currie entendait également repenser la portée et le sens de l’aide humanitaire internationale, n’hésitant pas à bafouer l’engagement pris auprès des caisses de secours britanniques et américaines afin de mettre en place ce qu’il conviendrait d’appeler une émigration humanitaire massive (au moins 40 000 personnes sur un flot de réfugiés dont on ignore le nombre précis, mais qui oscillerait entre 100 et 150 000) – phénomène presque totalement absent des études sur les crises études migratoires. Cette conférence s’attachera ainsi à poser les jalons de cette histoire inédite, sans bien sûr en passer sous silence les ambiguïtés qui révèlent en filigrane un impérialisme humanitaire latent.

Philippa Levine (University of Texas at Austin) – 24 March 2021

How To Recognise A Slave: Aesthetics and the Body in the Age of Enslavement

This talk aims to underscore the long association between nakedness, race and slavery, as one element in a larger project which argues that nakedness was a key historical construct on which morality, aesthetics and scientific practice have drawn significantly. As debates around Atlantic and other forms of slavery crystallised from the eighteenth century, a critical discourse developed around the politics of depicting the slave body, whether visually or textually. Marcus Woods has provocatively asked “what do we want to learn from the visual archive of slavery?” This is an attempt to answer that important question.

 Hilary McEwan (Archivist, Commonwealth Secretariat) – 26 May 2021

From empire to Commonwealth: The Commonwealth Secretariat Headquarters and Archives

Founded in 1965 the Memorandum of Understanding for the Commonwealth Secretariat states that ‘consultation is the lifeblood of the Commonwealth’.  This approach guides the Commonwealth at the highest level and can be seen to be reflected in both the records it creates and the policies it has in place to manage them. To set the context for the archive collections this talk will begin by introducing the Secretariat, looking at how it came into being, how it facilitates consultation and how it operates on behalf of its members. Then taking a look inside its archives it will highlight some of the collection strengths, notably those relating to southern Africa. Recognising that the modern Commonwealth comprises of a multitude of agencies of which the Secretariat is just one, it will also seek to show where these collections sit within the wider family of the Commonwealth and illustrate some related collections. Finally, recent debates around public architecture have prompted a re-examination of how history is presented and displayed, this talk will conclude with a look at Marlborough House, headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat and home to its archive.

Conflits, représentations et dialogues dans l’univers anglo-saxon