FOUR CONVERSATIONS: A UNITED KINGDOM?

I am co-organising an event at this year’s Bloomsbury Festival examining the past, present and future of the (Dis)United Kingdom

Advertisements

Sunday 22 October 2017 | 1.15pm – 2.45pm

Event title: Four Conversations: A United Kingdom?

Location: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL

ScotRes in association with Bloomsbury Festival 2017

The relationships between the constituent parts of the United Kingdom has arguably never been more divided, nor have demands for various forms of independence been more vocal. This in-the-round event brings together four speakers to ask each other how they perceive the United (or Disunited) Kingdom. Each speaker will have an association with either England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and each will have varying specialisms. They will bring to the conversation a variety of constitutional standpoints.

Panellists:

Daryl Leeworthy is an associate tutor in history and politics at the Department for Adult and Continuing Education (DACE), Swansea University. He is an expert on the labour history of modern Wales and has also published on sporting heritage, the LGBT movement, and relations between Welsh nationalism and the Welsh Left. His next book, Labour Country, a study of radical politics and democracy in South Wales, is published by Parthian as part of its new Modern Wales series in 2018. He is currently writing a biography of the Rhondda-born novelist and writer, Gwyn Thomas (1913-1981), which has also been commissioned by Parthian.

Jennifer Thomson is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Bath. Her research focuses on devolution in the UK and women’s rights in post-conflict societies. Her first book, forthcoming 2018, addresses abortion right in contemporary Northern Ireland.

Ewen Cameron is the Sir William Fraser Professor of Scottish History at the University of Edinburgh, where he has taught since 1993. His research concerns the role of the state in the Scottish Highlands, the history of land reform, Scottish political history and the history of Scottish Education. Among his books are Land for the People? The British Government and the Scottish Highlands (1996); Impaled on a Thistle: Scotland since 1880 (2010). He is currently Head of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

J.D. Taylor is author of Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain, shortlisted for the Orwell prize this year. He lectures in history and philosophy at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Mary Ward Centre.

BOOK TICKETS ON THE BLOOMSBURY FESTIVAL WEBSITE

Follow the conversation on Twitter @Scot_Res and the event hashtag #4viewsUK.

ScotRes – launching 30 May 2017

Launch of London-based research forum to explore themes around Scottish independence

I am excited to announce the launch of ScotRes, a new London-based research forum to explore themes around Scottish independence, on 30 May 2017.

On 28 March 2017, a majority in the Scottish Parliament voted in support of a second independence referendum – the question is no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’ the referendum will take place.

Research will underpin the arguments put forward by both sides. I hope that ScotRes will provide a space for London-based researchers, who support Scottish independence, to share and develop their work ahead of the next referendum.

ScotRes will focus on one theme each month and open with a short talk from one or more researchers on that subject. This will be followed by chaired questions and informal discussion.

For further information visit the ScotRes website or follow on Twitter.

#ScotRef and the politics of indifference

Those who claim to be ‘outside of politics’ need to be called-out for what they really are: supporters of the status quo.

I spent last weekend with family in Aberdeen and found it hard to contain my frustration while watching news coverage of the public’s response to Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to Theresa May requesting a Section 30 order.

Typical vox pops on the question of a second independence referendum included:

‘Ach. I’m no interested in politics.’

‘I don’t like speaking about politics, it just creates confrontation and division.’

‘I don’t want another referendum, it’s too soon – I don’t have the time’.

Following my initial confusion over what exactly these people did in the 2014 independence referendum that occupied so much of their time (this random sample did not look as if they had spent evenings knocking on doors and delivering leaflets), it became clear that one of the great challenges facing the independence movement does not come from the official opposition but from the politics of indifference.

The views shared in these vox pops masquerade as being ‘above’ or ‘outside’ of politics but, in fact, only help to safeguard the status quo.

Historian and activist Howard Zinn wrote, ‘you can’t be neutral on a speeding train’. Politics in the UK and US in the past two years, perhaps more so than in the previous half century, fits the description of a ‘speeding train’. Neutrality is not an option – you must pick a side or find yourself complicit in the status quo.

Tacit support for the status quo, and the belief that whatever happens will not directly impinge upon your life, only comes from a place of privilege.

For those who bought their house at a bargain rate from Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s or were born at the right time to enjoy a final salary pension, the dire situation of politics in 2017 may not appear to pose a direct threat.

But what about everyone else? Failure to act in a situation in which others are at risk, even when you find yourself in a safe position, is still a failure. Even worse, it is selfish.

Ahead of the next independence referendum, staying outside of politics is no longer an option. Sides must be taken, with those claiming political indifference called out by their real name: supporters of the status quo.

Masculinities and an independent Scotland

Thinking about men as gendered offers alternative ways to frame Scottish independence

I spent four years researching the effects of planners’ masculinities on the rebuilding of Britain after the devastation of the Second World War. Scotland is not emerging from a conflict but it does feel as if it is on the cusp of a monumental change that requires us to consider the influences that shape the planning of an independent nation.

Since completing this research and moving from Dublin to London to work for an equalities organisation, I now find myself asking what can I do (in any small way) to counteract the political nightmares that have surfaced in recent years.

I plan to use this website as a space to develop ideas broadly related to masculinities and how they intersect with contemporary Scottish politics. By exploring these intersections, I will also examine identities, equalities, culture and education.

The term ‘masculinities’ may seem like an uncommon expression. What I mean by this is how men understand and present themselves in everyday life as something both constructed and gendered. The study of identities is not a zero-sum game and it is a mistake to explore gender, race or sexuality without also unpacking the constructs of ‘male’, ‘white’ and ‘heterosexual’. Examining masculinities does not diminish the significance of women or other marginalised groups but instead underscores the historical and contemporary powers of gender more broadly.

My motivation for writing comes from the feeling that something big is about to happen in Scotland. Rumblings around a second referendum on Scotland’s constitutional relationship to the United Kingdom have continued to deepen since June’s vote to leave the European Union. Corporate interests are positioning themselves ahead of a second vote, with the The Constitutional Research Council ready to bankroll credible unionist groups.

Over the weekend, London Mayor Sadiq Khan – one of UK Labour’s most popular figures – shared a poorly worded speech that compared Scottish nationalism and the SNP to those who ‘divide us on the basis of our background, race or religion’.

Examining masculinities underscores the historical and contemporary powers of gender more broadly.

This simply is not true and highlights an underlying ignorance about what has happened in Scotland in the past decade and is continuing to happen. Furthermore, it shows that among some in the Labour Party the animosity towards the idea of an independent Scotland has not ebbed.

At the same time, Scotland needs to look inwards and ensure that independence always remains a ‘means’ rather than an ‘end in itself’. ‘Independence means independence’ is a meaningless tautology and will get us nowhere, any future departure from the UK needs to be underpinned by a form of politics that places equality, opportunity and fairness at its core.

I cannot sit back and do nothing.

This website will therefore present commentary on subjects such as politics, equalities and education through the prism of men and masculinities, while also examining independence as a transition rather than an end-point.