Seminars and events

Our regular interdisciplinary seminar series, teach-ins and conferences act as a focus for cooperative research for both staff and students and feature visiting and Glasgow-based speakers. The seminars and events are open to the public. Watch recordings of talks at the Centre here. A full archive of past seminars and events can be found here.

In 2019-20



17 March 2020 (5.15pm, Lilybank House Seminar Room) - POSTPONED

Tom Bartlett (University of Glasgow): ‘Gramsci and Halliday (with a pinch of Henderson) – A Materialist Model of Language and Its Role in the “Post-Truth” Society’

The school of Systemic Functional Linguistics shares with Gramsci the goal of developing a Marxian, historical materialist theory of language as social action in which intra-language diversity is a function of socioeconomic stratification.  From this fundamental understanding, both Gramsci and Halliday see the basis of social unity in the recognition and valuation of linguistic diversity rather than the imposition of a dominant code.  Such a socially-oriented linguistics thus attempts to identify the similarities and distinctions between varieties of speech across social groups (dialects) and situation types (registers) and to account for this variation in sociopolitical terms. For both writers, in various ways, the relationship between sociolinguistic groups is viewed in terms of hierarchies, a view that is challenged by more recent work in sociolinguistics that draws on the notion of scales from human geography.  In this approach hierarchies are replaced by multiple centres operating at different spatiotemporal scales in an interlocking but dispersed and unfinalisable network of linguistically encoded norms and values.  In overtly political terms, this development from hierarchies to scales is mirrored in the neo-Gramscian writings of Laclau and Mouffe and their programme for a radical democratic politics that shares with Gramsci the concept of hegemonic discursive formations, but which bases such articulations on equivalences between multiple social interests held together in opposition to a constructed common enemy.  In this way both scalar thinking in sociolinguistics and the radical democracy approach in political theory extend the core concerns of diversity and inclusion within the social-linguistic writings of Gramsci and Halliday. In this paper I will apply this theoretical approach to the issue of sustainability as a key sociopolitical signifier and suggest that many of the problems classified as post-truth negations of science might be better seen as tensions between ways of understanding and transmitting information in social codes that can best be overcome not by imposition of a dominant standard of scientific discourse but through an understanding of the relations between scientific and other codes and the articulation of equivalences between them.  Following both Gramsci and Halliday, such an enterprise is simultaneously linguistic and social, and I will suggest how linguistics methods and analysis can be integrated into a multidisciplinary programme to address such pressing social concerns.               

7 April 2020 (5.15pm, Lilybank House Seminar Room) - POSTPONED

Oscar Broughton (Frei Universität Berlin): ‘Guilds at home and Abroad: A Global History of Guild Socialism’

This presentation examines the efforts of the National Guilds League (1915-1923) a composite alliance of political activists, historians and trade unionists formed in the midst of the First World War. Their aim was the development of a new ideology, guild socialism, which had begun to develop during the pre-war years in Britain and would become largely extinct during the interwar period. Although its membership remained small, never rising above 600, the League advanced a series of policies which were primarily aimed towards transforming Britain into a democratic socialist society. Despite drawing its members mainly from within Britain and targeting British audiences, mostly trade unionists, socialists, middle-class professionals and an imagined middle-class public; its membership and appeal were not limited to Britain. A minority of members were drawn from abroad, predominantly, although by no means exclusively, from current or former British colonies, but also beyond the British Empire, particularly in Europe and Asia. These actors were instrumental in the popularisation of guild socialist ideas, via the distribution of League publications, which generated a large network of correspondences with the League; precipitating the spread of further publications, translations, the formation of various local supporting organisations, and a shared awareness, amongst members and non-members that the League was part of a series of much larger conversations about the reconstruction of societies after the war. This research therefore seeks to make an intervention that goes beyond the field of guild socialism as it reveals how social reconstruction was imagined, debated and implemented in the interwar years. Using the prism of the League reveals that this period was not simply a time of de-globalisation as is often described, but that even sub-nationally organised groups had an international impact and were part, not only of larger global conditions, but also global integration and competing models of social reconstruction.

Oscar Broughton holds a Masters in Global History from Humboldt Universität and the Freie Universität Berlin and a Bachelors in Intellectual History from the University of Sussex. His previous work has focussed upon the Global History of anarchism and Germany as a spacial setting for the incubation, transmission and transformation of ideas, individuals and movements. His particular research interests include industrial democracy, anarchism, nationalism, libertarian socialism, the works of Gustav Landauer, A.D. Gordon, G.D.H. Cole and the Weimar Republic. He is also a co-founder and former editor for Global Histories: A Student Journal and the Global History Student Blog, as well as, a co-founder of the annual Global History Student Conference in Berlin.

28 April 2020, 5.15 pm, Rm 118, Hetherington Building, University of Glasgow - POSTPONED

Sivamohan Valluvan (University of Warwick): ‘The Clamour of Nationalism: A conversation about nationalism and left complicities’. Discussant: Andrew Smith (University of Glasgow)

4 May 2020 (5.15pm, Seminar Room, Lillybank House, Bute Gdns))

Hagen Schulz-Forberg (Aarhus University), ‘Neoliberalism, Global Governance and the Left, 1930-1950’ - POSTPONED

Neoliberalism emerged in the interwar period within the transnational landscape of expertise and policy-making developed by and around the League of Nations, taking visible shape in the “Agenda of Liberalism” agreed upon – and called ‘neoliberalism’ – at the Walter Lippmann Colloquium in August 1938 in Paris. Looking at the participants of the colloquium, the history of neoliberalism was mostly fixated on the fact the Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises were part of it. The neoliberalism developed in Paris is thus mostly seen simply as a prequel to the Mont Pèlerin Society founded in April 1947 and the kind of agenda developed by it. This is a myopic view of neoliberalism and ignores the vast majority of colloquium participants. Among them were quite a number of former socialists, intellectuals who had turned away from liberalism, turned to a socialist alternative – and then turned back into liberals again: among others, these were Raymond Aron, Robert Marjolin, and Wilhelm Röpke. Even the young Hayek had socialist leanings. What the transnational origins of neoliberalism reveal, however, is not only that it is much older than one thinks, not only that it is a doctrine of global governance developing notions of normative statehood and a template for economic constitutionalism; it also reveals a contentious history of the Left: redefining itself on humanist grounds and developing a social profile, neoliberalism attracted parts of the Left. Effectively, the Left was split over the market question in the postwar period. Neoliberalism played a role in opening up a market doctrine for the Left. In my talk I will proceed in three steps: first describing in more detail the expertise landscape developed by the League, second recreating the emergence of neoliberalism within this landscape and third illustrating arguments neoliberals had developed towards the left – not only against the Left, but to win parts of it.

Hagen Schulz-Forberg graduated from St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the European University Institute in Florence. Since 2007, he teaches global and European history and thought at Aarhus University. With a focus on transnational history, conceptual history, the history of economic thought and European integration, Hagen more recently wrote on the transnational origins of neoliberalism and the history of European integration. His most recent publications include ‘Modern Economic Thought and the ‘Good Society’’, published in the Cambridge History of Modern European Thought (2019) and ‘Crisis and Continuity: Robert Marjolin, transnational policy-making and neoliberalism, 1930s-1970s’, in European Review of History 26/4 (2019).

11 May 2020 (5.15pm, Seminar Room, Lillybank House, Bute Gdns) - POSTPONED

Priyamvada Gopal (Cambridge University) on insurgent empire and British dissidence

19 May 2020 (5.15pm,Seminar Room, Lillybank House, Bute Gdns) - POSTPONED

Graeme Macdonald (University of Warwick) on late petroculture and the climate crisis

In Semester One:

5-7 September 2019: Uneven Development for the 21st Century: An International Conference. More information here

1 October 2019 (5.15pm, 118 Hetherington Building)

Diarmaid Kelliher (University of Glasgow): ‘The Spatial Politics of the Picket Line, 1966-1988’

From the late 1960s through the 1980s, high strike levels in Britain placed the picket line at the centre of industrial and political conflict. Flying pickets, mass pickets, and secondary pickets became prominent tactics as sections of the labour movement took an increasingly confrontational approach to protecting living standards. This paper spans the period from the emergence of the term ‘flying pickets’ during strikes in the British coalfields in the 1960s, to the National Union of Seamen dispute with P&O ferries in the late 1980s, when restrictions against secondary picketing that had developed in the intervening decades nearly destroyed the union. It considers the particular role the boundary of the picket line played in the production and contestation of solidarity in this period.  From Ravenscraig to Grunwick, the ‘mass picket’ gained significant attention. The mass picket often relied on solidarity from outside the immediate dispute, and in some cases played a unique role as a space of encounter between a diverse range of activists. Focusing exclusively on such spectacular manifestations of picketing, however, can be misleading. Often picket lines were little more than a couple of strikers and a sign. This paper will discuss how the symbolic power of the picket, the discipline of trade union organisation, and the act of persuasion could produce impressive small scale acts of solidarity. Yet the trade union principle that workers should ‘never cross a picket line’ was frequently transgressed. The paper will also think about the relationship between those workers who crossed picket lines and broader attempts by the British state to reduce the effectiveness of picketing. It will therefore argue that thinking about the history of the picket lines offers novel insights into how opposing political projects in the 1970s and 1980s manifested in a struggle over space. 

Diarmaid Kelliher is an Urban Studies Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Glasgow. He is currently working on a book for Routledge titled ‘Making cultures of solidarity: London and the 1984-5 miners’ strike’, and researching picket lines in 1970s and 1980s Britain.

12 November 2019 (5.15pm, 118 Hetherington Building)

Mae A. Miller (CUNY Graduate Center): ‘Black Feminist Listening and the Archive of the Atlantic’

In this talk, I argue for the importance of Black feminist listening as archival methodology, spatial politics, and emancipatory praxis. Drawing from Black geographies, Black feminism, and cultural studies, I revisit canonical texts and sites of Black Atlantic political thought and vernacular culture. I analyze scenes from The Interesting Narrative of the Live of Olaudah Equiano and Claude McKay’s novels Banjo: A Story Without a Plot and Home to Harlem in order to shed new light the relational racial-sexual currents of the ship and the seaport. Black feminist listening attends to the “background noise” that shapes and mediates these social spaces—the supporting characters, fleeting moments of encounter and introspection, and passing references to the sounds of seaports. Thinking relationally about the multiple routes and registers of the Atlantic archive brings into critical focus new forms of what Ruth Wilson Gilmore refers to as “place-making as a practice of freedom,” potential for political resonances and solidarities, and confluences of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean littorals.

Mae Miller is a doctoral student in the Geography Department at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Previously, Miller has worked as a lecturer in the department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Vassar College in New York state and at the Museum of the City of New York. From 2017-2019, she served as the student representative for the Black Geographies Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers.

Inaugural Socialist Theory and Movements Annual Lecture

6 December 2019, 3-5pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Boyd Orr Building, University of Glasgow

Sheila Rowbotham: ‘Interactions between left ideas of participatory democracy  and  workers’ control  in the  Women’s  Liberation  Movement from  the  late 1960s through  the  70s’

These links which were extremely  important  at  the  time  have  been obscured  by  the  residual  weight  of  the  reaction  that  followed from  1979. The result was to be a lacuna which  makes it  difficult  to  connect  with  their significance  for  the  present. In my lecture I will outline some of the ways I observed these  manifesting  themselves, stressing the enriching  impact  as  well as the  problems that  resulted in  trying to implement  them in  practice. I hope in doing so to stimulate others to follow  through some  of  these  lost threads in deeper  and  more  specific  detail. We need to connect with and  carry  our  lost theoretical  and  experiential  assets into  a dynamic  renewal of  a democratic  and   personally fulfilling ‘socialism’.

Sheila Rowbotham is a pivotal figure at the intersection of feminism, history and socialist theory and movements. A key activist in the emergence of the women’s liberation movement in Britain, she was a pioneer in thinking through the relations between histories from below and feminist approaches to history. Among her key contributions from this period are Women, Resistance and Revolution; Woman’s Consciousness, Man’s World; and Hidden from History. Her recent books include Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (Verso, 2008), Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century (Verso, 2010) and Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States (Verso, 2016). She is an Honorary Fellow of Manchester University and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

 For more information on the series, contact Vassiliki Kolocotroni and Dave Featherstone

 Events archive