Seminars and events
Seminars and events
Our regular interdisciplinary seminar series acts as a focus for cooperative research for both staff and students and features 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 events can be found here.
All sessions at 5.15-7pm, Seminar Room in Lilybank House, Bute Gdns, University of Glasgow *unless otherwise stated*
16 January 2019
Hilary Wainwright (Editor of Red Pepper), ‘A New Politics from the Left’
Hilary Wainwright will be discussing her new book A New Politics from the Left published by Polity Press. Millions passionately desire a viable alternative to austerity and neoliberalism, but they are sceptical of traditional leftist top-down state solutions. In this urgent polemic, Hilary Wainwright argues that this requires a new politics for the left that comes from the bottom up, based on participatory democracy and the everyday knowledge and creativity of each individual. Political leadership should be about facilitation and partnership, not expert domination or paternalistic rule. Wainwright uses lessons from recent movements and experiments to build a radical future vision that will be an inspiration for activists and radicals everywhere.
Hilary Wainwright is an academic and long-standing radical activist who co-edits Red Pepper and is a Fellow of the Transnational Institute.
22 January 2019
Book launch: Rent and its Discontents: A Century of Housing Struggle, ed. Neil Gray, Rowman and Littlefield, 2018
Far from being a mere secondary contradiction behind struggles in the workplace, housing is now increasingly central to most national political economies and a primary site of political contestation. Housing costs form the most onerous reproductive burden on working lives; they reify private property regimes, undermine the wage, exemplify and prop up a financialised and debt-laden economy, demand that more time is consumed by work and reproduce a parasitic rentier class. Yet, the collective housing organisation that has so often mitigated these issues has typically remained hidden from history. Challenging this lacuna, contributors to Rent and its Discontents: A Century of Housing Struggle probe the hidden continuum of housing contestation that first forced rent control and the formation of public housing in Glasgow’s 1915 rent strikes; the numerous housing movements that retained those gains; and the theory and practice of contemporary housing contestation across Britain and Ireland. The authors illustrate the relevance and the necessity of theorising housing and urbanisation as crucial political initiatives, exploring the housing question (past and present), the contingent nature of housing demands (spatially and temporally), the role of gender and social reproduction, defensive and offensive urban commoning and demands for new democratic forms of public housing and eco-social justice.
Neil Gray is the editor of Rent and its Discontents: A Century of Housing Struggle (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018) and a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow. His work primarily focuses on urban devalorisation, territorial stigmatisation, gentrification, housing movements and the spatialities of Italian autonomous Marxism. He is an active member of Living Rent tenants’ union.
Sarah Glynn is an independent scholar, activist and architect working mainly in the fields of public housing and welfare. She is the editor of Where the Other Half Lives: Lower Income Housing in a Neoliberal World (Pluto Press, 2015) and Byker: Newcastle upon Tyne (Categorical Books, 2015). She is an active member of the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network (SUWN).
Stuart Hodkinson is a Lecturer in Critical Urban Geography at the University of Leeds. His main focus is on the ‘new urban enclosures’ with a specific interest in the politics, policies and day-to-day realities of housing privatisation, urban regeneration and state-led gentrification. His book, Safe as Houses: Private Greed, Political Negligence and Housing Policy After Grenfell (Manchester University Press), will be published in Spring 2019.
Cian O’ Callaghan is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Trinity College Dublin. His wide research interests include the impacts of Ireland’s property bubble and associated crisis, with a particular focus on housing, urban vacancy and spatial justice. His co-edited book, Borders, mobility and belonging in the era of Brexit and Trump (Policy Press), was published in 2018.
Valerie Wright is a Leverhulme Trust Research Associate in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow. Her research interests include the impacts of council housing residualisation on affordable housing and women’s engagement in housing politics. She was a researcher on the Leverhulme funded project, Housing, Everyday Life and Wellbeing Over the Long Term: Glasgow 1950-1975, run with Urban Studies and History at the University of Glasgow.
5 February 2019
Matthew Waites (University of Glasgow): ‘The Political Sociology of Commonwealth Civil Society: A ‘Gramsci-sensitised’ Critical Analysis of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as a Context for LGBTI Human Rights Claims’ (co-organised by the Glasgow Human Rights Network)
A critical sociology of Commonwealth ‘civil society’ is offered through analysis of the London Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting of April 2018, in the conjuncture of Brexit Britain—leading to political conclusions. A distinctive ‘Gramsci-sensitised’ methodological framework is used, drawing from the theoretical insights of Peter Thomas in The Gramscian Moment (Brill, 2009) to problematise ‘civil society’, while also referring to Foucault’s governmentality. The methodology investigates ‘civil society’ overall while focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) human rights claims, by groups including The Commonwealth Equality Network. Four contexts are analysed: The Commonwealth People’s Forum; social media (Twitter); UK and international newspaper media; and ‘London Commonwealth civil society’ outside formal forums. The analysis juxtaposes Commonwealth ‘civil society’ with ‘the political’ from Mouffe and Honig (and originally Arendt), to propose a move from staged conversations to substantial dialogues between opposing voices, including some homophobic voices. This is how Commonwealth ‘civil society’ and LGBTI movements can respond to right-wing populisms in what Mishra calls the Age of Anger.
Matthew Waites is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, and Co-Convenor of Glasgow Human Rights Network. He is co-editor, with Corinne Lennox, of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Commonwealth: Struggles for Decriminalisation and Change (School of Advanced Study, 2013; published open access:https://commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/resources/publications/house-publications/lgbt-rights-commonwealth), Much of his research focuses on developing sociological and critical analysis of transnational lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex politics, problematising the British empire’s history of criminalising same-sex sexual behaviour and engaging the sociology of human rights with queer politics. In 2017, he was an invited speaker at the ground-breaking Intimate Conviction conference in Jamaica claiming decriminalisation of same-sex sexualities, and contributed a chapter to the conference volume Intimate Conviction (2018). His article ‘Critique of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Human Rights Discourse: Global Queer Politics beyond the Yogyakarta Principles’ (Contemporary Politics, Vol.15, no.1, 2009) has been translated for a special issue of the French journal Genre, Sexualité & Société (no.15, 2016), and reprinted in the Routledge Handbook of Queer Development Studies (2018). He has also published peer-reviewed articles in leading journals including Sociology, The Sociological Review, Contemporary Politics, Social and Legal Studies, Sexualities, Parliamentary Affairs and the Journal of Genocide Research. Links to various videos of lectures and open access publications can be found on his University of Glasgow web page:https://www.gla.ac.uk/schools/socialpolitical/staff/matthewwaites/.
5 March 2019
David Austin (John Abbott College, Montreal): ‘The Poetics of Politics and Freedom’
What is the relationship between poetry, artistic creativity and social change. Is socialism a viable alternative to the current global political and economic climate? Drawing on the poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson and the poetic-political traditions that have shaped him, this talk will explore the themes of political consciousness and social transformation in relation to poetic-artistic expression.
David Austin is the author of Fear of a Black Nation: Race, sex, and security in sixties Montreal (Between The Lines, 2013, winner of the 2014 Casa de las Americas Prize), and Dread, Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the unfinished revolution (Pluto, 2018); he is the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal lectures of C.L.R. James (AK Press, 2010), and editor/author of Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the making of global consciousness(Pluto, 2018). He teaches in the Humanities, Philosophy and Religion Department at John Abbott College.
6 March 2019
Aziz Choudry (McGill University) ‘Pedagogies of repression: Activists vs the surveillance state’
Drawing from a new edited collection, with contributions from/on Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Britain, Canada, South Africa and the US, this talk explores what experiences of state surveillance, political policing, and the criminalisation of activism can tell us about the nature of democracy in liberal democracies – and state power. What can activists learn from each other across generations, communities, struggles and countries about state security practices, about the interests that they protect, and from the resistance of activists and movements being spied upon?
Aziz Choudry is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education, McGill University. He is also the editor of Just Work? Migrant Workers’ Struggles Today.
21 March 2019
Jo Littler (City, University of London) ‘Getting ahead? meritocracy and entrepreneurialism in neoliberal culture’
Today, ‘meritocracy’ is generally taken to mean a ‘fair’ social system in which people can progress to the top of the social pile if they work hard enough to activate their talent. My book Against Meritocracy: culture, power and myths of mobility (Routledge, 2018) traces the genealogies of the concept and examines how it works through cultural as well as political discourse. It argues that contemporary ideas of meritocracy have been used to justify intensified forms of neoliberal capitalism, and the shredding of social safety nets, by marketising ideas of equality. This paper will outline the book’s argument whilst focusing in particular on the role of entrepreneurialism in relation to meritocracy, from Dragon’s Den through the ‘mumpreneur’ to Donald Trump, and arguing for the critical role of reinvigorating and extending socialist alternatives.
Jo Littler is Reader in Sociology at City, University of London, an editor of European Journal of Cultural Studies and a member of the Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture editorial collective.
30 April 2019
Corey Gibson (University of Glasgow) ‘Hamish Henderson and Antonio Gramsci: Or, the Difference between “Hey Jimmy” and Hegemony’
In 1948, Hamish Henderson, who later became a leading light in the Scottish folk revival, set out to translate Gramsci’s Lettere dal Carcere (Einaudi, 1947). His effort is notable as the first English translation of the Sardinian Marxist, though it went unpublished for over twenty years. A generation later, when Gramsci’s stock was high among academics and the radical commentariat of the UK, the political philosopher was played by John Sessions in a docu-drama subtitled Everything that Concerns People. Made for Channel Four television by Glasgow filmmakers, it saw Gramsci pacing the prison-yard, deep in conversation on the finer points of dialectical materialism with his fellow political prisoners, comrades whose accents belonged, unmistakably, to the industrial west of Scotland. When Henderson did publish his translation as a single volume, he wrote of the potency of Gramsci’s life-story and his ideas in contemporary Scotland ravaged by Thatcher’s economic restructuring. He pointed to a painting by Ken Currie depicting the Clydeside autodidact reading Gramsci by night, and he reflected at length on affinities between the Sardinian in Italy and the Scot in the UK. This paper seeks first, to retrace Gramsci’s undocumented influence in Scottish culture, via Henderson’s adoption of his notions of folklore and their enactment through the popular folk revival. Second, this paper considers why Gramsci might have been well served by this enactment, embracing, as it did, the contradictions that arise between theory and practice in Gramsci’s corpus. Finally, this paper will consider how Gramsci might be helpful in understanding the tensions between strains of romantic nationalism and socialist internationalism in Scottish political discourse since Henderson.
Corey Gibson was appointed as lecturer in 20thC Scottish literature at the University of Glasgow last year. Before that he’d been lecturer in modern English literature at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He’s the author of The Voice of the People: Hamish Henderson and Scottish Cultural Politics (EUP 2015), which was shortlisted for Saltire Research Book of the Year. He’s currently working on Henderson’s Collected Poems, and on a new research project on representations of work in the Scottish literary imaginary.
In Semester One:
30th October 2018: James Foley, "Referendums, Populism and Neoliberal Democracy: Scotland, Brexit and beyond"
This talk looks at the context behind the recent proliferation of referendums, which have become focal points both for ad hoc "populist" coalitions and for liberal, centrist anxieties about populism. It looks at why the ruling political establishment calls or agrees to referendums, why public consent was sought in moves to neoliberal "globalisation", and why referendums have recently proved so disruptive. Referendums pose general questions for socialist strategy and attitudes to democracy, and particular questions about how socialists confront the breakup of states and the question of European (dis)integration. In this context, the talk will explore recent debates about Scottish independence and Brexit.
James Foley is co-author of The Radical Case for Scottish Independence (Pluto Press, 2014) and of the forthcoming What is Scottish Independence For? (Verso, 2019). His PhD is from the University of Edinburgh. He currently works as a researcher on child poverty.
22nd November 2018 (*3.15pm*, Rm 311, East Quadrangle): Maia Pal (Oxford Brookes University), "Accumulating jurisdiction from early modern empires to Trump: The social property relations of extraterritorial diplomacy". Joint seminar with the Human Geography Research Group
Extraterritoriality today consists in the application of a state's sovereign rights beyond its jurisdiction and legal territory. Extensions of US sovereignty have been characteristic of US hegemony since the 1980s. Before then, from the 19th to the early 20th centuries, extraterritoriality was a crucial strategy of expansion and ordering led by imperialist powers and contributed to shaping so-called 'semi-sovereign' states. Summarising parts of my current book project, the presentation will go further back to the early modern period, when extraterritoriality was considered as exclusively tied to the emergence of permanent ambassadors and the negotiation of shared privileges between monarchs, princes, merchants and other diplomatic actors. As such, it is understood to play a key role - albeit one not sufficiently debated - in explaining the emergence of modernity, sovereignty and territoriality. Considering the continuous rise and fall of this process as an instrument of international relations, it is important to further question and trace its lineage to the early days of capitalism and state formation. The framework developed emphasises the role of social property relations in changing the social bases of ambassadors, in both contexts of the European transitions to capitalism and their imperial strategies. These processes are identified as jurisdictional accumulation. The talk will focus on the social property relations and class struggles driving jurisdictional accumulation, namely diverging uses of the aristocracy and the role of merchants and consuls in early modern diplomacy. It also asks the question of method and how one is to conduct a Marxist historical sociology of an 'international' legal process.
Maïa Pal is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Oxford Brookes University. She is currently working on a monograph entitled Jurisdictional Accumulation: An Early Modern History of Law, Empires, and Capital (CUP) and on a co-edited volume, The Extraterritoriality of Law: History, Theory, Politics (Routledge).
4th December 2018: Lazaros Karaliotas (School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, Glasgow University), 'Geographies of politics and the police: Post-democratization, SYRIZA and the politics of the “Greek debt crisis”'
Geographies of politics and the police: Post-democratization, SYRIZA and the politics of the “Greek debt crisis”
This paper explores the entangled dynamics of de-politicization and re-politicization in the midst of the “Greek debt crisis”. It critically revisits Jacques Rancière’s political writings to argue that, despite common criticisms to the contrary, his oeuvre foregrounds the impurity of democratic politics. Rancière, the paper argues, offers critical heuristic tools in understanding and engaging with the ways in which processes of post-democratization and democratic politics intersect, become entangled, and are mutually constituted. Simultaneously, however, it also challenges Rancière’s almost exclusive emphasis on political subjectification to argue for a plural understanding of the modalities and spatialities of democratic politics. Reading the politics of the “Greek debt crisis” through this lens, the paper unpacks how post-democratization has unfolded through an uneven and contested geography articulated at multiple scales. In parallel, it also maps the diverse and impure modalities of democratic politics in crisis-ridden Greece: from the staging of disagreement through the squares movement in 2011 to the articulation of everyday commoning and solidarity movements to SYRIZA’s meteoric rise to government. In so doing, the paper demonstrates how post-democratization and democratic politics are being shaped in constant relationship and tension.
Lazaros Karaliotas is Lecturer in Urban Geography at the University of Glasgow. He holds a PhD in Human Geography from the University of Manchester and has been a post-doctoral research fellow at the Universities of Glasgow and Manchester. His work is situated at the intersection of debates around the urban and the political. More specifically, he draws from urban political economy, discourse theory and the political writings of Jacques Rancière to explore the dominant ordering of urban spaces as well as its contestation by urban uprisings and movements. He is the Book Reviews and social media editor for Urban Studies.