Annual Themes

Annual Theme 2020 - Liberalism(s)

 The concept of ‘liberalism’ or ‘liberal culture’ is central to modern social and political thinking, as it is to the content and conduct of the humanities generally. At different times, both the provenance and authenticity of liberalism as a coherent philosophy or ideology have been contested, as has the desirability of liberalism’s principles and institutions. Today, liberalism is once again under threat, and many of its structuring principles and institutions – individualism, pluralism, internationalism, secularism, freedom of speech, free trade, representative democracy, and the rule of law – face escalating challenges in one country after another. As the middle class, the core constituency of liberalism, experience stagnation and frustration in the Global North, can the emerging middle class in the Global South still be considered agents of liberalisation?

In 2020, the Humanities Research Centre is inviting scholars from all over the world to explore the history and philosophy, politics and prospects of liberalism. We will begin by asking what exactly is liberalism – or should we be talking about ‘liberalisms’ in the plural? Is there a set of internally consistent ideas that adds up to what we can call ‘liberalism’ and, if there is, how did liberalism develop in the lead up to the early nineteenth century, when select people and parties first began characterising themselves as ‘liberal’? Scholars are invited to explore fictional and non-fictional texts, along with other historical and contemporary socio-cultural phenomena, which can be identified as sites in and through which the liberal subject has been projected and cultivated. How does liberalism balance the desire for individual freedom with the need for collective authority? Is freedom of expression in the humanities and the creative arts only possible within a liberal culture – or is liberalism, at some level, antipathetic to the arts? Can liberalism explain and engage the emotions? Can it accommodate illiberalism? Have extreme forms of liberalism, like neo-liberalism, with its stress on self-interest and its reduction of all values to those of the market place, disrupted or destroyed the development of a liberal future?

2022 Mobilities

2022 Mobilities

In 2022 the Humanities Research Centre welcomes scholars from across the world and across disciplines who will lead us in exploring a topic that will not stand still.

Mobilities means a multitude of things. Some definitions of ‘mobility’ in the Oxford English Dictionary are:

  • ‘The ability to move or to be moved; capacity for movement or change of place’.
  • ‘Ease or freedom of movement; capacity for rapid or comfortable locomotion or travel’.
  • ‘The ability or tendency to change easily or quickly; changeableness, instability; fickleness’.
  • ‘Tendency or susceptibility to rapid emotional change; impressionability; excitability. Now rare’.
  • ‘Chiefly Sociology. The ability or potential of individuals within a society to move between different social levels (more fully vertical mobility) or between different occupations, etc. (more fully horizontal mobility); the ability or potential of a workforce to move from place to place’.
     

We interpret the term broadly, and acknowledge the growing use of ‘mobility’ and ‘mobilities’ as key descriptive and theoretical terms in the humanities and social sciences. The theme will be taken up by scholars who address the concept in creative and interdisciplinary ways, and across a variety of topics including migration, asylum, tourism, transport, urban mobility, career mobility, social mobility, emotion and affect, and the exchange and transmission of goods, services, and ideas.
 

In line with the suggestive multivalence of the word itself, HRC scholars in 2022 consider ‘mobility’ socio-politically, physically, mentally, as a local or global phenomenon, in different cultures and different historical periods. Some seek to investigate the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our social, physical, and psychological mobility, and the way we are likely to act and think about mobility and immobility in the future.
 

The theme will generate rich discussion and debate, and we invite you to participate in our events and activities throughout the year.

Applications for the 2022 Humanities Research Centre Visiting Fellowship Program – on the theme of 'Mobilities' – have now closed.

2019 Annual Theme - Crisis

2019 Annual Theme - Crisis

Mobilised as a defining characteristic of the contemporary condition, ‘crisis’ often functions as a way to mark out a critical ‘moment of truth’ or rupture. Alternatively, it is offered as a tool with which to understand the category of history, or to differentiate the past from a conflicted present. For some, crisis has become a state of ordinary...

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2018 Annual Theme - Imagining Science and Technology 200 Years after Frankenstein

2018 Annual Theme - Imagining Science and Technology 200 Years after Frankenstein

'It compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know'. Percy Bysshe Shelley In 2018, the Humanities Research Centre will be looking at the humanities’ engagement (and failure to engage) with the accelerating fields of science and technology. The questions we will ask concern our understanding and imagining of the...

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2017 Annual Theme - The Question of the Stranger

2017 Annual Theme - The Question of the Stranger

‘The cluster of words describing those who are (or who are made to seem) different from us (whoever ‘us’ is)—the foreigner, the alien, the stranger—has been critical in the articulation of how we live after 9/11’. So wrote David Simpson in the study from which we take our theme for 2017.  The theme asks us to look at the way individuals and...

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2016 Annual Theme — Forms of Authority

2016 Annual Theme — Forms of Authority

Authority involves claims of legitimacy, the capacity and right to exercise power. Taking ‘forms’ primarily in a literary/aesthetic sense, this theme seeks to interrogate the genres, images, and aesthetic forms in which authority is embedded – via tropes of realism, for example, in melodrama, reportage, tradition, and so on. Political...

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2015 Annual Theme - Global Languages

2015 Annual Theme - Global Languages

The history of the world is characterized by great diversity in languages and societies as small groups split off and develop their own ways of talking and interacting. This diversity has been periodically checked by the rise of larger societies and economies, created by empires, evangelism and the demands of trade and diplomacy. Greek, Latin,...

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Updated:  21 November 2017/Responsible Officer:  Head, Centre/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications