Annual Themes

Annual Theme 2019 - Crisis

Annual Theme 2019 - 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 ambivalence, a constant and unresolvable feature of the status quo. Forming a background to these debates is the escalating chorus of ‘crisis’ texts in popular and academic contexts alike. In this growth industry – richly illustrated by images of violent protest and reform; by news of corruption, incompetence, and injustice; and by consecutive environmental disasters – the urgency of crisis is conveyed through its implication in the networks and structures that influence our individual and collective lives. And yet, despite the growing ‘crisis industry’, humanity has grappled for centuries with an intellectual history of crisis, with practices of critique and dissent, as well as with a past that often sees itself as on the cusp of an irredeemable crisis – often considered, in retrospect, part of a ‘generative’ process.

Seeking to explore all facets of crisis, plus the potential connections that might exist between and across them, the HRC encouraged contributions from researchers working in all disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields, historical eras and geographical contexts, as well as those offering issue, topic, and case-study based approaches to the theme of ‘crisis’. Key questions included: How are we today to understand intellectual, ethical, moral, and epistemological crises? What qualifies (or quantifies) as a crisis? What is the artistic, cultural, political, social, or psychological expediency of crisis? How does ‘crisis’ relate to ideas and practices of ‘criticism’ and ‘critique’? What, if anything, differentiates our current experience from prior experiences of crisis? How can disciplinary debates inform political change, or vice versa? Is there any potential for the humanities to have an impact on public conceptions of crisis? What is at stake when a researcher undertakes to examine crisis, and what ethical and other responsibilities does the researcher have in conducting this work? Are we really in a new age of crisis – and, if so, how so?

2020 Annual Theme - Liberalism(s)

2020 Annual Theme - 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?

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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2014 Annual Theme - Now Showing: Cultures, Judgements, and Research on the Silver Screen

2014 Annual Theme - Now Showing: Cultures, Judgements, and Research on the Silver Screen

Our cultures are awash in spectacular visual display. From the first exhibition of the cinematograph in 1895 to the web, video games and the iPhone, a succession of screens has been the site for the creation, reproduction and transmission of meaning and emotion, and a key medium for the contestation of power. These media have been imbricated in...

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