Toolkit for Political Futures
Invitation to Join a Monthly Reading Salon in Central London
First Meet and Greet: 31 January at 6pm
The Marquis Cornwallis, 31 Marchmont St, London WC1N 1AP.
Suggested Reading Steven Jackson’s Rethinking Repair
On a rain-soaked day in June, the UK voted to leave the European Union following months of extreme misinformation about what “Brexit” would buy Britain. After more than a year of embittered campaigning between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Americans elected a billionaire who has never held political office with a loose mandate to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington, D.C. Germany, France, Belgium, and Turkey saw horrendous terrorist attacks on their soil. The verdict is out. 2016 was a frightening year for the future of liberal democracies and core progressive values such as pluralism, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism. The events of 2016 have the quality of a referendum on the limits of integrating nations, economies, and people without addressing pernicious inequalities. The results of the Brexit referendum and the US Presidential election were perhaps not entirely surprising given the growing climate of xenophobia, racism, and the general push back against neoliberalism and globalization. In other words, 2016 was a brutal reminder that there is no “end of history.” It keeps going and it is our responsibility to shape its course for the best.
Two researchers at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London are launching a monthly reading salon in 2017 to bring together scholars based in or around London who are concerned with the current state of global politics and are actively seeking a theoretical, empirical, and artistic toolkit to contend with the future.
We do not yet know how or to what extent the events of 2016 will reshape political, economic, and environmental futures on a planetary scale. The intention of this reading salon is to move beyond the paralysis of uncertainty and engage in a critical inventory and active critique of concepts and theoretical orientations. What are we reading? Why are we reading it? Do we need a new lexicon for the times? Are there artifacts from the past we can more strategically reanimate? What are we finding to be indispensible for anchoring the events of 2016 in broader patterns of continuity and change? What happens when we begin from geographic, political, social, and cultural contexts situated in the Global South rather than the Global North? What might these conversations contribute to political action? How and in what ways can and should scholars engage with public intellectuals, artists, activists, politicians, and policy makers? These are some of the questions that might guide us in our reflections on our political futures in the age of Trump and Brexit.
Each monthly reading salon will be arranged around a key concept or problem. Colleagues possessing expertise or a keen interest in one of the central themes will be asked to chair the reading salon and to prepare a set of bold reactions to the relevant readings in order to spur a vivid discussion. We will aim to keep the reading load light and will determine the reading list collaboratively. This reading salon is intended as a discussion forum but also as community-building opportunity among colleagues in the London area. Meetings will be held in informal locations in central London.
About the Conveners
Aline-Florence Manent (email@example.com) is a Junior Research Fellow at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. Aline-Florence’s research explores how intellectuals, policy-makers, and state-builders have theorised the challenges of liberal democracy in twentieth century Europe and how their ideas shaped our political institutions.
Marissa Mika (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Research Associate on Critical Histories of Chronic Disease in Africa at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies. Marissa's research focuses on where politics touch science, technology, and medicine in modern Africa. She is writing a historical ethnography of a cancer hospital in Uganda, and beginning new work on disease transitions in South Africa.
Marissa Mika and Aline-Florence Manet
Institute of Advanced Studies
University College London