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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

    Reviews of UCL public lectures, debates, exhibitions, shows, and more…

    The 2014 Lancet Lecture – The half-life of caste: The ill-health of a nation

    By Kilian Thayaparan, on 26 November 2014

    Arundhati Roy speaking at the 2014 Lancet Lecture

    Arundhati Roy speaking at the 2014 Lancet Lecture.
    Credit: Kirsten Holst.

    Over 700 people were in attendance for the 2014 Lancet Lecture, this year given by acclaimed novelist and political activist Arundhati Roy.

    The Institute of Education’s Logan Hall – this year’s host venue – was already reaching near full capacity when I arrived. There was a sense of anticipation and excitement, with attendees moving from one area of the room to another as they attempted to find the best possible vantage point.

    Considering Roy’s numerous notable achievements and accomplishments, it’s easy to see why this particular Lancet Lecture had generated so much interest – in 1997, she won the Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel The God of Small Things, and she has since written several political pieces on issues ranging from large dams to nuclear weapons.

    For the 2014 Lancet Lecture, Roy focused on the practice of caste in India and how it received support from many of those who led India’s struggle for independence. Her comments in the past have gained unfavourable attention in India, often opinionated and controversial, and Roy’s talk on caste would be no different; “If these things shock and disturb you, all I can say is that they shocked and disturbed me too”.

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    Staging European languages and memories: the sounds and rhythms of the Great War

    By Guest Blogger, on 24 November 2014

    pencil-icon Written by Stefanie van Gemert, PhD candidate, UCL Dutch

    I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele) performanceIs there a particular rhythm to war and violence? And if so, does it sound staccato, repetitive like machine guns and marching boots? Or are its sounds tempting, magical perhaps? Do they appeal to universal feelings of longing – for mum to be proud, for the kiss of a pretty girl? Alex Marshall’s article in Saturday’s Guardian explores these questions, discussing the allure of the ‘ISIS anthem’.

    On Tuesday 4 November we did something similar at the Bloomsbury Theatre, exploring sounds of the First World War in a multimedia and multilingual performance: ‘I died in hell – (They called it Passchendaele)’.

    A century after the Great War began, violence seems to be everywhere. Even in peaceful Bloomsbury we cannot escape the updates on our mobile phones: yet another child wounded, another journalist killed.

    As global citizens, we are extremely well-connected and yet continuously distracted, under the bombardment of 140-character shallow opinions and beeping newsfeeds. How can we, in this state, relate to the overwhelming global violence in a personal manner?

    This event, organised by the Centre for Low Countries Studies and the Flemish-Dutch cultural magazine Ons Erfdeel, involved a writer/artistic director, a translator, a video artist, seven students from UCL’s School of European Languages, Culture and Society (SELCS), two professional actors and a European collection of poetry and film footage of the Great War. Its collage-like structure and its multilingual approach underlined the global aspect of this conflict: something to be reminded of in November when poppies appear to be symbols of a straightforwardly English tradition.

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    UCL Faces Race: Why is my curriculum white?

    By Kilian Thayaparan, on 21 November 2014

    Greek philosophy headsHaving heard interesting things about the ‘Why isn’t my professor black?’ live panel discussion that took place earlier this year, I was intrigued to find out what new points and suggestions would be put forward by the Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) Students’ Network, this time as they attempted to answer the question: ‘Why is my curriculum white?’.

    In doing so, the aim was to begin to address a worrying finding from the NUS Black Students Campaign National Students Survey, which showed that “42% did not believe their curriculum reflected issues of diversity, equality and discrimination”.

    Standing before an energetic and enthusiastic mixed crowd, the first speaker introduced the audience to UCL, highlighting its self-given status as “London’s global university”.

    However, drawing attention to the fact that in its earlier years UCL was known as “London’s imperial university”, she argued that we haven’t moved from “imperial” to “global”, and that to achieve this, we need to examine and challenge the “Eurocentric nature” and “whiteness” of the curriculum.

    To illustrate this, the audience was shown a short film that explored some of the thoughts, experiences and suggestions of students concerning race and their studies. There were some quite worrying and often shocking recollections throughout.

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    Sexual Health: Intersections in politics and society

    By Guest Blogger, on 18 November 2014

    pencil-icon Written by Michael Espinoza, PhD candidate, UCL Institute of the Americas

    HIV virology testing form“By then, it was too late to hate him [for being gay].” – a self-described ‘former gay-basher’ reveals how he unknowingly befriended a gay man.

    This testimonial, part of a research project by Dr Richard Mole (UCL School of Slavonic Studies and Eastern European Studies), shows how a lack of human understanding can dictate how people relate to others whom they perceive as ‘different’. The difference in this instance involved sexuality and its relation to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

    The first presenter was Professor Jonathan Bell (UCL Institute of the Americas), whose paper was titled The Economic Closet: healthcare, sexuality, and the politics of respectability during the AIDS crisis.

    Professor Bell discussed how healthcare politics in the 1980s saw gay rights leaders face two difficulties – one was the struggle against private health insurance companies and the other was the attempt to “adapt the socially-regressive and gendered New Deal safety net to their needs”.

    Not only did they have to accept that HIV positive gay men “had to be classified as disabled and unable to work to be entitled to welfare”, they also had to fight against profit-driven private health insurance companies who sought to portray HIV positive gay men as unproductive citizens who have “sexually promiscuous lifestyles” in order to deny their claims.

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