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How do you give power to poor people? African Voices Question Time

ucyow3c11 February 2016

Written by Greg Tinker.

The history and the future of Africa, problems and threats facing African people and inspiring stories that go unreported were among the subjects discussed by prominent African academics in fields as diverse as medicine, politics, archaeology and architecture at African Question Time, the centrepiece of UCL’s Africa Voices series of events and discussions launched last month, which was chaired by Martin Plaut, former Africa Editor of the BBC World Service.

The discussions were a fascinating insight into ongoing debates around Africa, but was any consensus reached?

2JAC4290_AfricanVoices_160126

(left to right): Dr Peter Waiswa, Dr Caroline Wnjiku-Kihato, Martin Plaut (chair), Prof Adam Habib and Dr Ibrahima Thiaw © 2016 UCL / Jacqueline Lau

Africa’s challenges come from both within and without

When talking about the issues facing the continent, the panel agreed that it is not as simple as ascribing them to external forces, or saying they are entirely of Africa’s own making. According to Dr Caroline Wanjiko-Kihato, an urbanist based in South Africa, the lack of agency is the biggest problem. As Africa’s people don’t have control over a large extent of their economies, there are blurred lines between what they can and can’t change. Corruption, she said, is not just an African problem: it exists all over the world and needs to be tackled wherever it is found.

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Lunch Hour Lectures: Why glaciers don’t like the smell of frying bacon

Thomas Hughes1 February 2016

This Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) looked at humans’ ability to give things in nature; plants, animals, even mountains and rivers, a consciousness and assign intentions to them. Can this help us to build a better relationship with nature and build a prosperous future?

English Wikipedia, original upload 14 January 2005 by Ben W Bell

The Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield

Professor Moore opened by talking about a modern art project that was just a neon sign of a telephone number. When the number was called and it connected, the caller could hear the live sounds from a glacier.

So we can hear the glacier, but can it hear us? Many people in the past have certainly believed so. Tribes living on glaciers in Canada believed that the glaciers were social spaces and would react to being disrespected, and that the glaciers particularly disliked the smell of frying bacon. People interpreted the will of the glacier though its “surges” where the glacier would expand or shrink.

During the Little Ice Age, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the glaciers moved so far into France that the local people assumed that they had angered it. They ran to it with swords to drive it away and brought a bishop to bless it.

Many societies around the world continue to venerate forests, rivers and mountains and believe that nature must be compensated if angered or damaged. Ecuador and Bolivia have enshrined these rights in their constitutions. Can this help us form a moral framework to protect nature?

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Translation in History lecture series: Roman Jakobson and the translation of poetic language

ucyow3c11 January 2016

pencil-iconWritten by Tania Castro Rodea (UCL Translation Studies)

Roman Jakobson

On Thursday 26 November, we welcomed Professor Jean Boase-Beier (University of East Anglia) to UCL as part of the Translation in History lecture series. Her talk, ‘Roman Jakobson and the Translation of Poetic Language’, focused on the key ideas of this influential linguist and some of their implications for translation.

Professor Boase-Beier emphasised that Jakobson did not propose any particular way of translating; he did not give a set of instructions. But what he did say is of use because it can help us “think around translation, think about practice, and what consequences that has.” Boase-Beier also pointed out that, among Jakobson’s articles that are important for translation, some do not even mention translation, and so it is advisable to be aware of the wider context of his thinking, to know how he developed his ideas, particularly if we want to understand what already well-known quotes really mean.

In this regard, Boase-Beier posits that many people do not understand the most famous statement of Jakobson, that “the poetic function projects the principle of equivalence from the axis of selection into the axis of combination.” To explain this statement, she used an example where the words cat, kitten and feline were offered as options. When we select, she said, we choose from words that designate similar things. But once the word ‘cat’ is selected, this is transferred to the axis of combination, where the choice is not based on things, but on the word selected and its similarities with other words. We say “the cat sat on the mat,” not because the cat has similarities with the mat, but because of the similarities between the words: they rhyme.

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Could this be the way to get your research into the public eye?

ucyow3c15 December 2015

pencil-icon  Written by Olivia Stevenson & Greg Tinker with Michael Kenny, Catherine Miller & Graeme Reid

Scientists and researchers from across academia are engaged in research that could make a difference to the world, but until you take it beyond the university doors its impact and reach will remain low.

Select Committee noticeUCL and the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary, University of London, teamed up to host a public event with parliamentary insiders and evidence experts, exploring how academia could engage the world of government, particularly through select committees.

The question on everyone’s mind was ‘can this type of academic-government engagement generate real world impacts?’ Here is what our speakers told us:

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