X Close



UCL events news and reviews


Frantz Fanon: the man behind the mask

By ucyow3c, on 1 October 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Marchu Girma and Dauda Barry

Professor Lewis Gordon speaks to attendees

Professor Lewis Gordon speaks to attendees

It’s a Saturday, and yet the infamous Pearson Lecture Theatre at UCL (named after Karl Pearson, the ‘father’ of Eugenics) was filled with excitement. The long awaited conference and workshop on Frantz Fanon organised by the UK Sartre Society and Rethinking Existentialism project, was about to begin.

We were a widely diverse group from all walks of life and from near and far. To my right sat a sister who travelled all the way from Amsterdam just for this conference, while to my left was a brother and a student from the University of Leeds. We made this journey and sacrificed our Saturday to hear something new about Fanon.

The honoured guest, Professor Lewis Gordon, an expert on Fanon, was a very down-to- earth, softly spoken academic, wearing a t-shirt that said: “If you do not stand for something you will fall for anything.” He stood in the centre of the room, shoe-less, and spoke to us as if we were long lost friends.

The main topic of his lecture was Fanon’s thoughts on violence. At the age of 14, Fanon witnessed an autopsy of a dead woman. This became a defining moment in his life. For Fanon, it was not a corpse that was being dissected but a woman who was being violated. Later, when attending medical school, he found the act of performing an autopsy difficult. His professor’s advice was to think of it as if it were ‘a dead cat’.


Eugenics. What does the word mean? What is its genesis? And more importantly, what is its legacy?

By ucyow3c, on 7 November 2014

pencil-icon Written by Natalie Clue, Human Genetics BSc

Eugenics tree, 1921

Eugenics tree, 1921. Credit: American Philosophical Society.

I write this post after a whirlwind introduction to the discipline of eugenics and its inextricable connection to our university, upon reading an article written by Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, recently published in Times Higher Education. In a matter of weeks, I came to learn much more about the dark legacy of the celebrated figurehead in which our university takes immense pride: Francis Galton.

He is lauded as a polymath and eminent scientist who worked on biostatistics and human genetics, as well as a traveller and inventor of scientific instruments and a contributor to the subjects of meteorology and criminology. He was also the founding father of eugenics.

I learnt that the word eugenics is derived from the Greek word eu (‘good’ or ‘well’) and the suffix –genēs (‘born’), and that it was coined by Galton in 1883. I learnt that his definition of eugenics was “the study of the agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations“.

I also came to discover that a prime motivation for the research which led to many of the ‘achievements’ noted above was the motivation to determine what constituted ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ traits among the peoples of the world, to legitimise the theory of racial supremacy – with the ‘Aryan’ race being the ‘master’ of all and the ‘Negro’ being the least of the ‘lesser’ – and to classify these ‘lesser’ races as non-occidental or ‘other’.


Race: confronting myths and deconstructing colonial concepts

By ucyow3c, on 16 June 2014

By Foluso Williams

The August 2011 London riots “were not about race: the perpetrators and the victims were white, black and Asian”. It would seem from Mr Cameron’s comment that Britain is made up of three distinct ‘races’: ‘white’, ‘black’ and ‘Asian’.

However, many would argue that two of the ‘races’ that he has identified represent colours and the other denotes the population of a particular continent. Is Mr Cameron right? Surely, he has painted the best picture of 21st century Britain?

image 2

Not according to some academics, who believe that he is just as perplexed with the notion of ‘race’ as the rest of Britain.

This year at UCL, a remarkable array of scholars from various academic disciplines across the globe convened to discuss and challenge many of the misconceptions and complexities associated with the notion of ‘race’.

All speakers, which included staff and students, deconstructed the outdated myths that have lingered throughout different historical contexts and illustrated just how these constructions have become widely accepted in our society.

Two events, the Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies (Figs) Friday Forum on ‘Race’ and Critical Philosophy of Race: Here and Now, revealed through revolutionary research how we can begin to understand and challenge the notion of ‘race’, which is essentially a “colonial construct” that has been imposed on us by misinformed thinkers.


Why isn’t my professor black?

By ucyow3c, on 21 March 2014

Members of the event panel

Members of the event panel
Photo: Rachna Kayastha

pencil-iconWritten By Jamilah Jahi (UCL Medical Student)

After three years of studying at UCL, I can count the number of black lecturers who have taught me on one hand: zero.

Perhaps this is not alarming, after all, black people are a minority ethnic group in the UK. Surely we should expect low numbers amongst our teaching staff too. Is it, therefore, acceptable that only 0.4% of professors in the UK are black? At least six black academics disagree.

On 10 March 2014, UCL hosted the live panel discussion, ‘Why isn’t my Professor Black?’ It was clear that many were longing for an answer to this “interesting but depressing” question. Due to popular demand, the event had to be relocated to the Cruciform lecture theatre, which holds just under 350 people.

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL’s President & Provost, chaired the event. Sitting on the panel were black academics from across the UK, including UCL’s Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman, who organised the event.