Monthly Archives: October 2013

Hobsbawm again

Hobsbawm caricature

A more detailed list of participants for the History after Hobsbawm conference is now out: click the link for full details, on the Birkbeck website. The draft programme is available too. It’s looking good…

Plenary Session Speakers

Mark Mazower (Columbia)
Gareth Stedman Jones (Queen Mary)
Catherine Hall (UCL)
Chris Wickham (Oxford)
Maxine Berg (Warwick)
Rana Mitter (Oxford)
Geoff Eley (Michigan)


Emma Rothschild (Harvard/Cambridge)
Prasannan Parthasarathi (Boston)
Donald Sassoon (Queen Mary)
Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck)

Frameworks of historical explanation
Peter Burke (Cambridge)
Joanna Innes (Oxford)
Renaud Morieux (Cambridge)
Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck)

The Crisis of the 17th Century
Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA)
Geoffrey Parker (Ohio State)
John Elliott (Oxford)
Mike Braddick (Sheffield)

History of political conflict
Lucy Riall (EUI/Birkbeck)
François Jarrige (Bourgogne)
Steve Smith (Exeter)
Illaria Favretto (Kingston)

Britain, Empire, Europe
Antoinette Burton (Illinois)
Maya Jasanoff (Harvard)
Jan Rüger (Birkbeck)

What happened to class?
John Tosh (Roehampton)
Sonya Rose (Michigan/Birkbeck)
Marjorie Levine-Clark (Colorado)
Sean Brady (Birkbeck)

Global environmental history
Harriet Ritvo (MIT)
Paul Warde (UEA)
Christof Mauch (Munich)
Sunil Amrith (Birkbeck)

Latin America
Alan Knight (Oxford)
Paulo Drinot (UCL)
Joan Martinez Alier (ICTA, Barcelona)

Marxist and post-Marxist social history
Andy Wood (Durham)
Jane Whittle (Exeter)
Lucy Robinson (Sussex)

Stefan Berger (Bochum)
Bill Schwarz (Queen Mary)
John Breuilly (LSE)

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Week 5 seminar

Our week 5 seminar, back to the normal time, is with Anna Bocking-Welch (Liverpool)—her paper title is ‘Humanitarianism and humdrum internationalism: British society at the end of empire’. Rodney Hilton library, Arts building (3rd floor), Wed 4.15pm. Drinks and probably Tangfastics provided; all staff and students welcome.

No poster! Not here on the blog, at least. I’ll explain why at the seminar. In the meantime, though, here’s what the internet throws up if you do a google image search for ‘humdrum internationalism’:

Image search for humdrum internationalismPerhaps we need to start doing a “quote” of the week on this blog. (Reminds me of those crisp packets that used to promise “More”—than a “snack”.)

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I want this gif to flash up whenever the word ‘problematic’ is used in an academic context:


The internet is a wonderful thing.


Week 4 seminar

Our seminar speaker this week is Matt Houlbrook, who recently joined us as senior lecturer in modern British history. His paper title is ‘Thinking queer/Rethinking the interwar’, and details are below.

Please note that this week’s seminar begins at 5pm, slightly later than usual. Everything else is as normal: location, drinks, Tangfastics, etc.

Houlbrook poster

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Mind your Ks and Qs


There is a story about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk practising his signature in the Latin alphabet. The image is incongruous: the most powerful man in Turkey sits frowning over his own name, breaking in the unfamiliar strokes like a schoolboy. He had decreed in 1928 that Turkish would now be written in Latin rather than Arabic script – severing ties with the Ottoman past and making a generation of readers illiterate. In 1934 he passed a law requiring everyone to adopt a surname: Turks at the time tended to go by titles, patronymics or the name of their profession. It’s unclear how Kemal came by his name (he tacked on ‘Father of the Turks’ after 1934; it’s still illegal for anyone else to use it), but as for romanising his initials, the story goes that he tried spelling it first with a Q, then with a K – and deciding that he preferred the latter, banned the letter Q from the alphabet.

It’s not true—but it is true that the letter Q, like the letters X and W, was banned in Turkey from the introduction of the Latin alphabet until last month. Yasmine Seale explains why on the LRB blog; for more on the ‘democracy package’ which includes the un-banning of these letters, check out this post on Kamil Pasha.

Click image for source
Don’t believe the bit about Atatürk’s signature being a popular tattoo? Evidence.

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Maori remains

An announcement about an event on campus later in the week. Please contact June Jones for further information, not the Centre. Her email address is below.

Maori carved house post from Tanenuiarangi meeting house, Waipapa marae, University of AucklandThe University is pleased to be returning a collection of Maori human remains to representatives of the New Zealand Museum Te Papa in October 2013. As part of their visit, we are delighted to invite you to the following events:

The importance of returning Mäori remains to their homelands in Aotearoa New Zealand

Our Maori guests will explain the importance of returning human remains and Maori cultural objects. They will detail the research that has been taking place in New Zealand about how remains were collected for transport throughout Europe, and how remains are dealt with on their return. This will be a very moving seminar, and relevant for anyone interested in colonial history, repatriation work and ways in which minority groups can be honoured. The seminar is free, open to all members of the University and members of the public. No need to book, so please just come along and bring friends.

Venue: Arthur Thomson Lecture Theatre, Medical School.
Date: Thursday 17 October 2013.
Time: 4-5pm

A unique opportunity to hear Maori music and song!

After the repatriation seminar, we will be moving on to the newly opened Bramall Music Building.
Maori elders will be giving a presentation about
•         traditional Maori waiata (chants and songs)
•         musical instruments including the putatara (conch shell trumpet),
•         koauau and Nguru (two types of Maori flutes).

They will play the instruments and also sing examples of their waiata (chants and songs), which will form part of a formal handover ceremony of ancient Maori remains the following day.
This informal presentation will be a must for anyone interested in ancient forms of music, traditional native cultures and the richness of diverse inheritance. Come along to hear and meet our Maori guests.

This is a free event, open to members of the University and members of the public.

Venue: Foyer, Bramall Music building
Date: Thursday 17 October, 2013
Time: 5.30-6pm

For any further information, please contact Dr June Jones on

Click image for source


The power of music

Sun Ra, 1980

[Jazz pianist Sun] Ra’s solo keyboard track, “Advice to Medics,” [is] titled after his history of playing for what his biographer John Szwed describes as a therapy-through-music group that “included catatonics and severe schizophrenics.” (The biographer reports that one patient, breaking a years-long silence, approached Ra to ask: “Do you call that music?”)

From a post on the New York Review of Books blog by Seth Colter Walls, on a recent performance by the Sun Ra Arkestra at Lincoln Center in New York. If you want to decide for yourself if it’s music, there are several pieces embedded there for you to listen to.

Click image for source

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Week 3 seminar

Update: I’ve just noticed that this is our 100th post, which feels like some kind of milestone…

Our seminar speaker this week is our own Klaus Richter, who will be talking about the aftermath of the first world war in east central Europe. Place and time as usual—details below. Please do join us.

Klaus Richter seminar, Birmingham Centre for Modern and Contemporary History

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Bingo, Barbie, and Barthes

Richard Hoggart on the BBC Radio 4 website

There’s a two-part documentary about cultural studies on Radio 4 this week and next: Bingo, Barbie and Barthes: 50 years of cultural studies. Needless to say, the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies features heavily, and some of our colleagues from the CCCS50 project are on the programme.

Details (and a ‘listen now’ link, for the time being at least) here. Or just click the image, which is taken from the programme page. And don’t forget to follow @CCCS50 on Twitter…

Did I know, before doing an image search for this post, that David Tennant portrayed Richard Hoggart in a major TV drama? No I didn’t. Here he is.

Week 2 seminar

For our seminar this week we’re pleased to welcome back Lotte Hughes (Open University), returning to Birmingham to give us the paper that was cancelled at the last minute during the Great Edgbaston Power Outage of November 2012. Details below.

Hughes poster

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