Dr Sandip Hazareesingh gave a presentation on ‘Millet heritages and climate adaptation in southern India’ in the context of a conference on Heritage and our Sustainable Future held 22 February-2 March 2021, and hosted by Praxis at the University of Leeds and the UK National Commission for UNESCO. The presentation focused on how millet farming cultural heritages, accessed through oral history, have enabled local communities to adopt climate mitigation strategies to ensure food security. You can watch a video of Dr Hazareesingh’s presentation here.
Aspiring Poets, musicians and artists from across Blaenau Gwent got together over video last month in a cultural celebration of their area, history and people.
The group are part of BG REACH (Blaenau Gwent Residents Engaging in Arts, Culture and Heritage) a celebration of the heritage, history and people of Blaenau Gwent past and present, led by Dr. Richard Marsden, Senior Lecturer and Staff Tutor in History. The group met for the first time in February 2020 at creative workshops in Aberbeeg. The pandemic cut short face-to-face sessions, but the group kept in touch over video and carried on working together.
‘Back then we didn’t anticipate the imminent challenges to come in the form of severe flooding and then a global pandemic,’ explains Sarah Roberts, the OU in Wales’ partnerships coordinator for south-east Wales. ‘But by working together and mainly down to the commitment and passion of people within the Aberbeeg community group, here we are today to share and celebrate some of the creative work that’s been happening during these challenging times.’
During the online celebration, the group shared a music project, poems, art and photography with each other and the Open University academics who had worked with them. Linc Cymru Housing Association staff, who also supported the project, were among the attendees alongside family and friends. Cynefin2, a video created and recorded remotely by the group during the pandemic which celebrates in words and music the beauty of the area, was also premiered during the event.
The BG REACH team hope to keep gathering more creative work which celebrates heritage in Blaenau Gwent. This can include photography, creative writing, artwork, or music which will be shown in an exhibition in 2021. If you live in the area and interested in sharing your work email email@example.com to find out more.
Research Fellow Dr. Sandip Hazareesingh gave a presentation titled ‘Oral history as a method for studying the meanings of foodways in India’ at a virtual international workshop jointly organised by the International Institute for Environment and Development and Kew (13-15 October 2020 at the IIED) on ‘Indigenous food systems, biocultural heritage and the UN sustainable development goals’
Karl Hack published a book chapter and gave two papers in Singapore in 2019 as part of its bicentennial celebrations: 200 years form Sir Stamford Raffles landing on Singapore and founding it in its modern guise.
The papers were on ‘Special Branch and identifying communists’ at the National Museum of Singapore in November, and on ‘British Grand Strategies and Southeast Asia’ at the National University of Singapore-Rise of Asia Museum workshop at Haw Par Villa Singapore in December. The chapter on ‘We Shall Meet again: Britain’s return to Singapore 1945-46’ is in 200 Years of Singapore and the United Kingdom edited by Tommy Kohn and British High Commissioner for Singapore Scott Wightman. Karl was born at Changi, Singapore and worked in the city for more than a decade, so this forms part of his ongoing relationship with Singapore as his second home, and Southeast Asia as a region.
How historical research can contribute to international development challenges
Dr Sandip Hazareesingh delivered a keynote address titled ‘Food Memories and Stories from Karnataka women farmers’ at a GCRF event on ‘Food and Heritage’ at the University of Leeds on 10 January. The event was organised by Praxis, a recently set up project funded by AHRC-GCRF with the aim of championing the distinctive contribution that Arts and Humanities research can make to tackling urgent development issues. https://changingthestory.leeds.ac.uk/praxis/
On 21 November a new online resource for exploring the British peace movement during the height of the Cold War was launched, developed by our own Dr Luc-André Brunet. This resource, entitled ‘Peace Activism in the UK during the Cold War’, is a collaboration between The Open University and the Peace and Security project at LSE IDEAS, of which Dr Brunet is Co-Director. You can explore it here.
This online resource features newly digitised documents from the collection of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), housed at LSE Library, providing new insights into different aspects of the British peace movement in the 1980s. These are complemented with video commentary by activists, policymakers, and academics. Organised around six themes, the resource enables students, researchers, current activists, and members of the public to reassess peace activism in the Cold War and to draw lessons that can be applied to the international situation today.
The resource was launched with a public event at LSE on 22 November, featuring Dr Brunet, CND General Secretary Kate Hudson, and Sam Dudin from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). Event details can be found here.
This Symposium sponsored by the Royal Historical Society reflected on how the war was commemorated in a range of different countries between 2013 and 2019. The centenary of the signing of most of the peace treaties related to the conflict in 2019 is an excellent vantage point to reflect on six years of commemoration and ask a number of important questions. How did different countries seek to commemorate the war? How did such commemoration differ, and why? Why did the origins of the war become a controversial topic once more? How did the centenary play out in countries that entered the war much later than others, and countries that were colonies during the wartime period? How did the war’s different end-points play out for national commemorations? How were the different national memories of the experience of the war reflected in planned and actual commemorative events? And, most importantly, what do we know now that we did not know before the centenary, and how might this affect the future trajectory of First World War studies? The Symposium addressed these questions, in particular examining what is different after six years of commemoration, debate, and publishing on the First World War on the occasion of the centenary. The symposium highlighted that the war was experienced differently, and is therefore remembered differently, by the various combatant nations and empires. Was commemoration perhaps less contentious in nations which had been on the winning side than among the losers of the war? We were treated to an excellent and thought-provoking keynote lecture from Professor Jay Winter, seven excellent papers and a roundtable discussion, as well as great contributions from our audience both in Milton Keynes and online.
10.00 – 10.15 Tea and Coffee
10.15 – 10.30 Welcome from Professor Annika Mombauer and Professor John Wolffe (The Open University)
10.30 – 11.30 Keynote Lecture
Professor Jay Winter (Yale University): ‘The Centenary of the Great War: Unfinished Business’
11.30 – 13.00 Panel 1: Europe
Dr Helen McCartney (King’s College London): ‘Commemoration of the First World War in Britain 2014-2018’
Dr Alison Carrol (Brunel University): ‘Local and National Commemorations of the First World War in France’
Professor Annika Mombauer (Open University): ‘2014: Germany remembers the First World War’
13.00 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.30 Panel 2: Africa and Asia
Dr John Slight (The Open University): ‘Commemorating the war in the Middle East during a time of turbulence’
Professor Santanu Das (Oxford University): ‘Centennial Commemoration in an age of Multiculturalism: The Case of South Asia’
Dr Anne Samson (Independent Scholar): ‘Who in Africa remembered? Who remembered Africa?’
15.30 –16.00 Tea and coffee break
16.00 – 16.30 ‘Commemoration in the Museum Sector’, Laura Clouting (Imperial War Museum)
16.30 – 17.30 Roundtable discussion
This event was jointly organised by UKRI-AHRC and the International Development Committee (IDC) of UK Parliament. The conference brought together development scholars and NGOs from the Global South, UK-based researchers, and UK Parliamentarians. Its main objective was to share ideas about achieving greater visibility and inclusion of globally diverse voices and perspectives with a view to improving UK Government (DFID) policy-making.
The IDC’s main role is to scrutinise the work of DFID by providing information and perspectives from a wide range of sources so as to ensure that policies are compliant with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As much of the IDC’s current focus is on monitoring and evaluating DFID’s work in the areas of Forced Displacement and Climate Change, its members were given a unique opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of collaborative north-south research projects on these themes using Arts and Humanities approaches. These methodologies included oral history, story-telling, street theatre, participatory video, creative writing, used by projects researching subjects such as Local Community Experiences of Displacement from Syria; Traditional Knowledge and the Revival of Millets for a Changing Climate in South India; Living with Typhoons and Insecurity in the Philippines; Resilient Pastoralism in Mongolia and Kenya.
Members of both IDC and AHRC expressed great delight at the information and insights provided by the presentations and voiced the hope that this event heralds a continuing and inclusive dialogue between researchers in both north and south and their parliaments. However, many of the researchers present expressed scepticism about the effectiveness of such events in changing or improving government policies. Indeed, some invited delegates from the south had been refused visas to travel to the UK. Personally, I made the point, to loud applause from the floor, that unless the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ immigration policy is reversed and visa applications from the south approached with a radically different mindset, ‘voices from the south’ will remain marginalised and hopes for a deepening north-south dialogue on development voiced by the conference organisers might well prove unsustainable.
Harvesting water in South India, Bombay Agricultural Department Bulletin 1910. Image credit: British Library
On 2 July 2018 we held a very successful workshop on Colonial migration in Africa and Asia: historical connections and comparisons, organized by the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies.
Migration is one of the foundational pillars of the story of humanity. The study of migration has been energised in recent decades by new sources and frameworks such as transnational history and diaspora studies. Migration is a topic that engages the attention of scholars in numerous disciplines, including history, human geography, development and literature. Understanding migration in its myriad forms has an urgent contemporary relevance in light of current migration movements driven by factors such as conflict (inter-state, intra-state, and non-state), labour demands in a globalised world, and climate change. By bringing together scholars working on historical migration in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia during the colonial period, the event enabled area studies specialists who practice transnational history to engage in a productive intellectual dialogue with each other and attendees. The event aims to bridge the gap between scholars of Africa and Asia, and enable historical perspectives to inform research in other disciplines.