Being Human is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. A celebration of humanities research through public engagement, it is led by the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, the UK’s national centre for the pursuit, support and promotion of research in the humanities, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy.
As 2020 sets into what promises to be a long winter of dark nights, we’re inviting you to join us as we revisit some ways and places where, against the odds and at times cut off from regular means of communication, people decided to make new ways to express themselves.
What did it take to typeset and print a ‘new novel’ in the darkest days of the Nazi Occupation of France? How did the British music press foster a ‘hidden landscape’ of countercultural expression within the constraints of commercial musical journalism?
How did a modest Tangiers bookshop and its review Nejma rise to fame as icons of European and Arabic cultural dialogue? Or different ethnic, religious and linguistic communities use newspapers to imagine and build new forms of community beyond the nation in Algeria under French colonial rule?
And what vision of Senegal today is being imagined and imprinted by writers like Boubacar Boris Diop and Francophone publishers who are seeking to navigate the constraints of the colonial tongue by celebrating African languages like Pulaar and Wolof in print?
This conversation, which promises to voyage far and wide, will close with a presentation of extracts from a collection of one-off books made under the auspices of the Being Human Festival by young refugees and asylum seekers in the very local space of a public library in Paris. In the hostile environment that prevails today for people seeking refuge, they have found themselves often reduced to the most rudimentary types of ‘marks’ or imprints, including their fingerprints which dictate their movements in Europe. What sort of world do they start to reveal when offered the opportunity to make a different sort of mark?
And as the digital interface tends to standardize all our modes of reception of culture, what sort of connections do you have with the physicality of the ‘imprint’? What has it meant for the circulation of ideas in the past and what sort of marks are you making to create a trace for today?