Development Fund Project: The Politics of Decadence

Prof. Neville Morley (Classics and Ancient History), Dr Kate Hext (English) & Dr Joseph Sweetman (Psychology)

Read below to find out about this Development Fund project, led by prof. Neville Morley.

‘Decadence’ – labelling a kind of behaviour or even an entire culture as decaying and corrupt, a sign of imminent collapse – is rarely taken seriously as a way of thinking about politics. The term is too obviously polemical and rhetorical, associated with rabble-rousing and invective – where it is not simply limited to aesthetic movements of the late nineteenth century or to advertisements for ice cream and chocolate cake. However, the fact that idea is rhetorical does not mean it is therefore irrelevant; clearly it has power to arouse emotions or shape people’s understanding, as seen in the denunciations of ‘Western decadence’ offered recently by both Vladimir Putin and right-wing commentators on the themes of ‘wokeism’, gender identity and ‘Great Replacement Theory’. The claim that the state, society, nation or civilization is in a state of decay has represented both a source of anxiety and an approach to analysis of the present since classical antiquity, and continues to appeal to at least some audiences.

This project brought together researchers from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences – political theory, the history of ideas, literary studies, the analysis of contemporary right-wing movements and online communication, and classical reception – to explore ‘decadence’ seriously as a political and cultural theory. Each workshop involved prepared contributions from experts in different fields, exploring how their areas of study might contribute to the examination of the overall tradition of understanding society in such terms, in different periods and contexts. The first workshop considered ‘classical’ decadence; not just the familiar tropes of the ‘Decline and Fall’ of the Roman Republic and Empire, which have long served as a model for ideas of the symptoms and effects of decadence, but the earlier ideas of Greek political thinkers about the life-cycle of political regimes and the forces that lead to crisis and decay in the polity. The second workshop then examined the ways that such ideas were taken up and developed in post-Renaissance Europe, with the first explicit theories of ‘decadence’ in French authors like Montesquieu and Rousseau and the deployment of Roman history (especially the rise of Caesar and the invasion of barbarian hordes) in commentary on contemporary events.

The third workshop brought the discussion up to date through different perspectives on 20th-century and contemporary right-wing movements, comparing the rhetoric of decadence – and the implied need for revolutionary violence in order to restore the ‘natural’ order and health of the nation – from Nazism and Italian fascism via the French ‘New Right’ of the 1970s to present-day political campaigns and online chatrooms. This included discussion of the nature of the appeal of such ideas, and the question of how far understanding their intellectual roots could help combat them. The final workshop, devoted solely to discussion, returned to these themes, with the sense that ‘decadence’ offered one response to the crises of liberal democracy and capitalism – mostly, but not exclusively, a right-wing response – that framed the problem in a particular manner in order to aggregate different fears and grievances into a single movement and exhort it to action against a society perceived to have been captured and betrayed by different enemies.

The workshops were held online, allowing the participation of researchers from the USA and continental Europe as well as different parts of the UK. We agreed that there clearly is a significant topic here that requires further research, and identified a range of key themes, issues and problems to be addressed; key participants are now working together, under the leadership of Prof Morley, to develop funding proposals for further networking events and research activity, which will cover not just the history of the concept and its theoretical parameters but also empirical research into the nature of its appeal and concerted efforts to ensure its impact on current responses to societal threats.

Blog by prof. Neville Morley.

Online Seminar: The Ukraine Refugee Crisis in Context

On 23rd May over 60 people joined an online seminar co-organised by Routes and International Institute for Cultural Enquiry (IICE) to hear an outstanding panel of legal practitioners and academics to discuss the UK government’s response to the Ukraine refugee crisis in the wider context of its refugee policy.

The seminar opened with John Vassiliou, solicitor and founder member of the Ukraine Advice Network, explaining the two schemes that apply specifically to Ukrainian nationals – the Homes for Ukraine Scheme and the Ukrainian family scheme – and the practical problems of implementation, particularly the continuing need for a visa to enter the UK.  Miranda Butler, barrister and another founder member of the Ukraine Advice Network, put these into the context of the government’s wider policy agenda, including under the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, of making asylum claims much more difficult for those who arrive in the UK from other countries.

Alison Harvey, barrister and a former legal officer of Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, widened the discussion by drawing on her many years’ experience of working with parliamentarians to explain how, since 1993, governments have progressively eroded the support and services offered to refugees seeking asylum in the UK. Colin Yeo, barrister and founder and editor of the Free Movement website, managed to provide within one short presentation a comprehensive historical view of the selective welcome given to groups seeking refuge over the past centuries. Finally, Professor Audrey Macklin from the University of Toronto compared the approach taken in Canada towards Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, observing that the apparently less protective scheme for Ukrainian refugees is, in practice, more effective.

These powerful presentations ended with a discussion. If there is a single message to take from the seminar, it is that the universal right to seek asylum, while well represented in international law, has been given effect only partially and selectively.


About the panel:

Chair: Helena Wray – UoE Routes: Migration, Mobility and Displacement Network


John Vassiliou – Shepherd and Wedderburn

Miranda Butler – Landmark Chambers

Alison Harvey – No5 Barristers Chambers

Colin Yeo – Garden Court Chambers

Professor Audrey Macklin – University of Toronto

Online Seminar: The Climate Justice Paradigm

Ashish Ghadiali is a writer, film maker, activist; he is co-chair of the Black Atlantic Innovation Network and visiting fellow of the Global Systems Institute (GSI).

On Thursday April 7th 2022, Ashish kindly offered up two hours of his time to present on The Climate Justice Paradigm, an eye-opening seminar on the failings of the existing dominant climate justice paradigm and the need (now more than ever) for a newly emerging paradigm. The seminar was chaired by Katie Natanel from the Exeter Decolonising Network (EDN), who introduced Ashish with a great amount of praise.

Ashish simultaneously takes us on a global and philosophical journey which challenges pre-conceived notions of the climate crisis and argues for a different perspective that truly puts climate first and everything else second. As he explains in a final point, if we don’t tackle the issues of climate change now, we will watch all other systems break down because they are so interconnected.

A paradigm shift, says Ashish, began in 2019 with the sudden rise in young activists becoming involved in climate justice protests and strikes. Young people brought a new voice and a fresh perspective onto the scene, one that popularises James Lovelock’s idea of thinking of the earth as a unique ecosystem – a moving, living, whole organism. Ashish’s first bout of optimism comes here, as he explains how we are in an exciting (not a despairing) moment in time where humans are becoming conscious of the earth in this way, which allows us to now work towards finding solutions.

Focus then moves to climate justice; to the social and cultural inequalities/conflicts that are inextricably linked to climate issues. Ashish shows us two maps of the world, one of social conflict, the other of climate vulnerability – they are almost identical. The new climate justice paradigm Ashish advocates shows us that where we see climate change, we see the ongoing impacts of colonial empires. Carbon, for example, has its own history; economic infrastructures have been created from its emissions and those who benefitted the most (e.g. British and European empires) were least affected by its impacts, while those who benefitted the least were the most affected. This trend is equally transparent today as Ashish relates that when wealthier countries negotiated the carbon emissions target in Copenhagen in 2009, the lives and deaths of millions of island residents were in their hands. Ashish posits that we may be heading towards even greater inequalities as climate inaction – what some are calling “delayism” – continues. Even though the immense damage caused by fossil fuel mining may now be waning, the exploitation of environments in search for minerals for renewable energy sources, and the impacts on local populations, is only just beginning.

Ashish inevitably speaks of the failings of the 2015 Paris Agreement and reiterates the point made by innumerable scientists, environmentalists, climate activists etc. that we are in a “now or never” moment. This, he argues, is our last chance to lower global warming levels to 1.5c (currently we are on track to hit 2.7c), or there will be a climate catastrophe whereby vast swathes of the world will be uninhabitable. Here Ashish seems to be at risk of sounding like a broken record, however, he manages to maintain an ultimately positive outlook, as he relates to us that more and more, the question being asked is whether a language of optimism (as opposed to catastrophe) ought to be implemented when approaching climate issues and climate justice.

This optimism feeds into the new climate justice paradigm, which Ashish tells us starts with thinking differently about the question of vulnerability. Currently, it’s typical of both individuals and collectives to see vulnerability solely as a security risk, though this puts us on a footing where inequalities are only exacerbated. Climate justice has emerged as a paradigm to challenge and oppose this dominant framework within which we operate. The example Ashish uses to demonstrate a different perspective on vulnerability is the recent “vaccine apartheid” seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby more vulnerable countries (e.g. Cuba, Senegal, Vietnam) actually found themselves in a stronger position than wealthier countries (e.g. US, UK). The new climate justice paradigm seeks to address vulnerability both in wealthier and poorer countries and understand what it means to do this.

Ashish hopes that the research that is coming out of this paradigm shift will lead to conversations around understanding the cost-benefit of massive early climate investments, which will help to establish a common-sense basis for such investment. Interestingly, when posed the question of (greatly paraphrased) ‘Is capitalism the problem?’, Ashish’s answer was neither yes nor no – instead, he advocated a strategy of cooperation and collaboration. His response is emblematic of the climate justice paradigm, as well as of himself.

There will be several more opportunities to catch Ashish Ghadiali this year, including three upcoming webinars as part of the GSI’s Equilibrium series (see here). You can also follow him on Twitter @ashishghadiali, where he regularly posts.

Online Symposium: Problematic Shakespeare

Problematic Shakespeare

A recent piece in The Daily Mail noted with evident disappointment that;

“Woke attacks on Shakespeare’s works have so far been relatively restrained” (Hands off the Bard!, 8/2/22). 

Yet in their treatment of gender, race, religion, disability, and violence, many of Shakespeare’s works are inescapably problematic, a phenomenon often enhanced by editorial and performance traditions.

Without succumbing to the simplistic binaries of the media-driven “cancel culture” debate, this symposium aimed to survey Shakespeare’s troubled present and to chart possible futures.

Please read the summary below, provided by Exeter PhD student Sherin Babu, or if you would like to be sent the recording,  email: .

Problematic Shakespeare, an online symposium by The International Institute of Cultural Enquiry (IICE) was held on March 7, 2022. It hosted a panel of academic speakers including Dr Nora Williams (Essex), Dr Naomi Howell (Exeter), Professor Ayesha Mukherjee (Exeter), Professor Philip Schwyzer (Exeter), and Dr Vicky Sparey (Exeter), and was chaired by Professor Regenia Gagnier (Exeter). Professor Gagnier introduced the symposium by stating that the idea for it had been born in lockdown, when she rewatched the 1967 production of Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and was surprised by how difficult she found the gender politics in it. Professor Gagnier decided to call on academic experts who think about Shakespeare and productions of Shakespeare and the history of Shakespearean production every day, and it resulted in this symposium a year later.

The panel began with Dr Nora Williams, who started by challenging the title of the symposium, as she stated that the word “problematic” is often used as a stand-in for more controversial words such as homophobic, orientalist, white-supremacist and more. She asserted that she was willing to state outright that “Shakespeare’s plays perpetuate misogynist violence and that they do that through their dramaturgy,” by upholding and maintaining patriarchy. This made a feminist or resistant reading of any given play difficult to achieve, even within an adaptive space of performance. She then went on to explain some of the interventions she uses when performing Shakespeare, specific to the play Measure for Measure. These include conceptualising Isabella speaking to contemporary survivors of rape, to drive home the lack of change and indicate the oppressive power that patriarchy still holds. Another is to constantly be aware of the power transfer that takes place to a Shakespeare director, teacher or professor, authority relative to Shakespeare, who himself is constructed as the ultimate literary and theatrical authority. This often forms the root of institutional resistance to challenge the problematics of Shakespeare. Dr Williams stated that she refutes this by transferring power to the players, and another intervention is to cut scenes without Isabella in them. She also said that the technique of having different actors play Isabella encourages the participants to make use of a shared part to represent an ethics of solidarity. She also addressed how these practice methods can be adapted to a classroom, through power balance exercises and allowing students to creatively engage through offering opportunities to adapt and intervene through exercises such as blackout poems. The takeaway is the same, to constantly ponder what it would mean for this to truly be Isabella’s story.

The second panelist was Dr Victoria Sparey (Exeter). She spoke of the interventions used in an undergraduate module called Rethinking Shakespeare. The module is designed to think about Shakespeare in terms of it being problematic, with particular focus on King Lear, As You Like It, and Taming of The Shrew. Students unpack these three Shakespeare plays and their meanings within meaning within historical and cultural contexts beginning with creating a word cloud of their existing understanding of Shakespeare, where words such as “universal,” “timeless truths” etc. inevitably appear. They then delve into the plays themselves, and Dr Sparey talked about the surprise expressed by students encountering the misogyny in a play such as The Taming of the Shrew for the first time. This makes them want to know more and engage with how this is problematic and what might be done. When teaching King Lear, Dr Sparey spoke of the classroom discussions that ensue when addressing the ableist tropes within the play, and of an exercise the students undertake where they are asked to edit the last 30 lines of King Lear. It results in a destabilisation of ideas about Shakespeare as that unquestionable and fixed figure, which is represented in the way the word cloud at the end of the module contains words such as “problematic” and “ableist.”

The third speaker, Dr Naomi Howell addressed the race element present in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. She spoke of the resistance that is raised, even from celebrated scholars, whenever Cleopatra is cast as a non-white person, and that it often invites criticisms of pandering and is seen as a case of racial concerns trumping acting ability. Within the classroom, this leads to discussions of how Shakespeare’s plays might then be less universal and raises many conflicting ideas about race and  of blackness. This helps create a space to think about how to untangle some of the present-day assumptions that are intertwined, often implicitly, in how we think about race and gender.

Professor Philip Schwyzer, the next panelist, addressed the teaching of The Merchant of Venice. The classroom seminar focuses specifically on issues of anti-Semitism, race, and sexuality in the play. The question is raised, whether the play deserves to be cancelled, and what cancellation is in the first place. Students are asked to consider whether cancel culture is a real thing and what it means. The students’ definition often differs from the popular definition of calling out a person or institution for racist or bigoted behavior and refusing to engage with them since. What cancel culture means for the students is if the person or institution acknowledges the failures, is willing to apologise and make amends, and they are still “cancelled.” The question is then raised, does The Merchant of Venice deserve to be cancelled, one way or the other? The racism in the play is not integral and Portia’s racist lines about the Prince of Morocco can easily be cut. The argument that is raised then, is whether removing the lines feels like deception, almost like an attempt by a celebrity deleting problematic tweets, hoping not to be found out. So then the question becomes, whether The Merchant of Venice can apologise and make amends, i.e. can it be performed in its original form for entertainment and profit? The students have a debate on this followed by a vote. While the vote follows a fairly predictable outcome, the larger question being debated is whether a play has a right to be performed just because it is by Shakespeare. Which leads to the understanding that rewriting the play in any way, for instance by bringing Shylock back at the end, is not just a nod to “wokeness” but an acknowledgement that the play demands some resolution of its anti-Semitism. Professor Schwyzer ended on a thought-provoking question, as to how long even this confrontation and adaptation would make sense, and as to whether we simply need to stop performing or engaging with the play itself as Shakespeare wrote it.

The last speaker was Professor Ayesha Mukherjee, who spoke of her AHRC funded project called Famine Tales from India and Britain. She spoke of intertwining Shakespeare with contemporary economic and ecological concerns, especially famine and food insecurity. The historical links between Shakespeare plays and famine were explained by Professor Mukherjee, she described how her project considers whether the plays were simply archaic in that they respond to a historically specific moment of particular food crises which were no longer relevant, or whether this historical engagement itself offers ways of thinking through current concerns about food insecurity, ecological anxieties, and environmental change. She worked with two groups of artists for this project, one a set of traditional scroll painters from a remote village in West Bengal, and the other, graphic artists from urban Calcutta. The artists produced 6 famine tales of food insecurity from early Modern India and Britain. Professor Mukherjee spoke of the detailed and frequently difficult conversations with the artists about Shakespeare, his times, his stories, and what these might mean for them. The first thing that she found noteworthy was how swiftly both groups of artists were able to grasp the historical realities of death and famine in Shakespeare’s time and were able to appropriate Shakespeare as a storyteller into a figure from their own culture, representing a poet and philosopher. This was particularly noteworthy in the scroll painters who were unable to read Shakespeare’s text in the original language, and even with the complex process of translation involved, what emerged was an extremely complex, intercultural, multilingual, intertextuality. It allowed the subtle voicing of the artists’ own ecological concerns through Shakespeare, by, for instance the merging of the Thames and the Ganges, and the blending of the urban and rural landscapes of early modern Britain and modern India. They were also able to bring in elements of the ongoing food crises raised by the pandemic. Professor Gagnier raised a Chinese aesthetic concept called sedimentation, which is when groups and cultures come into contact and they absorb and change and transform each other, and ended with how we were now thinking more and more about the sedimentation of Shakespeare in different cultures.


It was an engaging and though-provoking event, with several new and interesting viewpoints to consider especially for someone like me who is just getting started in the field. Of particular note was the discussion that followed, cut short only by time considerations. Questions included whether it was time to defund or even cancel Shakespeare altogether, and whether it was time to dissolve the literary and historical authority he still assumes in academic settings. An excellent event from IICE and certainly looking forward to more.



Introducing our 2021-22 Development Fund Grant Awardees

The International Institute for Cultural Enquiry (IICE) is delighted to announce the successful awardees of our 2021-2022 Development Fund Grant, designed to support challenge-leddisruptive and innovative research rooted in the Humanities and Social Sciences using interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approachesIICE Development Grants facilitate and pump-prime large-scale humanities-led research geared towards addressing global, national or regional issues focussing on their cultural dimensions, and to nurture and develop socially conscious partnerships across these varying scales. 

Our Development Fund will support a variety of exciting projects which explore vital subjects and methodological innovations, addressing, respectivelythe cultural dimensions of translation, nation and migrationthe modelling of live literary events as market disruptors to platform African literary productionthe tracing of animal and human interactions within indigenous (and non-indigenous) ontologiesthe archiving of marine ecosystems and ecological heritagethe understanding of decadence as political and cultural theoryand the networked transformation of the mining industry. Each project is truly interdisciplinary and collaborative at its core.  

Successful projects demonstrated a particular commitment to partnership, research excellence, potential for meaningful growth and innovative methodologies. All projects will contribute to the overall goals of IICE: the development of world-leading interdisciplinary research with deep, real cultural resonance for wider public benefit.  

Find out more about each of the successful projects below: 


Tracking Animals Through Time: Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage  

‘The earliest artistic representations created by humans were not depictions of people but of animals, or human-animal hybrids. For millennia, non-human animals have inspired human artists who have, together, created a deep-time iconographic record of human-animal-environment relationships reaching back to the Palaeolithic. Changing attitudes to the natural world and shifts in biodiversity are charted through this iconography, tracking where extinct species once lived, and where/when novel animal species appeared. Animal representations – in the form of rock art, wall paintings or even modern street signs – are therefore an important part of global bio-cultural heritage, while also providing vital information for the preservation of future biodiversity. However, this heritage is fragile and is coming under increasing threat from climate change, from cultural change, from the unintended consequences of international development and even from heritage managers themselves.   

This pump-priming project brings together researchers from across the Arts-Humanities-Sciences spectrum to digitally record animal representations in 6 countries (Kazakhstan, Colombia, Norway, South Africa, Sudan and Namibia). The value of these iconographic records will be considered by an interdisciplinary, international team to investigate their fluctuating cultural significance.  

By concentrating on the cultural and social dimensions of signs and symbols, and animal-human interactions within indigenous (and non-indigenous) ontologies, the following themes will be addressed: Human Rights and Global Justice; Transformative Creativity; Cultural Policy, Exchange, and Participation. The project will address complexities of biodiversity change and extinction, ‘green gentrification’, the mechanisation of climate change disaster relief for capitalist gain, reclamation of animals as a symbol of national identity and beyond, whilst simultaneously capturing and preserving digital records of animals and their iconographic depictions, which are as much a part of humanity’s heritage as Stonehenge or the Colosseum.  The research will be truly interdisciplinary, truly global, and truly collaborative, leading to further large-scale and innovative projects and international partnerships. 

Dr Jamie Hampson – Heritage 

Prof. Naomi Sykes  – Archaeology 

Prof. Alan Outram – Archaeology 

Prof. Jose Iriarte – Archaeology 

Dr Carly Ameen – Archaeology 

Dr Rebekah Welton – Theology & Religion 

Dr Angela Cassidy – Sociology, Philosophy & Anthropology 

Dr Helen John – Theology & Religion 

Dr Sean Doherty – Archaeology 

Dr Mark Robinson – Archaeology 

Dr Iwona J. Kozieradzka-Ogunmakin – Archaeology 


Strandlines: Creating Cultural Archives of the Marine Environment  

‘The ultimate objective of the ‘Strandlines’ project is to establish an Open Access archive of cultural artefacts (documentary, interview, material) relating to Britain’s marine environment, with particular attention to the South West region, and the people who live and work within it. Its long-term objective is to provide a permanent, open-source, collection of qualitative data relating to the marine environment and the cultures, economies and histories circulating around it. 

At the heart of this project is a firm commitment to the importance of cultural archives to our understanding of marine environmental change, and the wider social and political contexts in which that change takes place and it is understood. Beyond that, however, is the knowledge based in the empirical research of both collaborators of the potential future importance to a range of stakeholders of qualitative data and oral and written testimony in understanding the history of marine eco-systems. The concept of a cultural archive thus looks in multiple directions, potentially integrating the historical and biological sciences, while at the same time rethinking the uses of the past in the present and the future. Structurally, this will also be an outward-facing project that acknowledges the wider public importance of cultural archives and ecological heritage for coastal communities. 

The ‘Strandlines’ project is intended from the outset to illustrate, and develop, the value of cultural and historical archives to work both within the ecological science and marine policy sectors and to local communities and cultural organisations. Both applicants are firm believers in the necessity and value of culturally informed approaches to understanding change in coastal economies and cultures, as well as the vital importance of environmental knowledge. The ‘Strandlines’ project will be co-led and will aim to speak across disciplines as it continues to evolve, developing not only resources, but asking new questions that can meaningfully integrate interdisciplinary perspectives around the cultural milieu of marine environments. ‘

Dr Timothy Cooper  History 

Dr Ruth Thurstan – Biosciences  


The Politics of Decadence 

‘The complex of ideas associated with ‘decadence’ has a long history, from classical Greece and Rome to contemporary far-right groups. Decadence, understood as the deleterious effects of time and processes of change on an object, has obvious implications for politics and political thought. The possibility of decay in the frameworks of communal life, whether the state, society, nation, or civilization, has represented both a source of anxiety and a theoretical problem since the development of self-conscious political analysis in classical antiquity. 

This project is innovative: it will take decadence seriously as a political and cultural theory rather than treating it just as a rhetorical trope or aesthetic concept, developing an explicit theoretical framework and then applying this to the transhistorical and comparative study of political thought and rhetoric over a 2500 year period, considering not only the European tradition but similar lines of thought in other cultures.  

This enterprise would be impossible without collaborative inter- and multi-disciplinary research, not only bringing together the different heuristic approaches of the history of ideas, political theory, literary studies and classical reception but also drawing on social psychology to explore the appeal of such cultural concepts empirically. The project aims not only to analyse and interpret decadence as a historical phenomenon but to address the pressing issue of its deployment as a trope in right-wing rhetoric and populist movements across the globe and the nature of its appeal. The project will involve collaborative work with non-academic groups to develop the impact of its findings. ‘

Prof. Neville Morley – Classics and Ancient History  

Dr Kate Hext – English  

Dr Joseph Sweetman – Psychology  


Africa Writes – Exeter 2022: Networks & Exchanges 

‘This project explores the ways in which live literature events can generate new audiences and markets for African literary production, as well as enabling new creative productions and collaborationsKate Wallis and Malcolm Richards will work together to curate and produce an Africa Writes – Exeter festival weekend in February 2022, which will combine digital, physical and hybrid events, and place particular emphasis on modelling and better understanding the creative exchanges enabled through live literature events and engaging young people (aged 16 to 24) in conversations around African literary production. It employs innovative interdisciplinary methodologies to disrupt the historic unequal power structures of global/postcolonial cultural production and engagement and create increased visibility and opportunities for African and African diaspora creatives. As such, it is a strong fit with IICE’s commitment to challenge-led research that works through regional, national, and international collaboration, and towards social justice. 

Wallis and Richards began working together in 2020 through the Exeter Decolonising Network (EDN), and through the Education Incubator project ‘Decolonial Knowledge Production and Anti-Racist Pedagogies: Building a Cross-Disciplinary Community of Practice’ co-produced with Student Fellows a series of events, workshops, publications and a film. Out of this initial collaboration, they began collaborating to explore shared interests in conversations and engagement around African and African diaspora literary production, co-producing the launch of Louisa Adjoa Parker’s poetry collection She Can Still Sing and a series of workshops around nature writing aimed at young people in Exeter and Kigali. Africa Writes would enable a more sustained and robust development of this organically evolved collaborative working practice. 

This project forms part of the larger research project ‘African Literary Production: Networks and Exchanges,’ an anchor project for Exeter’s City of Literature programme which aims to expand creative writing and creative industry connections between south-West England and the African continent. Working together in this way towards Africa Writes – Exeter’s first physical and hybrid events, allows experimentation with novel approaches to staging and reflecting on creative conversations around African literary production, drawing on research expertise from beyond literary studies, publishing studies, language and linguistic forms, and embedding decolonial methodologies, dialogic theories and education in this project. Beyond employing innovative interdisciplinary methodologies, but as a part of its co-collaboration, Africa Writes will engage with methodologies that are rooted in communities; in the works of experts from across the continent of Africa, and across the diaspora community. Through such a broad community approach, it is hoped that emergent, established and to-be-imagined methodologies can be applied. This work is intended to catalyse a larger research collaboration that builds out of this live event and project– modelling the relationality between live literature events, creative production, and literary engagement. ‘

Dr Kate Wallis – English and Film  

Malcolm Richards – Graduate School of Education  


People and Mining Network  

‘This project examines how mining connects disparate people, issues, politics, and economies across the globeTo keep within 2°C of warming, the world is increasingly turning to Green Technologies such as wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles. These technologies fuelling the race to Net Zero are heavily reliant on raw materials sourced from mining, generating unprecedented demand. As a society, we are now faced with the problem of how the materials needed to decarbonise can be sourced responsibly 

Mining is interwoven with human, political, cultural, and environmental challenges from a global to individual scale. The largest of these is widely regarded as mining’s social and cultural relationships. Predominantly, tackling these issues, and learning from best practice, happens in silos. This perpetuates difficulties with communicating between disciplines and precludes creative or disruptive responses and learning. Mining operations present complex, multi-scalar challenges impacting the environment, politics, economy and health and livelihoods of people affected by it. Understanding and responding to these challenges needs much greater interdisciplinary collaboration and connection between academics and practitioners.  

People and Mining seeks to create space for such conversations, and between 2018 and 2020 ran monthly interdisciplinary research seminars on the Penryn campus. At a UK level raw materials are rising up the policy agenda with a recent debate in Parliament on critical mineral supply chains, and the potential for the UK to lead discussion on responsible mineral sourcing at COP26 meetings later this year. Now launched as a digital space it consolidates partnership between Camborne School of Mines and Politics Penryn alongside an external partner and international development non-profit organisation Pact (Pact Global UK CiO) and their Mines to Markets programme.  

This research network is a first of its kind in this sphere, and is an inclusive and accessible space for academics, practitioners, policymakers, and students to engage with state-of-the-art research and debate in an international forum. People and Mining is a unique, interdisciplinary, and trailblazing platform within the mining space that creates space to remove the entrenched silos, welcoming all voices and developing regional, national, and international partnerships with participants and partners from Europe, The Americas, Asia, and Africaspanning Academia, Industry and Development. With these participants and partnerships, People and Mining will facilitate wide-ranging, pertinent conversations, needed to bring a much-needed transformation of the mining industry and its social and cultural relationships. Such collaboration is the only way to tackle pressing human and environmental challenges associated with natural research extraction .’

Dr Deborah McFarlane – Politics 

Katie Smith  – Cambourne School of Mines 

Mr Rowan Halkes – Mining 

Prof. Patrick Foster  Geology and Mining 

Frances Well  – Cambourne School of Mines 


Translation, Nation, Migration  

‘Translation, nation, migration brings together researchers from History, Modern Languages, English and Film Studies, Anthropology, Classics, and Drama, at Exeter, and at a range of European institutions, including KU Leuven, Namur, Liege, Leiden, Geneva, NUI Galway, and Cambridge.  Using innovative methodologies from across the Humanities, we seek to explore the cultural dimensions of translation, broadly conceived, both in its historical contexts and in contemporary society. In its transnational, transdisciplinary approach, the project approaches translation as a form of migration and a product of the movement of people, texts, and objects, with the potential to relate to the experiences of marginalised groups facing the challenges associated with migration in contemporary society.  

Our project has cultural enquiry at its heart: we aim to illuminate further the cultures of the past, and the experiences of past peoples; we also seek to connect this work with the cultures and experiences of the present and future, through creative cultural practices and an exploration of people’s experience (lived and performed) of the relationship between language, migration, and identity.  We trace not only the development of ‘difference’ and the connection between vernacular language and cultural identity but think more widely about shared heritage (European and its Global relations; Classical, in its broadest sense) and seek to find ways to use this understanding to unite social groups through the arts and creative industries.   

This project is founded in interdisciplinary research into translation in the medieval and early modern periods: translation between languages, across space and time, and from one form or medium to another.  We are working to achieve a deeper understanding of how translation helped construct identities – regional, national, or proto-national, ethnic, linguistic, and supra-national – and the ways in linguistic and literary translations reflected the migration of people, objects, and texts around the European continent and beyond.  

We also hope to bring this historically focused research into dialogue with the contemporary challenges posed by migration and the polarising effects of identity politics.  We aim to use humanities-based approaches to develop practical ways to respond to these challenges, and to disrupt the traditional model of humanities public engagement, by using our engagement activities to shape our ongoing research agenda. ’

Dr Freyja Cox Jensen – History 

Dr Helena Taylor – Modern Languages and Cultures  

New Podcast Episode: Professor Christine Robbins discusses Development Fund Project ‘Fragile Faiths’

In the third and final episode of our IICE Development Fund podcast series, Professor Rob Gleave (RG), the director of the Institute, speaks to Professor Christine Robbins (CR) about the Development Fund project Fragile Faiths, which examines processes of continuity and change in the ‘fragile faiths’- a term here applied to certain ethnoreligious groups violently displaced by war, placing their cultural survival in doubt- with essential participation from community members as researchers and partners. The podcast episode explores how the project aims to promote cultural preservation in the diaspora through shared dialogue and policymaking, where deemed appropriate, and to share community strategies for managing cultural change whilst preserving identity.  

It must be noted that this episode was recorded in March 2021, prior to the ‘Fragile Faiths in Dialogue: Heritage Loss in Endangered Communities’ workshop, which was held on zoom, 22 June 2021. This restricted workshop focused on three endangered religious communities – Yezidis, Mandaeans and Syrian Christians – who have suffered displacement, genocide and ethnic/religious cleansing, and who face an uncertain future in exile or attempting to rebuild in an insecure homeland. A panel of members of the Yezidi, Syrian Christian and Mandaean communities briefed attendees and a small audience of NGOs, government organisations and parliamentarians on common concerns about cultural loss and their requests for action in safeguarding these ‘fragile faiths’ for the future. Whilst the interview does not cover the workshop itself, it holds valuable insights into the motivations and details of a vital Development Fund project.  

Listen to the podcast here or read the full interview transcript below.  


There is just one week remaining to submit a proposal to our internal call for this year’s IICE Development Fund Projects- To find out more and apply, download and complete the 2021-22 IICE Development Fund Guidance with Application form. All applications must be submitted using the form provided. Please submit by email to . The deadline for Proposals is 09:00 on 6th September 2021.

Interested applicants can discuss their ideas with Professor Rob Gleave, International Institute for Cultural Enquiry ( before applying.


RG: Hello, you’re listening to a podcast from the International Institute for Cultural Enquiry, based at the University of Exeter. My name is Rob Gleave and I’m director of the Institute. The Institute supports interdisciplinary teams of researchers working in cultural enquiry in their engagement with partner organisations outside the University. 

In this podcast, Professor Christine Robbins of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (Kurdish Studies) at the University of Exeter discusses the project Fragile Faiths in which she and Professor Emma Loosely, also of the University of Exeter (Theology), explore ways in which the experience of small religious groups in the Middle East might be better understood by policymakers. 

I should add: normally we will be able to record these podcasts in the Digital Humanities Studio on campus, but because of the current lockdown we are doing this from our own homes with our own equipment, so the sound quality may not be as we would like. 

So apologies for that, but in any case, I hope you’ll be able to enjoy her description of a highly rewarding and important collaboration that she’s been involved in with members of these small faith groups and with policymakers. 



RG: Well hello everybody, my name is Rob Gleave and I’m director of the International Institute for Cultural Enquiry at the University of Exeter, and I’m here today with Professor Christine Robbins who works in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University and was one of the recipients of the Institute’s Development [Project] grants. Her project is called Fragile Faiths.  Continue reading “New Podcast Episode: Professor Christine Robbins discusses Development Fund Project ‘Fragile Faiths’”