A seminar with Professor John Eade and Dr Ben O'Loughlin

Presented by the CRN and the Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney

Date: Wednesday 21 March
Time: 12-2pm
Venue: Gallery, Female Orphan School, Parramatta Campus, UWS


All welcome, including postgraduates


Prof John Eade, 'Reaping the whirlwind: Identity Politics, Minorities and the State'

This presentation will explore the move from anti-racism to identity politics and ethnicity in Britain during the last 30 years. Drawing on research undertaken on identity politics among British Bangladeshis in London's East End I will discuss the tensions between secular and Islamist activists in the context of multicultural events such as the Bengali New Year festival (Baishakhi mela) and the role played by the local and central state and global flows of people, information and capital in this rapidly gentrifying area of the 'global city'.

John Eade is Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Centre for Research on Nationalism, Ethnicity and Multiculturalism, Roehampton University, UK. He has published widely on Bangladeshi identity politics in London and urban studies, with recent books including Placing London (2000), Global Ethics and Civil Society (2005), and Understanding the City (2002).

Dr Ben O' Loughlin, 'Convincing claims? Democracy, representation, and security threats in contemporary Britain'

This paper charts the responses of British citizens to their politicians' representations of objects and identities in the 'war on terror'. Drawing on ethnographic-style data, it is argued that despite the existence of shared matters of concern such as Iraq and terrorism, the representations offered by the British government have often been too certain, fixed, and direct, making it difficult for citizens to comprehend or connect to these representations as meaningful and negotiable. This mode of representation veers towards what Latour calls 'fundamentalist', in contrast with a 'constructivist' mode of more contingent representations that enable politicians and citizens to take into account and be taken into account. The analysis suggests citizens respond to more fundamentalist claims in several ways. For some, the response has been antagonism, alienation and a lack of belief in the ability of democratic politics to arrive at responsible decisions on shared problems and concerns. For others, however, inadequate representative claims generate a hunger for more nuanced, complex representations, even acting as a spur for some to contest the claims through political engagement.

Ben O'Loughlin is Lecturer in International Relations, Royal Holloway College, University of London, UK. He is a researcher on the Shifting Securities project, with Marie Gillespie and others, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), investigating news cultures in Britain after the 2003 Iraq war. He is the co-author of Television and Terror: Conflicting Times and the Crisis of News Discourse (Palgrave, 2007).