Culture, Power and Politics

Spring / Summer 2019 Series

All Seminars 18:30 -20:30 

(These are all Tuesdays except June 19th, which is a Wednesday)

Ridley Road Market Bar, 49 Ridley Road, Dalston, London, E8 2NP

All free, all welcome, no advance booking

April 23rd 

Generation Left 

with Dawn FosterKeir Milburnand Lynne Segal 


The most reliable predictor of how a person was likely to vote in the 2017 UK General Election, or the 2016 Brexit referendum, or the 2016 US presidential election, was age. Is the generation gap now the definitive dividing line in contemporary politics? And what is a ‘generation’ anyway? How do historic events like the 2008 financial crisis produce distinctive ‘generational’ experiences? Is ‘generational politics’ just a reactionary frame way of looking at things? 

Representing 3 generations of activism and commentary, Dawn Foster, author of Lean Out, Keir Milburn, author of Generation LeftandLynne Segal, author of Out of Time: The Pleasures and The Perils of AgeingRadical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joyand many other works will discuss.

April 30th

The Deserving Rich? Elite Culture and the Myth of Meritocracy 

withAeron DavisandJo Littler 


What do the members of today’s ruling elite think they are doing, and why? What stories do they tell themselves, and us, to justify their right to rule? Why has almost every senior politician since the 1980s promised to increase ‘social mobility’, and why have they failed? 

Aeron Davis, author of Reckless Opportunists: Elites at the End of the Establishmentand Jo Littler, author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobilitywill discuss this and other issues in the class culture of modern Britain. 

May 7th

Digital Politics in the Twenty-First Century

With Alex Worrad-Andrews,  Paolo GerbaudoAmit S. Raiand  Emma Rees 


As the world moves online, politics does too. Despite anxieties about the dangers and limitations of ‘clicktivism’,  online organising has become an indispensable tool for actors on every part of the political spectrum: from independent activists to major political parties. Hacking, open-source development, mobile telephony, piracy and cryptography are indispensable tools for activists all over the world, and for individuals and communities facing power-imbalances of any kind.  What are the implications for democracy and citizenship in the 21st century, and what should we be doing about it? 

We’ll be discussing all this with Alex Worrad-Andrews, software-engineer and founder member of Common Knowledge (a workers cooperative dedicated to building digital infrastructure for grassroots non-representational politics), Paolo Gerbaudo, author of The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy; Amit S. Rai, author of Jugaad Time: Ecologies of Everyday Hacking in India; and Emma Rees, one of the founders and first national organisers of Momentum. 

May 14th

Whose Empowerment? Feminism, Neoliberalism and Nationalism 

With Sarah Banet-Weiserand Sara R. Farris


Once an insurgent movement against patriarchy, feminism now finds itself occupying a far more complex position in the world. Powerful institutions,  major corporations and almost all political parties – even the nationalist, xenophobic right – routinely pay lip-service to the goal of sexual equality. What are we to make of all this, and what remains to be done in the pursuit of women’s liberation? We’ll discuss these questions and more with Sara Banet-Weiser, author of Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny, and Sara Farris, author of In the Name of Women’s Rights: The Rise of Femonationalism

May 21st 

The People vs The Media: Power and Democracy in the Public Sphere 

With Natalie Fentonand Tom Mills 


The institutions of  the modern media are supposed to serve the public interest: entertaining, educating and informing to the betterment of all. We all know that isn’t how it works. So what can we do about it? How can we challenge the concentration of information in the hands of the 1%? What does democracy mean in an era of fake news and billion-user platforms controlled by single individuals? We’ll discuss these questions and many other with Natalie Fenton, author of Digital, Political, Radicaland Tom Mills,author of The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service. 

June 4th 

After Work: The Fight for Free Time

WithHelen Hesterand Nick Srnicek


Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the world of work has been the central political  battleground. What work is, who has to do it, who gets to do it and who gets rewarded for it are the most fundamental issues not just for trade-unionists and economists: but for feminists, artists, parents, teachers and, everyone else.  The reduction of the working week, the reduction of the dependence of workers on their wages, has been a central objective of progressive reform and revolutionary struggle throughout that period. Today, in an age of dual-income families and blurring boundaries between workplace and home, the question of what work gets done in the home, by whom and when – and of how to reduce the load for everyone – has never been more urgent. 

We’ll discuss the nature of work and social reproduction, and the possibilities of a future free from work, with Helen Hester, author of Xenofeminism, and Nick Srnicek, author of Platform Capitalism and Inventing the Future. 

June 11th 

The War on Drugs: Race, Class, Colonialism and the Politics of Pleasures

With Kojo KoramDebra Benita Shawand Jeremy Gilbert 


It is now a matter of historical record that when Nixon and his aides officially launched their ‘war on drugs’ in the late 1960s, their express intention was to criminalise black radicalism and the counterculture. But the link between racism and the drug war goes back much further than that: the prohibition of recreational drug use has been founded on explicit racism since the early 20th century. In a longer historical context, the story gets even weirder. The ‘opium wars’ of the mid 19th century were fought by Britain to forceChina  to accept imports of opium from British-controlled India. At the same time, generations of white bohemians have embraced drugs as a technology of self-transformation at least since the days of Coleridge and Byron. 

What are the implications of this history for understanding the politics of prohibition and drug use today? How does the fightback agains the ‘war on drugs’ intersect with the politics of Black Lives matter? What would a radical, rational and democratic approach to the use and regulation of drugs in the 21st century look like? We’ll discuss these and other issues with Kojo Koram, editor of The War on Drugs and the Global Colour Line, Jeremy Gilbert, author of Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism and Debra Benita Shaw, author of Posthuman Urbanism: Mapping Bodies in Contemporary City Space.

As our contribution to Antiuniversity Now 2019, June 15-22nd, we’ll have not one but two seminars this week

June 18th 

Vitruvian Mantology: Architecture and Posthuman Politics

With Debra Benita Shaw


Vitruvian Man, Leonardo’s perfectly proportioned human based on the recommendations of a Roman architect who thought that strong and stable (and beautiful) buildings would guarantee a strong and stable state, still provides the template for architectural design. What this suggests is not only that the built environment is designed to privilege able bodied white males but that architecture is, in itself, inherently political. This seminar will address the politics of space from the position of critical posthumanism in which Vitruvian Man stands for the exemplary human that nobody can approximate. If we entertain the idea that we have neverbeen human, then new possibilities emerge for thinking the politics of the social as it is constructed in urban space.

June 19th (WEDNESDAY)

Britain’s Nervous Breakdown: What is Actually Happening?

WithWill Daviesand Jeremy Gilbert   


What on Earth ishappening to British politics, culture and society? Has the Brexit crisis been the inevitable outcome of 40 years of decline, or a wholly avoidable consequence of incompetent governance, exacerbated by a few duplicitous millionaires? Is the internet a powerful new tool of democratic engagement, or is it just driving everyone crazy, spreading fake news and stoking paranoia? Have postmodern societies become completely ungovernable? And if they have, should we care? Is liberal democracy finished, and if not, is it worth trying to save? Is neoliberalism in a terminal phase, or is it more powerful than ever? Could we end up with our own version of Trump in power? Would it make things any worse if we did? 

These and other topics will be discussed by Will Davies, author of The Limits of Neoliberalismand Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the Worldand Jeremy Gilbert, author of Common Ground: Democracy and Collectivity in an Age of Individualism

July 2nd 

The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism

with Nick Couldry and Ulises Mejijas 


Just about any social need is now met with an opportunity to “connect” through digital means. But this convenience is not free-it is purchased with vast amounts of personal data transferred through shadowy backchannels to corporations using it to generate profit. Colonialism might seem like a thing of the past, but this book shows that the historic appropriation of land, bodies, and natural resources is mirrored today in this new era of pervasive datafication. Apps, platforms, and smart objects capture and translate our lives into data, and then extract information that is fed into capitalist enterprises and sold back to us. In their new book,  The Costs of Connection, Nick Couldry and Ulises Mejiasargue that this development foreshadows the creation of a new social order emerging globally-and it must be challenged. In this session they’ll present their diagnosis and their prescriptions for this dangerous new condition of ‘data colonialism’.