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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Brexit and the Democratic Intellect

13th January 2017, 14:00 to 14th January 2017, 13:00, Anne Galbraith Boardroom, Durham Law School

This two-day workshop examined the role of intellectuals and 'experts' in light of the Brexit vote. Papers and poems presented at the workshop are freely available via Research English At Durham.

The result of the EU referendum raises many questions about the future of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as well as about the future of the European Union itself. This symposium will question the relation between the result and the culture and society that produced it: in particular, it will examine the kinds of 'democratic intellect' that have been present or absent in both the campaign and in the wider history of this society. This will involve the analysis of the words and actions of elected representatives, but also of British and EU citizens more generally: particularly, in a university context, the words and actions of academics, but also of writers, artists, intellectuals and members of the public. If, as Michael Gove MP stated during the campaign, 'people in this country have had enough of experts', then where does this leave the position of informed, critical intelligence? At the same time, in a post-Iraq, post-crash UK, scepticism about establishment claims on expert knowledge could be said to be entirely justified. The discussion will also be situated in relation to the long history of the United Kingdom and its 'unwritten constitution.' Did, for example, the process of democratic renewal that could be said to have taken place in Scotland since devolution allow for a more detailed, more sophisticated debate to take place there, even despite the fact that the same processes of deindustrialisation and rising inequality have characterised the whole of the UK? Are Scottish political figures able to embody a 'democratic intellect' in a way that is (or has become?) alien to an English elite? Or does that kind of thinking end with another unhelpful simplification? The symposium will examine these and related questions.

Friday 13 January

2 pm Simon Grimble (Durham), 'This is a story about you': Brexit, inequality and the democratic intellect

3.30 - 4 - coffee

4 pm Liam McHugh-Russell (European University Institute, Florence), Elephants in the Room: Brexit, cosmopolitanism and economic integration

5.30 Poetry reading (Peter Robinson and Gerald Dawe) followed by reception

Saturday 14 January

9.45 Gerald Dawe (Trinity College, Dublin), An outsider looks at Brexit

11.15 -11.45 - coffee

11.45 Peter Robinson (Reading), Respecting a decision: the experts, the people, and the politicians*

(*all titles are provisional).

The maximum number of participants is 30: please email if you would like to confirm a place.

Contact for more information about this event.

Related Links


Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.

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