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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Inventions of the Text Seminar Series

Inventions of the Text complements our Research Seminar series. Inventions is organised by a team of postgraduate researchers, and combines papers by academics from Durham and beyond with presentations by PhD students. Seminars run roughly every couple of weeks during term time, with around eight or nine events a year. After each seminar, attendees are welcome to socialise with the speaker(s) over dinner. They are generally for University staff and students, although sometimes open to the public.

Forthcoming Inventions of the Text Seminars

The Shape of Free Speech: Rethinking Liberal Free Speech Theory

31st January 2018, 17:30 to 18:30, Seminar Room, Hallgarth House, Prof. Anshuman A. Mondal (University of East Anglia)

How far should 'free speech' be permitted? Should people be allowed to express antisemitism or Islamaphobia? This Inventions of the Text seminar will debate these challenging questions.

Noting the apparent inconsistency in attitudes towards free speech with respect to antisemitism and Islamophobia in western liberal democracies, this paper works through the problem of inconsistency within liberal free speech theory, arguing that this symptomatically reveals an aporia that exposes the inability of liberal free speech theory to account for the ways in which free speech actually operates in liberal social orders. Liberal free speech theory conceptualizes liberty as smooth, continuous, homogeneous, indivisible, and extendable without interruption until it reaches the outer limits. This makes it difficult for liberal free speech theory to account for restrictions that lie within those outer limits, and therefore for the ways in which restraints, restrictions and closures are always-already at work within the lived experience of liberty, for it is these – and the inconsistencies they give rise to – that give freedom its particular texture and timbre in any given social and cultural context. The essay concludes with an alternative ‘liquid’ theory of free speech, which accounts for the ‘shaping’ of liberty by social forces, culture and institutional practices

Contact inventionsofthetext@gmail.com for more information about this event.


Past Inventions of the Text Seminars