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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study


Despite COVID-19, the IAS plans to hold a full programme of virtual lectures and seminars. Further events will be added to this page as they are scheduled.

Seminar: The Slow University?

6th November 2013, 13:00 to 16:30, Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Palace Green, Matthew Griffiths, Dr Heather Mendrick, Dr Ruth Mueller and Chris Watson

A seminar organised in collaboration between: the School of Applied Social Sciences, the Ustinov Seminar Series and the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

The SLOW movement promotes a socio-cultural shift towards slowing down the pace of work, life and consumption and providing a counter narrative to processes of globalization that Hale, Held and Young (2013) write about in ‘Gridlock’. Carl Honoré's In Praise of Slowness, Geir Bethelsen’s World Institute of Slowness, Christopher Richard’s fictional website - as well as Slow Food, Citta SLow are all examples of change movements towards SLOW. SlOW and the related Transition town movement provide a counter to globalization and bring to the fore a focus upon the environment, urban life, producing and eating local products, environmental policy and sustainability. 

"The time has come to challenge our obsession with doing everything more quickly." -- Carl Honoré

The IAS recently promoted a number of research conversations on Time. This seminar takes this theme further and connects it with the forthcoming them of Emergence. What does it mean if we take a look at the University in relation to time, speed and SlOW? What new philosophies, practices and structures might emerge? Three speakers from three disciplines [Sociology, Education and Science] speak about the possibilities, challenges and Issues for SLOW in the context of the 21st Century University.

Matthew Griffiths, a poet and PhD student in the English Department at Durham and one of the team leaders of the Ustinov Seminar Series will open the event with a reading from his anthology: ‘How to be Late’. Matthew is in the final stages of a PhD on the poetics of climate change. His science fiction novel The Weather on Versimmon was published by Big Finnish in 2012.

Heather Mendrick writes that in academia we have long been invoked to do more but now we are getting targets and audits to do so and to get anywhere you have to run even faster. Similarly Ruth Mueller’s interest in slow science stems from the research she did for her PhD at the University of Vienna. It focused on the career aspirations and working practices of postdoctoral research fellows in the life sciences. "It's a complicated moment in their careers and they find themselves in a bottleneck, competing for the few senior positions that are available. They often end up in a loop of doing one postdoc after another. It all becomes about outpacing [their peers] and producing output." Luke Martell is currently designing a course and writing a book on Alternative Societies which includes the slow society as a theme. Luke will speak on whether slowness is what slow is really all about.


Matthew Griffiths is a poet and PhD student in the English Department at Durham and one of the team leaders of the Ustinov Seminar Series. Matthew will open the event in the final stages of a PhD on the poetics of climate change. His science fiction novel The Weather on Versimmon was published by Big Finnish in 2012.

Prof Luke Martell, Head of Sociology at Sussex -'Is slowness what slow is about?’ Luke is Professor of Political Sociology at Sussex University and is interested in socialism, alternative societies, social movements, protest, the marketisation of universities, and global politics.

Dr Heather Mendrick, Reader in Education, Brunel. Communication in the Age of fast Academia Heather is Reader in Education at Brunel University. She's interested in learning in the broadest sense and particularly in the influence of popular culture, gender and social class identities and the ways that people form relationships with mathematics and science. Her main current project, is an ESRC-funded collaboration with Kim Allen and Laura Harvey, on the role of celebrity in young people's classed and gendered aspirations, and she regularly blogs about this at

Dr Ruth Mueller, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Research Policy Institute, Lund University and Lecturer in Gender Studies, Biology & Science-Technology-Society, University of Vienna. Racing for what? Postdocs, academic careers and the question of pace.  Ruth Mueller is a postdoctoral fellow at the Research Policy Institute, Lund University, Sweden. Her inter-disciplinary background is Science & Technology Studies, Sociology, Gender Studies and Molecular Biology. Her research focuses on the relations between research policy, institutional frameworks and scientific work practices. Her interest in 'slow science' first developed in 2010 during a research stay at the Science & Justice Research Center, University of California Santa Cruz.

Chris Watson, former IAS Policy & Enterprise Fellow and Sound Artist, is a leading recorder of wildlife and natural phenomena. He makes performances, live sound installations and specialises in multi-channel works. At Durham he created 'The Sounds of Time' a sound installation to complement the Lindisfarne Gospels, composed of the sounds that St Cuthbert would have been surrounded by on Holy Island. Chris will lead a SLOW sound walk from Palace Green to Ustinov taking in the sounds of the riverbank.

Seminar Schedule - 1-2pm [Slow] LUNCH at the IAS on Palace Green.

2-4pm Speakers - 30 minutes each with 30 minutes for discussion.

4.30 - 5.30 SLOW Sound Walk with IAS Fellow and sound artist Chris Watson.

RSVP to Sheila Seal for the purposes of arranging lunch by 30th October 2013

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