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Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Brexit and the Democratic Intellect

13th January 2017, 14:00 to 14th January 2017, 13:00, Anne Galbraith Boardroom, Durham Law School, Dr Simon Grimble (Durham University), Professor Peter Robinson (Reading University), Professor Gerald Dawe (Trinity College, Dublin), Liam McHugh-Russell (European University Institute),


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, supported by the Institute of Advanced Study and the Department of English Studies, 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

The maximum number of participants is 30: please email simon.grimble@durham.ac.uk if you would like to confirm a place.

Contact simon.grimble@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.

Contact simon.grimble@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.