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University College

Durham Castle Lecture Series

The Durham Castle Lecture Series is devoted to bringing high-profile speakers to Durham who can contribute to academic and public discussion on issues of significance. Each of the specially invited presenters has made an outstanding contribution over a sustained period of time.

The lectures take place in the stunning setting of Durham Castle's Great Hall. With a maximum capacity of 250, the Great Hall provides a unique, historic location.

All of the lectures in the series are free and open to all. Some events requre a free ticket, please see the individual lecture listings for information.

Unless otherwise advertised:

- Doors open from 7.30pm.
- Lectures begin at 8pm, with questions for the speaker at 9pm.

Upcoming Lectures

5 December 2018 - Dr Helen Hester

At Home in the Future: Domestic Architecture and Post-Work Imaginaries

The home represents a crucial (and often overlooked) example of material hegemony. It can be understood as contributing to the solidification of governance through the subtle closing off of options and by the production of generalised consent to an existing order. But there are many possible forms of domestic arrangement – both spatial and relational – aside from the atomized and too often depoliticized single family dwelling. Indeed, it is important that we understand the built environment and its infrastructures not only as a means for registering and consolidating dominant political positions, but also as a potential site for intervention and transformation.
In this lecture, I will draw upon post-work politics and social reproduction theory to argue for a wide-ranging re-conception of what “the home” might mean. Looking at previous feminist experiments with living arrangements, as well as ongoing attempts to dis-embed domestic imaginaries, I suggest that the collectivization of both labour and facilities – via spatial interventions at the level of infrastructure, architecture, and urban design – could enable the reduction of reproductive drudgery. Opening up the geographies and infrastructures of reproductive labour, I argue, may be one way of contributing to the construction of a new kind of (explicitly feminist) post-work common sense.

Dr Helen Hester is Associate Professor of Media and Communication at the University of West London

More information


23 January 2019 - Professor Linda Martin Alcoff

Sexual Subjectivity

This paper considers the larger aim of movements against sexual violence. I consider the focus on consent, and argue that this is inadequate as a way to demarcate harmful and harmless sex. I consider and criticize a trend toward libertarian approaches to sexualpractices. I develop a concept of sexual subjectivity, using the work of Foucault as well as others, to explore a more expansively pluralist, but normative approach to our sexual lives.

Linda Martín Alcoff is Professor of Philosophy at Hunter College, City University of New York.


6 February 2019 - Sir Nicholas Serota

A Creative Future: the Ambition of the Durham Commission

In February 2017, Nicholas Serota took up his post as Chair of Arts Council England for the period through to 31 January 2021. Previously he was Director of Tate between 1988 and 2017. During his directorship, Tate opened Tate St Ives (1993) and Tate Modern (2000, expanded in 2016), redefining the Millbank building as Tate Britain (2000). Tate also broadened its field of interest to include 20th century photography, film, performance and occasionally architecture, as well as collecting from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The national role of the gallery was further developed with the creation of the Plus Tate network of 35 institutions across Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


13 February 2019 - Professor Tamara Sonn

The Myth of Civilizations? Understanding Islam in Global Perspective

In 2018, Euro-America celebrated the centenary of the conclusion of the Great War, which they had to rename World War I because another one followed fast on its heels. Coincidentally, 2018 also marked the deaths of renowned Cold War historian Richard Pipes and the scholar who coined the phrase “clash of civilizations,” Bernard Lewis. This lecture suggests that today’s U.S.-led wars in Muslim-majority countries are, like World War II, residual effects of unfinished business in World War I. It challenges the framing of wars as ideological conflicts -- the “Cold War” against Communism, Global War on Terror -- and suggests that such framing deflects attention from the root causes of the conflicts, making their resolution all the more difficult. Just as neither fascism nor totalitarianism was defeated militarily, neither will terrorism be. The lecture concludes by suggesting more inclusive treatment of Afro-Eurasia history as an antidote for politically biased narratives.

Tamara Sonn is Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of the History of Islam at Georgetown University.


27 February 2019 - Professor Jacqueline Bhabha

Can We Solve the Migration Crisis?

Though the dramatic cross border movements into Europe of 2015 and 2016 have waned, large scale, irregular and dangerous mobility of distress migrants remains a critical political and human rights challenge today. With populist xenophobia in the ascendance and global inequality and conflict driving millions towards the global north, what rights respecting options exist? How can long-standing democratic commitments to humanitarian protection and non-discrimination be upheld?

Jacqueline Bhabha, JD, MsC is Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


6 March 2019 - Professor Mary Evans

Who Done It? Responsibility, Revenge and Retribution in the 21st Century: making a new moral order

We have known ( or suspected ) that those who are both guilty of what we define as crime and are also the most privileged are much more likely to escape punishment than others. This lecture addresses, through the reading of noir detective fiction, the ways in which this question is being considered. In it, we arguably find an understanding of collective guilt and redundant forms of sanction that question both the legitimacy and the relevance of criminal justice systems across Europe , a context where detective and crime writing are the most popular forms of fiction . Nevertheless there are interesting differences , particularly between specifically English detective fiction and that of other Europeans, which perhaps illustrate different relationships to collective definitions of morality.

Mary Evans is LSE Centennial Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

8 May 2019 - Professor Branko Milanović

Recent Trends in Global Income Distribution and their Political Implications

The talk will discuss the evolution in global income inequality and focus on its political implications; in particular, the rise of the middle class in Asia, income stagnation of the rich countries’ middle classes, migration as part of globalization, and the emergence of global plutocracy (global top 1 percent).

Branko Milanović is Visiting Presidential Professor at the Graduate Center - CUNY


3 June 2019 - Professor Peter Singer

Animal Liberation

Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and laureate professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Practical Ethics, Rethinking Life and Death, Ethics in the Real World and most recently: Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction, co-authored with Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek. He is the founder of the anti-poverty organisation The Life You Can Save.


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