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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.

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

The Durham Castle Lecture series has been made possible thanks to a generous gift from Santander Universities.

Upcoming Lectures

25 January - Professor Rosi Braidotti

Distinguished University Professor and Director of the Centre for the Humanities, Utrecht University

Posthuman, all too Human

This lecture will address the so-called ‘post-human’ turn in contemporary cultural theory in the light of three main considerations: firstly the shifting perception and understanding of ‘the human’ at the intersection of advanced technologies, philosophies of the subject and the Life sciences and secondly, the effects of globalization as a system that functions by instilling process of ‘timeless time’ and perverse, multiple de-territorializations that aim at capitalizing on the informational codes of all that lives. Thirdly, the impact of wars and conflicts in contemporary governmentality and the new forms of violence and discrimination they engender on a planetary scale. Last but not least, the lecture examines the implications of this historical context for transformative, affirmative politics in general and cultural practice in particular.

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8 February - Professor Timothy Garton Ash

Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford

'Free Speech Under Attack'

Wherever we look, from Turkey to Russia, in Egypt, China, Poland and now in the United States, free speech is under attack. The threats range from direct censorship and what Timothy Garton Ash has dubbed 'the assassin's veto' to more subtle ones, such as fake news, online echo chambers and filter bubbles. Yet the internet should give up unprecedented opportunities for people to express themselves and communicate freely 'regardless of frontiers', as Article 19 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights demands. Drawing on his path-breaking book Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World and the Oxford University Free Speech Debate project ( Timothy Garton Ash explores the transformed circumstances for free speech and what can be done to defend it.

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15 February - Yolanda Kakabadse

President of World Wildlife Fund International

The state of the planet: our course towards a resilient future

The planet is entering an era of unchartered territory in its history in which humanity is shaping changes on the Earth–where human activities are causing natural systems to collapse. August 2016 - in less than eight months, humanity had used nature’s budget for the entire year. Each year this date--where we have depleted our annual natural capital--gets earlier. How is it possible to use more from nature than nature can provide?

Global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles have already declined by more than half since 1970. The world is wiping out species populations and natural systems that allow human populations to survive and prosper. Destruction of natural living spaces that are the sources of water, food, energy and materials essential for wildlife and human existence is a massive threat, as are overexploitation of wildlife and climate change.

But we have the tools to fix this problem and we need to start using them if we care about our own survival and prosperity. Yolanda argues that consumers, business and governments need to shift from short-term to long-term thinking that provides for lives worth living well into the future and discuss solutions that can slow and reverse the deepening slide and depletion of natural systems.

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20 February - Professor Jeffrey Sachs

University Professor and Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University

World Consciousness and Sustainable Development

The world is on a dangerous and unsustainable path regarding climate change, other environmental threats, and sociopolitical instability. In response, governments have adopted several high-level goals and objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the commitment to keep global warming to “well below 2-degree C.” Yet we are aware that our social and political systems are profoundly difficult to reorient. While we call for “rational” responses to global challenges, we too often face paralysis or even open conflict. I will discuss the challenges, and possible solutions, to create a global response commensurate with our declared objectives. My focus will be on fostering a “world consciousness” that at a global scale can effectively recognize challenges, adopt goals and targets, identify and test potential solutions, and choose collectively on actions to achieve the agreed goals. I will draw on my 16 years experience as senior UN advisor, and on analogies from the neuroscience of rationality at the level of the individual to develop concepts of collective rationality at the global scale.

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22 February - Dr Annie Gray

Writer, broadcaster, and resident food historian on BBC Radio 4's The Kitchen Cabinet

A Greedy Queen: Queen Victoria and her food

Meet Victoria. She's a morbidly obese 78 year old with an unhealthy relationship with food. Forced by her hated mother onto a diet intended to impose discipline and control as a child, and used to taking refuge in food as a means of control, as an adult she eats what she wants and as much as she wants. Money is no problem, and Victoria has lived most of her life eating seven course meals twice a day, plus a generous breakfast and cake in the afternoon. Her doctors worry about her, especially about her chronic indigestion, and her acquaintances - for the most part not exactly friends - urge her to take more care of herself. Victoria ignores them all. For Victoria, christened Alexandrina Victoria, is Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Empress of India. And Queen Victoria, in 1897, still has the constitution of an ox, and an appetite to match.

Covering childhood, marriage, widowhood and old age, and well as kitchens, cooks, and cooking, this lecture is part-biography, part-investigation. Drawing on brand new research, illustrated with rarely-seen pictures, and packed with information, as well as often touching stories, it will give you an entirely new perspective on Britain’s most famous monarch as well as the food and drink of the period named after her.

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8 March - Professor Carlos Frenk

Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology, Durham University

Everything from Nothing, or how our universe was made

Cosmology confronts some of the most fundamental questions in the whole of science. How and when did our universe begin? What is it made of? How did galaxies and other structures form? There has been enormous progress in the past few decades towards answering these questions. For example, recent observations have established that our universe contains an unexpected mix of components: ordinary atoms, exotic dark matter and a new form of energy called dark energy. Gigantic surveys of galaxies reveal how the universe is structured. Large supercomputer simulations can recreate the evolution of the universe in astonishing detail and provide the means to relate processes occuring near the beginning with observations of the universe today. A coherent picture of cosmic evolution, going back to a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, is beginning to emerge. However, fundamental issues, like the identity of the dark matter and the nature of the dark energy, remain unresolved.

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26 April - Professor Michael Walzer

Professor Emeritus, Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University

Global Government and the Politics of Pretending

In this lecture, I will try to answer two questions. First, what sort of global order should we be working for? I mean to give an unconventional answer to that question, which I won't anticipate here. Second, what are the currently existing agencies of global governance and how well are they working? Not very well, I will argue, and then suggest some paths toward improvement.

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10 May - Professor Stefan Collini

Emeritus Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature, University of Cambridge

Mind your language: the vocabulary of higher education today

The far-reaching changes in the character of Britain’s universities in recent decades have been accompanied by - in part legitimated by, perhaps even facilitated by - a striking transformation in the everyday vocabulary of academic life. This lecture does not aim to make fun of various neologisms or to lament the infelicities of official documents (well, maybe a little). Instead, it asks what these linguistic shifts tell us about the real nature of the ‘reforms’ of higher education and how they relate to more fundamental shifts in society and social attitudes. The aims and objectives of the lecture do not include quantifiable deliverables; customers are recommended to bring their own supplies of salt.

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Watch the Durham Castle Lecture Series: Video Archive

Cutting Edge at Castle

Durham Castle Museum website