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Ustinov College

Cafe Politique


Ustinov Café Politique provides an accessible platform to students and staff of all disciplinary backgrounds and all levels of awareness interested in informing themselves and engaging in discussions of current political relevance affecting our lives today, in the open and informal environment of Ustinov College. Ustinov Cafe Politque take place 3 or 4 times every term from about 6pm to 7.30 and covers a variety of themes, attracting a wide variety of speakers.

Please join us at the Fisher House Cafe, Ustinov College. The Cafe Politique is free and open to all.

Contact ustinov.cafepol@durham.ac.uk for more information.

Look for us on Facebook Cafe Politique http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/166972287687/.


“Not only did I get the opportunity to meet fantastic people as part of the Café Politique team, but I met a significant number of politically minded individuals at events. People would come up to me and ask how they could get involved with the Café Politique in the future, then naturally we would discuss the subject of the event. Whether it was Obama's legacy, terrorism, enlargement of the EU it was interesting to get a whole range of opinions. Even meeting people who disagree with one's point of view was intriguing, providing good quality discussion over political issues.”

Robert Fisher (MA International Relations)

UK General Election 2015 - Meet the Candidates

Thursday 30 April

Not interested in politics? Not sure who to vote for? Come along and we'll change your mind, or help you decide, because politics affects your future. Have you got issues you'd like to discuss, questions you'd like to raise, well come and listen to what the parliamentary candidates for Durham have to say on local, national and international issues relevant to us all. For more information please contact ustinov.cafepol@durham.ac.uk


Is the Russian Bear marauding Europe?

Friday 6th March 2015

With an ever increasing death toll in Ukraine, a brittle European-brokered truce, a heightening sense of insecurity in the Baltic and Caucus regions and NATO pushing for more control in Eastern Europe, we seem to have entered a new era of Russian-Western relations. The EU talk on a ‘strategic relationship’ with its biggest neighbour, and the American offer to ‘reset’ diplomatic relations are long gone. Vladimir Putin’s objectives set 15 years ago – prosperity, the rule of law and westward integration – have now been replaced with a rhetoric that intimately interlinks national security with maintaining its “Near Abroad” as vassal regardless of costs. But is this shift in Russia’s behaviour embedded in a historical will to challenge the Western hegemony? What will be the legacy of the Putin Doctrine and how will this change the country’s relations with the West, and the current world order?


Crowdsourcing a Constitution: The Icelandic Experiment in the Aftermath of the 2008 Economic Crisis

Thursday 5th March

After the financial crash that wrecked the island's economy in 2008, Icelanders took to the streets with pots and pans to demand a new political and economic order. Their wish was granted in the form of a new, 'crowdsourced' constitution, drafted by a Constitutional Council whose members were ordinary citizens. In October 2012, Icelanders accepted the draft in a landslide referendum. Yet to date, the Icelandic parliament has not passed it. As part of Café Politique we show and discuss the film "Blueberry Soup: How Iceland changed the way we think about the world" (Wilma's Wish Productions; Directed by Eileen Jerrett), which documents this not-well-known-story of grassroots constitutionalism.

What can we learn from the Icelandic constitutional experiment? Does the use of wikis and social media allow for a more deliberative constitutional process? Would this work in larger and more heterogeneous societies than Iceland?


Reflecting on Obama's Legacy: Expectations vs. Reality

Thursday 26th February

In the closing years of their administration, a president's mind often shifts to thinking about his legacy. Unsurprisingly therefore so do the thoughts of historians, journalists and others. Indeed, the New York Times Magazine recently published an article entitled "53 Historians Weigh In on Barack Obama's Legacy," which gave many in both academia and the media the opportunity to ponder precisely this question. So taking up the mantle, that is the challenge that also confronts our speakers. Thinking about his legacy, the question seems to be was President Obama really transformative, as he hoped in 2008, or has it been a case of too many expectations and too many disappointments? What will his legacy be? Of course as the majority of historians concluded, as the first African-American President he has secured a unique place in history. Is it really that simple, how do health care, foreign policy, economic recession, war and a plethora of other things fit into an already complex picture, and more than that, is transformational leadership still possible?

Cafe Politique - Reflecting on Obama's Legacy


Islam, Radicalisation and Terrorism: Instability and Uncertainty in the Middle East

17th February 2015

The modern Middle East is racked by conflict and warfare. The conflict that has dominated the twenty-first century so far has been the ‘War on Terror’, and yet despite the resources poured in to fight it and the loss of life the threat is still very much apparent. From Baghdad to Benghazi terrorist groups and armed factions have committed atrocities and threatened the stability of the entire region in the name of Islam. The horrors of which have recently been apparent in many ‘Western’ countries, with attacks in New York, London and Paris.

Though ISIS is the main focus of news stories currently with the focus being on the threat it poses to the ‘West’, its vast resources and its proclamation of an ‘Islamic Caliphate’ spanning Iraq and Syria, it is still important to examine the threat posed more broadly. The threat posed by Al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and other states in the region has also increased. Our speakers will examine the threats posed by these terrorist groups, how the ‘West’ is responding to the challenge and what the future holds for the Middle East.

Islam, Radicalisation and Terrorism: Instability and Uncertainty in the Middle East


US-China Relations: Co-existence or Conflict?

Thursday 29th January

Fisher House, 6pm

If the 20th century was dominated by the US and the Soviet Union, it seems likely that the 21st will be dominated by the US and China, as the largest and second largest economies. Indeed, based on purchasing power parity (PPP), according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), for the first time in more than 140 years, the US has lost the title of the world's largest economy, it has been stolen by China – this is the current context of US-China relations. President Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” suggests that the US recognises China’s importance and further, their recent agreement on climate change indicates a willingness to work together. But what explains this recent move towards co-operation, and is it really that simple? From a variety of perspectives, political, economic and strategic, the speakers will analyse the US-China relationship, is it one of co-existence or conflict?

US-China Relations: Co-existence or Conflict?


In the Queue for the EU

Thursday 20th November 2014

6pm, Fisher House

Is the stability in the Balkan region guaranteed? The economic crisis which has affected the Eurozone since 2008 has challenged the future of the European Union. On the background of decreasing solidarity, EU membership for the four Balkan candidate countries (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) has become a distant prospect.

Our speakers will address the dialogue between the European Union and the Balkans and the extent to which the EU affords a potential security crisis in its own backyard.

Café Politique panel: In the queue for the EU