Beyond the culture wars

The December East Midlands Salon is an introduction to the Academy of Ideas’ new series of ‘Letters on Liberty’. It is also a reprise of a discussion at the Buxton Battle of Ideas Festival. Philosopher, Jacob Reynolds, will discuss his Letter on Liberty Beyond the Culture Wars with historian, Nicholas Joseph. BUT all attendees can respond as the Jacob’s Letter on Liberty is available to buy for just £2 or you can download a copy for free! During the pandemic, public life came to a standstill. But long before lockdowns and viruses threatened the freedoms that we hold dear, there has been a problem with our belief in liberty.

Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the 21st century.

In his Letter, Jacob argues that the culture wars feature three key trends: the destruction of the private sphere, the moralisation of politics and the replacement of virtues with values. He argues that this hollowing out of politics must be challenged by a radical defence of freedom.

Join Jacob and Nicholas to examine why the culture wars have intensified, explore some of their key characteristics and ask whether we can transcend them. Are those who wish to fight the culture wars merely pining for a lost and dead culture, or is the task before us more radical than conservative? How do we build a future-orientated society where such foundational principles as liberty and universalism are taken seriously? Do we really live in a ‘fragile peace in a culture of fragments’ as philosopher John Gray suggests, or can we offer a more optimistic outlook?

Date time and venue: Wednesday 8 December at 6.30 PM (for 7 PM) in The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets and further details on Eventbrite

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Dante’s Hell – why a medieval fantasy still sizzles!

The East Midlands Salon returns with a discussion of the enduring legacy of Dante’s Inferno.

“Seven-hundred years on, the first part of the Divine Comedy continues to express a very human sense of justice…

The characters in the first part of the Divine Comedy have…made a lasting impression on generations of readers, along with the sheer poetry of the Comedy, even in translation from Dante’s native Florentine dialect. Perhaps that’s because, as well as writing in the everyday vernacular rather than the prestige language of Latin, Dante peopled the afterlife with many of his own contemporaries, as well as more celebrated figures from history and mythology. The result is that all are portrayed as realistic individuals, in graphic and often gory detail.”

Our speaker, Dolan Cummings, is the author of Gehenna: a novel of Hell and Earth (Lockdown Press, 2020) in which he replaces the Florentines condemned to hell with Glaswegians.

Dolan will be in conversation with one of our Salon organisers, Vanessa Pupavac, to start our discussion.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 11 November 2021 at 7 PM in the Parlour of The Brunswick Inn, Derby.

Tickets £3 from Eventbrite (or register here on Facebook and make a donation on the door).

A Battle of Ideas Festival Satellite event

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What is a citizen?

An East Midlands Salon discussion led by Vanessa Pupavac and Mladen Pupavac.

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Alchemy – a search for truth

Jo Herlihy discuss her book Alchemy: a search for truth

Our first Salon to be powered by Zoom. We have had many requests to made this discussion available to those who weren’t able to attend – alchemy is a popular topic on social media.

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What is a citizen?

Our next Salon, powered by Zoom, will be held on Thursday 4 June at 7 PM.

Mladen Pupavac and Vanessa Pupavac from the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, University of Nottingham and co-authors of the forthcoming book Changing European Visions of Disaster and Development will lead our discussion of ‘What is a citizen?’.

“The idea of being a citizen is tied to membership of a city or state, that is, rights, freedom and responsibilities derived from membership of a particular place. 

Crucially as citizens we enjoy rights of political self-determination where the city or state lies. 

In the modern era our core rights have been organised around being a citizen. The French Revolution put the citizens and the rights of man at its heart. However, the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau had recognised a tension between the claiming the rights of man and having to being a citizen. 

Some human rights advocates argue that we should move away from many of the distinctions between citizens and non-citizens, and ground more rights on universal human rights. What would we gain or lose were we to do so? 

Thinking about this universal idea may help us determine what it is significant about being a citizen.” 

This Salon is free but please register by emailing profdennishayes@aol.com and you will be sent an Agenda and a link to join the event.

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Alchemy: a search for truth

The next East Midlands Salon will take place online for the first time. Our speaker is local author and Salon member, Jo Herlihy, who will talk about her new book: Alchemy: A Search for Truth.

Her book tells the story of the people, the books, the controversies and the dangers surrounding the secretive art of alchemy and the search for truth. Alchemy is a multifaceted and mercurial subject.

In her ‘Introduction’, Jo says: ‘There is no doubt that the practical experimentation undertaken by alchemists provided real insights and new knowledge, bringing real benefits to society, and also paved the way for modern chemistry‘. Join us to hear Jo discuss this fascinating subject and join in the discussion.

Jo’s book is available on Amazon

You can follow Jo on her Instagram account: @fragmentsofalchemy

Date and Time:

Thursday 7 May 7 PM powered by Zoom (follow the link to sign up for free)

Invitation Only – for details visit our Facebook Group.

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Stop Mugging Grandma



At our February Salon, sociologist, Dr Jennie Bristow will talk about her latest book STOP MUGGING GRANDMA: THE ‘GENERATION WARS’ AND WHY BOOMER BLAMING WON’T SOLVE ANYTHING. She says “Part of my motivation in writing Stop Mugging Grandma was to challenge the shrill, brittle, and dishonest framing of politics as a clash between old and young, and to warn of the dangers arising when an obsession with generation collides with the logic of identity politics.”

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 13 February at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Tickets £3 (to help cover costs). Details and tickets on Eventbrite Alternatively, pay on the door but please let the EMS know you are coming.

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Why a Salon in the 2020s?

Salon organisers from Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester will be in Derby on Thursday 23 January to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the East Midlands Salon.

The East Midlands Salon was founded in 2010. Our first Salon on 26 January featured the distinguished philosopher, poet, novelist, cultural critic and clinical neuroscientist, Professor Raymond Tallis, who defended the proposition ‘I am NOT a Beast’, and explained ‘how we humans evolved to be so different’ which was the theme of his then forthcoming philosophical essay Michelangelo’s Finger: an exploration of everyday transcendence (Atlantic Books 2011).

Since then dozens of distinguished speakers have come to Salons in Derby to engage in debates and talk about their work and often to put forward some very controversial ideas. Like other Salons in the UK and internationally, we defend the freedom to think, to act, to say what needs saying – even if it offends others. .

This 10th Anniversary Salon will be a celebratory event . We have invited speakers from other Salons to share their experiences and to discuss the importance of Salons in the 2020s. Speakers include: Simon Belt (Manchester Salon), Rosie Cuckston (Birmingham Salon) and Paul Thomas (Leeds Salon).

Simon Belt in conversation with Ray Tallis 26 January 2010

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 23 January at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. (Refreshments will be provided) This Salon is free but registration via Eventbrite is required.

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By erasing the past are we racialising the campus?

This debate is part of the series Killing controversy: the silencing of speech

In recent years, attempts at a variety of universities to ‘decolonise’ the curriculum have gathered momentum. The movement is underpinned by the idea that the curriculum is too full of ‘dead white men’ and needs to be more diverse. This suggests that the identity of authors is as important as their ideas and their contribution.

The arguments in favour of decolonising the curriculum suggest that students can only empathise with and learn from thinkers and writers from their own culture or racial background. Does this mean that non-white students of literature cannot understand or relate to Shakespeare in the same way as their white peers? What are the implications of this thinking? Is the decolonising movement promoting a hyper-racialism on campus?

As well as the attempt to decolonise the subjects taught, there is also an attempt to base pedagogy – that is, how you are taught – on racial or cultural lines. What are the implications of saying that students from certain cultures or racial backgrounds need different forms of teaching? Does the decolonising movement imply that your identity defines you? Though the movement may be well intentioned, does it end up being divisive?

Dr Jim Butcher (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler (University of Derby) will explore the background to these developments and the dangers they may present for the future of education. Folasade Lamikanra, a writer and education researcher, will chair the debate.

DATE, TIME AND VENUE: THURSDAY 28 NOVEMBER, 19:00—20:30, BRUNSWICK INN, DERBY, DE1 2RU. Tickets are £3 and can be booked in advance on Eventbrite.

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Is ‘toxic masculinity’ dangerous in the academy?

In 2018 The American Psychological Association (APA) declared masculinity to be harmful and subsequently published guidelines for dealing with men and boys. Male students are now treated as inherently problematic and even dangerous to themselves and female students. They are considered to be potential sexual molesters and rapists in need of mandatory ‘consent classes’

Are these positive developments in the age of #metoo or are they a result of the feminisation of universities and a rejection of men and anything masculine?

Is the feminisation of the university to blame for worries about men?

Our Speaker is Elizabeth Hobson, communications director of the political party Justice For Men and Boys (J4MB), who will discuss these developments in relation to her campaigning experience and what she sees as a new diminished sense of what it means to be a man today. Responding to her talk will be Dr Nicholas Joseph, a parent of two girls and a lecturer at the Universities of Derby and Keele. Chairing will be Dr Vanessa Pupavac (University of Nottingham).

This is a Battle of Ideas Satellite event hosted by the East Midlands Salon and sponsored by the campaign group Academics For Academic Freedom (AFAF).  It is the second in a series  of  three on The Silencing of Speech.

Date, Time and Venue: Thursday 14 December at 7 PM in the Brunswick Inn, Derby. Booking is essential, tickets (£3) are available on Eventbrite.

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