Being Human across the globe

Being Human across the globe

Being Human across the globe

By Dr Michael Eades, Being Human festival curator

In this post, our festival curator talks about a Being Human first – our international programming. The 2017 festival has events taking place in four countries outside of the UK, all exploring this year’s ‘lost and found’ theme from a more international perspective. 

The international nature of knowledge and research has been in the news a lot over the past few weeks. The debate around whether overseas students should be included in UK immigration statistics, for example, has been generating headlines, as have stories of academics facing deportation or struggling to obtain visas. In a year dominated by news of travel bans and Brexit negotiations, such headlines are, sadly, nothing new.

In this climate we are very proud that the 2017 Being Human festival will be featuring a programme of international activities organised across the globe. These activities, organised with partners in Paris, Rome, Melbourne and Singapore, underline the fact that research in the humanities, like humanity itself, can only ever be thought of properly in global terms.

Being Human is the UK’s only national festival of the humanities. However from those organising the events, to those attending them, to those participating in them as speakers and performers – this has of course always meant that it is an international festival. In 2017 though we are going further than ever before. We are opening up a truly global conversation.

Below is a sneak peek at our international programme. Starting in September, this series of lectures, workshops and discussions will act as Being Human overture, leading us into the UK festival in style.


‘Trump, the American dream and the humanities’
University of Melbourne | Tuesday 19 September

In September, Being Human festival director Professor Sarah Churchwell will kick off our international strand of activities with a lecture and series of related activities exploring the value of the humanities in Melbourne, Australia. In the first year of the Trump presidency, the shock waves of which have reverberated around the world, what role can the humanities play in reshaping global discourse and underpinning global resistance?


‘Lost and found: places, objects and people’
British School at Rome | Friday 27 October

If the past few years of history have demonstrated nothing else, they have shown us that the artefacts of our shared human history are both incredibly precious and incredibly fragile. Organised in collaboration with the British School at Rome, this day-long workshop, brings together some of the archaeologist, classicists and others leading the fight to preserve the traces of our past. From recovering stolen artefacts, to mapping endangered archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa, this event will demonstrate how international researchers are combating global human problems.


‘Imagining Asia’
Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Writers’ Festival | Saturday 11 November

Organised in collaboration with the Singapore Writers’ Festival, this panel brings together three leading Asian writers to explore what it means to ‘imagine’ Asia through literature in 2017. Reflected through their varied contexts, which extend from Australia, China, Malaysia, and Singapore, to Canada, the UK, and the USA, writers Tash Aw, Boey Kim Cheng, and Madeleine Thien will reflect on what it means to be Asian writers, and what it means to write about Asia – sometimes against a long history of orientalist images and story-making. Organised for Being Human 2017, this event will explore the many ways in which Asia is ‘lost’ and ‘found’ in the literary imagination.


‘Missing persons’
University of London Institute in Paris | Friday 17 November

Street names are often the first words of a foreign language learnt by recently arrived migrants. Sometimes these names are familiar and meaningful prior to arrival. This is the case today for the Parisian districts known as La Chapelle and Stalingrad, key rallying points for people fleeing fear and deprivation all around the world, who head there because they know these names signify places where they may find support – an anchor in a sea of the unknown. Working with asylum seekers in Paris, this project will create a public exhibition exploring the place names of Paris: their histories, modern resonances, and the diverse meanings that they generate for the migrants trying to find themselves in the city.