How does reading contribute to – and sometimes detract from – our ability to act as truly global citizens in the 21st century? What can literature do to encourage participation in activist movements? Through what means might literature help develop a greater understanding of the lives of our far-flung others?

Ethics, Affect and Responsibility: Global Citizenship and the Act of Reading seeks to answer these questions through a year-long series of workshops which focus on the ways in which engagement with the arts and humanities, especially literary writing, might intersect with social justice movements more broadly.

Much has been written about the ways in which, by allowing access to fictional minds, imaginative literature might provide an avenue for genuine empathy towards those whose lives are too often considered remote from our own, reduced to headlines, sound bites and talking heads. At the same time, there remains a risk that the awareness raised through literary reading might collapse into a passive form of appropriation, reifying hierarchies of power. Indeed, empirical research suggests that all-too often, the forms of empathy which the reading of literary writing produces fail to translate to actual action, instead reinforcing the global hierarchies of power in which only certain types of individual are granted agency and subjecthood, while others remain mere objects of pity or other forms of affective response. This series of events intervenes in this state of affairs by drawing on the expertise of individuals working in a variety of sectors across the arts, humanities and social sciences, all of whom attempt to bridge the gap between cultural consumption and social justice. By learning from their experiences and engaging in a series of guided discussions, participants will collaborate to develop  a set of best practices around the use of literature in the service of human rights and global citizenship without falling into these pitfalls.

On the Events page, you will find details of all upcoming workshops, including our first on 17 September 2016

Readings, lectures and panel discussions from all events will be available for download on the Podcasts page.

The blog will be updated periodically, with links, thoughts and further questions about the ways in which the arts and humanities engage with social justice movements in the contemporary world.

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